Additional reporting by Neil Merrett, Leah Malone, Ahmed Nazeer, Daniel Bosley, Ahmed Naish, Eleanor Johnstone, Mariyath Mohamed, Mohamed Naahee
Incumbent President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has been handed a resounding defeat in the first round of polls, with provisional results recording his ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition as receiving just 5.13 percent of the vote.
Waheed ran as an independent candidate due to controversy over whether his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) had the minimum 10,000 members needed for official recognition.
The incumbent stood in coalition with the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).
Many of the DRP’s more than 21,000 members apparently declined to vote for the party, with the coalition receiving just 10,750 votes out of 209,495 polled.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also suffered disappointment, painting almost every atoll yellow, but proving unable to achieve the 51 percent needed for the first round victory it had confidently predicted with cries of ‘Ehburun!’ (‘one round’).
With the vote split between three political adversaries, the MDP faced an uphill battle to achieve its goal, falling around 24 percent short of the 125,000 votes it claimed were pledged during its nationwide door-to-door campaign.
However, the MDP’s 95,244 votes represented a significant gain on its first round performance in 2008 of 44,293 votes (24.91 percent of the total vote in 2008).
The tightest race was that the for second place, with Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen at 25 percent – barely 1 percent ahead of rival pro-government candidate, resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.
Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek confirmed at a press conference held at 5:00am on Sunday ( September 8 ) that the commission will hold a run-off election on September 28, between Nasheed and Yameen.
However, the narrow margin separating Gasim and Yameen suggests the position of runner-up may be hotly contested.
A small group of Gasim supporters had gathered outside Dharubaruge early this morning in protest over what they claim were discrepancies between votes counted and eligible voters for several boxes. It was unclear if this data was taken directly from the elections commission, or from local media outlets – some of which reported erroneous figures throughout the day.
Thowfeek said the Commission’s complaints bureau was looking into those complaints that had been submitted, and would take necessary action where required.
The provisional results as of 5:00am on Sunday September 8 were:
- Gasim Ibrahim – 50,422 (24.07%)
- Mohamed Waheed – 10,750 (5.13%)
- Abdulla Yameen – 53,099 (25.35%)
- Mohamed Nasheed – 95,224 (45.45%)
Nasheed proved popular among resort workers with the MDP recording strong majorities in most resort ballot boxes.
On Bandos Island Resort, owned by Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, provisional results showed Nasheed leading with 136 votes, Yameen in second place with 81 votes, Gasim third with 39 votes and President Waheed in fourth place with 8 votes.
In Irufushi Resort, owned by MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel Shiyam, whose Maldivian Development Alliance party is in coalition with the PPM, Nasheed won 59 votes to Yameen’s 38 votes and Gasim at third place with 6 votes and Waheed at fourth with 1 vote.
In Kuredhu Island Resort, owned by the government-aligned Champa family, Nasheed led with 50 votes, Yameen in second place with 33 votes, Gasim third with 14 votes and Waheed fourth with 1 vote.
Provisional results also showed former President Nasheed leading in overseas ballot boxes, suggesting strong support among the diaspora and students. Nasheed has 504 votes in Malaysia with Yameen in second place with 190, Gasim at 154, Waheed at 84 and 9 invalid votes.
In Singapore, Nasheed secured the most votes with 67, and Yameen at second place with 28 votes, Gasim third with 19 votes and Waheed fourth with 14 votes.
Voting took place peacefully throughout the day, with large numbers of voters lining up early due to fears concerns the polls would face disruption later in the day.
These appeared largely unfounded and polling closed at 4:00pm with only minor disruptions reported.
Elections Commissioner (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek acknowledged some difficulties in the morning with large numbers of people lining up to cast their ballots.
“We sent our officials to speed up the polling process in stations that had been identified as slow,” he said at a press conference today.
Complaints regarding voting received by the EC included some political parties continuing to campaign and photographs of some ballots taken illegally and circulated on social media.
239,593 people were eligible to vote, a 15 percent increase on the first election in 2008. Voter turnout was confirmed at 88.44 percent.
Vote counting proceeded smoothly at the beginning of the process, although blow-by-blow information was not always easy to obtain, with glacial official EC updates online, and otherwise very informative local media infographics in some cases reporting 102 percent voter turnout for much of the day.
The initial exit poll suggested over 200,000 people have voted, said Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz, a turnout of over 83 percent.
Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek said there were no major problems, although be acknowledged the commission had trouble closing two ballot boxes.
Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef advised Minivan News that EC officials at Majeedhiya School requested police presence at the polling station, but said officers did not remove the ballot box. “The EC removed the box in a vehicle, not police,” stated Haneef.
“What happened with the ballot box at Majeediyya School was dissent arising between some election officials and representatives from a candidate,” Thowfeek stated. “Some people questioned the check marks on ballot papers, and had disagreed over whether some marks are to be counted as valid votes.”
Transparency Maldives Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said in 14.5 percent of ballot boxes where controversy occurred during counting, these would not have impacted the overall outcome of the first placed candidate.
“The incidents that have happened on election day will not have a material impact on the outcome of the election,” he said.
TM confidently called Nasheed’s progression to the second round, but could not call the runner up due to a margin of error larger than the difference between the vote counts of Yameen and Gasim.
According to Transparency’s statement:
- 99.5 percent of polling stations had closed by 5:00pm
- Only 0.2 percent of voters complained that their names were not on the voter registry, and 0.05 percent complained that they were unable to vote at polling stations
- Voting was temporarily halted at 3.8 percent of polling stations, half of these interventions by the presiding officer. The remainder involved “an unruly voter or two, or an enthusiastic political party member”.
- 1.4 percent had instances of violence, mostly minor, and election was otherwise largely peaceful
- Police entered 18.8 percent of polling stations, 80 percent of the time at the invitation of the presiding officer
- Candidates were well represented at polling stations – Gasim 73.7 percent, Waheed 29.6 percent, Yameen 74.2 percent, Nasheed 91.5 percent
- Counting concluded without controversy at 85 percent of all polling stations, and only 0.22 percent of ballot papers were disputed by observers/candidates
- 82.6 percent of polling stations reported assisted votes
President Waheed’s Senior Advisor Teresa Wells said the incumbent would not be releasing an immediate statement, with a comment on his future plans ahead of a run off vote expected to be released on Sunday.
DRP Parliamentary Group Leader, Dr Abdulla Mausoom, this evening said the party would be “considering its options” ahead of the second round after the coalition’s poor polling.
The party earlier this year ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition with the PPM, however Dr Mausoom told Minivan News this evening that he did not wish to comment on whether this stance would force the DRP into an alliance with the MDP in a run-off vote on September 28.
Dr Mausoom welcomed what he said he been a “beautiful” election, praising authorities including the Elections Commission for their efforts.
“Although there were some reservations, Maldivians have held a free and fair election, with Dr Waheed also expressing his confidence for the EC. This was great to see,” he said.
MDP Youth Wing Leader Shauna Aminath said “with only five percent of the vote, it only confirms that Waheed is an un-elected coup-installed puppet.”
Other elements of the MDP appeared disappointed after failing to achieve a first round win. MDP Spokesperson and Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor acknowledged during the counting that “we are not performing as expected – the race is very close.”
Senior MDP figure and former Minister for Housing and Environment, Mohamed Aslam, told Minivan News during the later stages of counting that the MDP was “preparing for a second round”.
” We didn’t get what we wanted from Male’,” he said, outside the Dharubaruge convention centre.
He anticipated that the MDP would face the PPM in the second round, saying that the party was not concerned about Gasim: “Yameen is not an idiot, Gasim is an idiot.”
He noted that the turnout was lower than expected, and anticipated even lower figures for the second round.
Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan confirmed that senior officials from the party including presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen and his running meet Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed were presently meeting in Male’ to discuss second round plans.
MP Nihan said that the party would now look to meet with potential allies, and confirmed that every other candidate who stood in today’s election against Nasheed would be invited “to be on-board” in the run-off vote.
“It is quite clear we will be facing the MDP in the second round,” he said.
Nihan added that he expected for the PPM to make a statement on its support for the second round vote “sooner rather than later”, once talks were completed.
Jumhoree Party (JP) Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz said any possible decision on how the party contests the second round would be expected today.
“We are still waiting at the moment,” he said, adding that discussions need to be held between JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim and the party’s council before finalising any possible alliance.