The UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, Tony Lisle, has issued a statement encouraging “all presidential candidates to respect the results” of the first round of presidential elections.
The statement, in line with those of all other observers on the September 7 polls including delegations from the Commonwealth, UK, India, Australia, Malaysia, US, EU, Japan and Thailand, follows a sustained campaign by third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim to annul the result.
Gasim’ Jumhooree Coalition, which includes the Islamist Adhaalath Party, polled 24.07 percent (50,422 votes) in the first round, narrowly missing out on a place in the run-off to second place Abdulla Yameen’s 25.35 percent
Gasim has, however, variously contended that he should have received between 10,000 to 30,000 more votes, and has disputed the result in the High Court, Supreme Court, at rallies, and on his television station – Villa TV – declaring that he should have placed first.
“God willing, it will be Gasim Ibrahim who will be the President of the Maldives on 11 November. Allah willing, do not doubt this. I tell you, do not doubt this,” he declared at a recent rally, to launch his “Vote Rigged!” campaign.
Early on Monday morning , police acting on a tip-off from the JP, barricaded streets around the Elections Commission and took its garbage into custody. The JP accused the commission of disposing of evidence, though police later reported that the rubbish contained nothing affecting the outcome of the polls.
Later the same day the Supreme Court accepted a case from the JP seeking to have the vote annulled.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – which placed first with 45.45 percent of the vote – has issued a statement following an emergency meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee, asserting that the party would not allow the will of the people be abrogated or undone by “a court house consisting of some judges who have lost their integrity and face allegations of lewd conduct.”
“The National Executive Committee has decided today to request the party’s parliamentary group to take urgent measures, restart the People’s Majlis and resume sittings to stop the abuse and misuse of the judiciary by some political parties that are exerting undue influence on the judiciary without respecting the decision of the Maldivian people made by their vote,” the press release stated.
The UN Resident Coordinator meanwhile congratulated the people of the Maldives “on the peaceful and orderly conduct of the first round of voting”, stating that he looked forward “to a similarly peaceful and orderly second round of voting.”
The UN’s calls for candidates to respect the election results and ensure a peaceful transition were reiterated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and yesterday by UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs to the Permanent Representative of the Maldives in New York.
The 17 member Commonwealth delegation – one of the largest present during the election – issued an interim assessment the after polling that described the vote counting as “highly transparent with media monitors, party observers, and national and international observers able to scrutinise the process closely.”
“The count process was conducted in a consistently transparent manner, with officials observed by the group demonstrating willingness to repeat steps in the process in response to concerns expressed by party observers,” said the delegation’s head, former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi.
The group described the voter register – contested by the JP – as “accurate and robust”.
“Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded, based on the low incidence of election day complaints,” said Dr Gonzi.
Six teams of Indian observers, including four in and around Male, one on Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Feydhoo, Meedhoo and Hulhudhoo – in Seenu Atoll (Addu) in the south – and another on Kulhudhuffushi, Hanimadhoo, Dhidhoo and nearby islands in Haa Dhaalu and Haa Alifu Atolls in the north, covering 33.6 percent of all booths.
“The polling was orderly and unblemished by any notable incident. It was also an enjoyable experience for the voter,” stated J M Lyngdoh of the Indian observer team.
“The voters’ lists were accurate and prominently displayed. The ballot boxes were opened and closed as per the scheduled time. The discipline, patience and dignity of the voter and the sheer competence, industry and cheerfulness of the election staff were quite admirable. The police were ubiquitous but discreetly non-intrusive,” he said.
“The success in the first round is an achievement which any of the mature democracies would have been proud of. This was a transparent and fair election and there is no reason why the run off should be any less than the first round,” he concluded.
The US also congratulated the Maldives on the conduct of the first round of voting.
“The very high voter turnout showed the strong commitment of the people of Maldives to democratic government,” said US State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf.
“As the country prepares for a second round of voting on September 28, we call on all parties to respect the democratic process and continue to allow for a free, fair and peaceful vote to take place. This is the second presidential election since Maldives embraced multi-party democracy in 2008, and thus represents a historic opportunity for Maldivians to select democratically the representative of their choice,” Harf said.
The UK’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Alistair Burt, also praised the conduct of the election.
“Election observers, both domestic and international, have broadly agreed that the election was transparent and competitive. The UK’s election observers were also pleased to see that proceedings ran smoothly, and that the atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation,” Burt stated.
“The exceptionally high turnout – estimated to be around 88 percent – demonstrates a significant public enthusiasm and support for democracy in Maldives. I hope political parties will honour this democratic engagement by working together in order to further consolidate democratic institutions in Maldives,” he stated.
“I hope that the second round of elections on 28 September, and the transition to post-electoral politics, will also be free, fair and credible,” Burt concluded.
Local NGO Transparency Maldives – which ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – announced prior to the release of the provisional results that none of the incidents reported on election day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.