Voter lists for today’s council elections have been placed at polling stations for the first time with national identity card photos, prompting complaints from women with face veils.
Speaking at an Elections Commission (EC) press conference this afternoon, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said photos were included in the eligible voters registry placed outside each polling station as a safeguard to prevent fraud.
“Even though this is something new that we introduced, in most countries, photos of voters are included in the voters list,” Thowfeek said.
Photos of all eligible voters were provided by the Department of National Registration (DNR) from its identity card database with the exception of 1,170 photos, Thowfeek said.
The voters list used in previous elections only included name, address, ID card number and date of birth.
EC member Ali Mohamed Manik said the EC decided to make the lists with ID card photos in the interest of ensuring transparency.
“There are a lot of foreigners living in the country. As there could be a chance for foreigners to vote using ID cards, this was done to prevent that and facilitate the right to vote for Maldivians,” he said.
Manik said the commission has officially received two complaints so far from women in cases where the ID card photos were taken before they wore face veils.
The official in charge of the Elections Complaints Bureau noted that a number of women who wear the hijab were also phoning in complaints about their photos being made public.
“Concerning these complaints, we brought it to the attention of the commission’s members and informed [polling stations] to cover with a piece of paper the photos of people who insist on taking it down,” he said.
He added that voters had an “individual responsibility” to update photos at the DNR after wearing the hijab.
Local media outlet CNM has meanwhile reported that some religious scholars have objected to the photos of women with face veils made public by the EC.
NGO Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem told the news website that making the photos public was demeaning to the women in question and called to punish those responsible.
Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla also contended that the practice was contrary to Islamic principles and infringed on the rights of veiled women.
Among other complaints submitted to the EC included two cases where marked ballot papers were displayed, complaints regarding pens with fading ink and complaints over the conduct of election officials.