Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will accept the modified voter registry despite minor irregularities in order to ensure the re-run of the annulled 2013 presidential election goes ahead as scheduled on Saturday (October 19).
Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of the presidential election held September 7, the Elections Commission (EC) had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll.
The Supreme Court ordered the EC to discard the commission’s voter registry and use the Department of National Registration’s (DNR) database to compile a new registry. In an additional midnight ruling on Thursday (October 11), the court ordered the EC to re-start the entire voter re-registration process.
Despite the expedited timeline, with a window of less than one day to re-register, more than 60,000 people submitted the new fingerprint forms to vote in the first round – just 5000 short of the 65,000 who re-registered ahead of the annulled September 7 poll.
The EC is still in the process of re-registering voters and has repeatedly extended the deadline for complaints with the newest deadline being 4:00 pm today.
The EC has said the final voter registry will be sent to political parties tonight and representatives will be given until sunrise on Friday to approve the registry.
The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.
In a statement released today, the MDP noted a decrease of 395 names in the October 19 registry when compared to the September 7 list. The 7 September registry contained 239,593 names, while the October 19 registry contains 239,198 names.
The MDP highlighted 62 instances of repeated names and the addition of 789 new voters who had come of age. The party said the DNR had issued 2258 new identity cards, and when the new eligible voters are deducted from the number, there were 1469 people added to the voters list in “unclear circumstances.”
“Despite noting the aforementioned matters, since the margin of error (0.61%) is negligible and because the Constitution of the Maldives states that there must be an elected President on 11 November 2013, the MDP has decided to accept the list and go ahead with the Presidential Election scheduled to be held on 19 October 2013,” the statement read.
MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed – the frontrunner of the now defunct poll held on September 7 – warned that a failure to hold on election on October 19 and to swear in a democratically elected head of state by November 11 would invalidate the constitution.
“We believe the voter registry is correct and we are ready to vote with that list,” he stated.
Rival candidates representing the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) have meanwhile expressed concern about the accuracy of the new voter registry, despite accepting the need for an election to be held as soon as possible.
JP and PPM still concerned
The JP yesterday raised concerns about re-registration, with the party’s own representative on the EC Advisory Committee accusing the MDP of being able to access the commission’s servers and directly register its own candidates – compromising the system.
The party said it had filed a complaint with police over its allegations, demanding law enforcement officials address the concerns it had raised, according to local media.
Police have confirmed that an investigation was being conducted into allegations raised by the PPM and JP, though Police Spokesperson Chef Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.
JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi and spokesperson Moosa Ramiz were not responding to requests for information on the allegations at time of press.
PPM MP Ahmed Nihan today said the party was committed to doing “everything possible” to ensure the re-run of the 2013 presidential election scheduled for Saturday (October 19) goes ahead.
He argued that the PPM nonetheless remained concerned over “lots of issues” that had arisen as a result of the short timeframe given to the EC to amend the eligible voter list. He pointed to a system crash that occurred during registration on Sunday (October 13), said to have resulted from a large volume of data provided.
The technical issue, which had resulted in data having to be manually entered into the system for a two hour period, led to the EC accusing some supporters of the PPM and its coalition partners of obstructing its work during the day, with police criticised for failing to help remove protesters for at least five hours.
Nihan accused the EC of failing to correctly address issues of double voting and deceased and underage voters included in the registry ahead of the now defunct polls held September 7, but said that the EC had shown this week it did have the capacity to deal with alleged issues in the voter registry.
“If the election that is held next Saturday October 19 goes ahead, we believe the percentage of rigged votes would be far less,” he stressed.
However, Nihan said that with EC once again extending the deadline to receive complaints about the recomposed registry, a decision by the PPM on whether to proceed with Saturday’s polls would be held was expected in the next 24 hours.
Speaking at a PPM press conference yesterday (September 16), Mohamed Tholal, a party member on the EC’s advisory board questioned the capability of commission to address issues raised with re-registration this week leading to a number of deadline extensions.
“If the forms were not processed because of the seven hour delay, then they should be done by now” he said.
The PPM also accused the EC of rejecting some forms it had submitted without providing an opportunity to address issues.
Both the PPM and coalition party the Maldivan Development Alliance (MDA) meanwhile on Tuesday (September 15) questioned whether an election could go ahead as scheduled on Saturday due to a lack of time to finalise the list.
“I believe the security forces have to take action. If they do not abide by the Supreme Court [verdict’s] spirit to allow every citizen the right to vote, this issue must be looked into,” the MDA’s Ahmed Amir was quoted as saying in local media at the time.
Ali Ahmed Manik of the EC meanwhile said he hoped that the three candidates representing the MDP, PPM and JP in Saturday’s election would agree to sign the registry for polling to commence on schedule.
“We have already sent a list to all the candidates,” Manik was quoted as saying in local newspaper Haveeru. “Re-registration will be added to that. So they can check our list even now. We will be able to submit a final list when [re-registration] is completed. I think the presidential candidates will do this for us.”
Despite the allegations, Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has expressed confidence polling would go ahead as scheduled on Saturday, despite not everything being within the commission’s control.
“We are giving our maximum effort to reach the deadline. No rest, no sleep, two hours [maximum]. We were working 24 hours straight, then 36, now 48. Our officials are doing everything humanly possible. International observers are even surprised [at the intensive effort put forth],” said Thowfeek.