The Maldives Elections Commission (EC) is drafting a document to articulate what Maldives Police Service (MPS)’s mandate will be during the September 7 presidential elections.
“We are in the process of drawing up a small document that will outline what the police will and will not do during elections, which we will make public,” EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz told Minivan News today (August 14).
He expects the document to be completed before the end of next week.
Fayaz explained that while the EC has requested the MPS play a supporting role to help ensure peaceful, free and fair elections take place, police officers cannot intervene without a specific EC request.
“Police can intervene only at the request of the Elections Commission staff,” said Fayaz.
“The police are playing a support role and support will be requested [by EC officials] in case anything happens that would prevent a smooth election,” he continued.
“Police must maintain a 100 foot radius distance from ballot boxes,” he added.
Fayaz explained that regarding elections, the MPS mandate is limited to enforcing law and order and monitoring the situation on each island.
“We have requested police provide assistance on every single island that will have ballot boxes,” Fayaz said.
Police teams consisting of a “very small number of people” will be deployed to each island where voting is taking place, according to Fayaz.
“The assumption is that police will not be confined to their office headquarters the day of presidential election,” Fayaz noted. “They will be present on each island [where voting is occurring] and free to move around the island that day.”
In July, the EC President Fuwad Thowfeek outlined some of the key regulations related to concerns regarding police interference with elections while speaking with Minivan News.
“Police cannot stand within a 100 foot radius of the ballot box,” Thowfeek confirmed.
“Police can enter the area only if the Head of Polling Station requests their assistance to control any criminal activity that goes beyond his control,” he continued.
“The role of the police will be to assist the Elections Commission in keeping peace and public safety,” he added.
If voting is halted, not solely a police failure: Police Commissioner
Meanwhile, in an interview given to local media outlet DhiTV Monday (August 12) Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz emphasised that the police are working to maintain peace and stability and that if the September 7 presidential election is halted it would not be solely a police failure.
“Though the Maldives Police Service was, is and will be preparing to maintain peace and stability during the election days, the public should also do their part to maintain order,” said Riyaz.
“If for whatever reason, the voting process comes to a halt, it should not be seen as a failure solely on the Maldives Police Service’s part,” he continued.
“The aim of the police is to prevent conflict before, during and after the elections on an operational level,” he added.
Riyaz noted the importance of all relevant authorities and political leaders work together to ensure peaceful presidential elections and that the MPS would provide the support requested of them by the EC.
“I believe that political figures, political parties and relevant institutions must work together to ensure that the election ends peacefully,” said Riyaz.
Riyaz also noted that a National Coordination Committee has been established with representatives from different political parties and relevant institutions so the committee can address any election issues that may arise “using diplomacy rather than out on the streets.”
In regard to Commissioner Riyaz’s DhiTV interview, Minivan News contacted Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef today to clarify specifically how the MPS will assist the EC on September 7, how law and order will be maintained, and how near to ballot boxes police teams will be stationed.
While Haneef had not responded to these enquiries at time of press, he noted that “The police are releasing all information regarding their role during elections through public mediums,” such as on the MPS website.
Furthermore, Haneef said the police have already “revealed the story of Riyaz” in regard to his DhiTV interview.
The MPS website states that the “Peaceful Conduct of the Presidential Election 2013” is an operational priority.
“Following the change of government in February 2012, the society is highly polarised and fragmented on political affiliations. Therefore, it is imperative for meticulously plan and prepare for the Presidential Election 2013,” as noted on the website.
The objective of this operational priority is to “Create an environment conducive for the conduction of Presidential Election 2013 and effectively manage any possible post-election conflicts,” states the website.