Social media storm surrounds “national hero” Thowfeek

The Chair of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek has been under heavy fire from supporters, politicians and presidential candidates belonging to both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP).

Thowfeek has been subjected to heavy criticism ever since  the Elections Commission announced the preliminary results of the first round of presidential election held last September 7 – which eventually came to a bitter end after the Supreme Court annulled the poll on the grounds of irregularities and discrepancies.

After consulting a secret report by the police, the court found that discrepancies amounted to a “systematic failure”.

More verbal attacks from supporters of the JP, led by resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, and former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s PPM followed after the EC yesterday announced it could not hold the re-scheduled poll, after police refused to cooperate with the commission and prevented the election from taking place.

Since the disputes concerning the elections arose, Thowfeek has been subjected to massive criticism – including personal attacks launched against him, his wife and his family. Supporters of both PPM and JP used Twitter and Facebook hash-tags #FraudThaufeeq and #FraudFuad as part of the attacks directed at him, while Thowfeek himself has said he and his staff have received death threats.

The criticism not only limited to just verbal attacks. Thowfeek was also depicted in photo-shopped pictures suggesting his independence had been compromised. One of the photos depicted him being tied to a chair and held at gun point by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

National Hero

Alternatively, hundreds of Maldivians on social media have also appeared in support of Thowfeek, with some labelling him a “national hero”.

A Facebook page titled “Our Heroes” also appeared yesterday shortly after the EC’s decision to call off the election, that quickly received more than 5,300 followers less than 48 hours after it first appeared.

“This is a community page to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude, admiration and respect, to the People’s Heroes: Fuad Thaufeeq and his dedicated team working tirelessly for our right to vote,” read the page’s introduction.

The page posted messages of gratitude to Thowfeek received from users who followed the page.

“If anyone is to get a medal of honour, it is you Fuad and the rest of your team. We Maldivians love you all,” read one such statement.

Another supporter wrote on the page, “Thank you so much for standing up against the corrupt and working tirelessly for a better Maldives”.

“EC team has shown professionalism to a heroic level. Proud of you, EC team,” wrote another person.

Supporters also uploaded posters expressing gratitude to Thowfeek and the EC’s work. One such poster, 10 year-old Imaan, gives the EC an ‘A plus’ for “For being fair, fighting for our rights, trying very hard and not giving up”.

Meanwhile on twitter, supporters of Thowfeek used the hashtag #InFuadweTrust to convey their messages of gratitude.

“Where there is a Fuad, there is a way,” one individual tweeted.

“Saddest day at work”

Amidst the comments on social media, Thowfeek told local media that Saturday had been his  “saddest day at work”.

“I have never experienced such a big disappointment in my life. A large number of public funds are being wasted every time. This is my greatest disappointment. It is hurts to know that our efforts put in the past 11 days, day and night did not bear any fruit. The last five years, I haven’t seen my staff so let down. They appear like they had been beheaded,” Thowfeek told local newspaper Haveeru yesterday.

The EC earlier announced that it had decided to take “no rest and no sleep” until it was able to hold the presidential election -scheduled for Saturday but blocked by police at the last minute.

The unrelenting efforts by the EC  to hold the poll were stalled after the police refused to cooperate with the commission. The police argued that the EC had failed to fulfill one of the prerequisites mentioned in the Supreme Court guideline, requiring presidential candidates or their representatives to sign and have their fingerprints on the voter lists that were to be sent to polling booths.

“Come to think about it, I have never seen a group of people who have worked this hard. Some of them continue working even as they keep falling asleep. When ever they doze off, they wake themselves up and start working again. They worked to the extent until they collapse, they were only able to continue because of their courage and determination,” Thowfeek said.

“They worked so hard and yet no result came out of their hard work. Their grief and hurt would be much greater than mine. They would be far more disappointed than I am,” he added.

Shortly after the EC called off the election, an official from the commission told Minivan News that “Thowfeek was up for over 48 hours just to keep up the moral of EC staff”.

The official praised Thowfeek for leading by example and making himself available to EC officials and staff at all times to alleviate concerns during their efforts to prepare for presidential election in just 11 days.

“While the other commissioners are good, Commissioner Thowfeek is something else, he is inspirational and we salute him,” the official said.

Despite the EC’s efforts not resulting in an election, Thowfeek appeared confident.

“I will not bow down and go home. Because I do not see it as a solution to the problem. I will renew my hopes. I will give my maximum strength until an election is decided. People are hungry for elections,” Thowfeek said.