Police confirm no documents affecting election outcome found in EC’s trash

Chair of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek has rejected allegations from the Jumhooree Party that it had disposed of official documents relating to the presidential election, after police last night acted on the JP’s claim and barricaded the commission.

The JP came third in the September 7 election with 24 percent of the vote, narrowly missing out on a place in the run-off election.

Police barricaded the entrance to the EC secretariat in the early hours on Monday morning, after the JP alleged the commission was attempting to destroy documents “that would unveil discrepancies in the last elections”.

When Minivan News journalists arrived at the premises, police had barricaded the road which led to the EC’s office, and put up police lines around a couple of black plastic bags that had been intended to be thrown out as garbage.

EC officials – including the commission’s Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar – were standing outside. Police officers in both uniform and civilian dress were standing outside the premises.

An official of the commission who was inside the building confirmed to Minivan News the police had not entered the building.

When asked about the trash bags left outside the premises, the official said nothing important was inside.

“Like every office, we too have papers that need to be thrown away. Those bags had just shredded waste paper. I don’t understand why people are making such a big fuss out of it,” the official told Minivan News.

At about 10:45am, a police truck came to the premises and took away the garbage.

A police media official confirmed to Minivan News that the trash bags were currently under police guard, and said they were now “processing” the bags.

“The case was reported to police by the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the police were present at the premises from the time the matter was reported,” the official confirmed.

In a subsequent press statement, police confirmed no documents that would affect election results were found among those disposed of by the elections commission.

Meanwhile Ibrahim Khaleel, Spokesperson for JP’s Presidential Candidate and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, told Villa Television (VTV) – a station owned by Gasim – said the party had reported the matter to police around 3:00am in the morning.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru regarding the matter, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the commission used draft documents for administrative purposes, noting that such documents were unofficial documents that had no legal effect.

Thowfeek said the papers spotted in the trash bags were such draft documents and that this was not “something new”. Some of those papers, he said, would include empty envelopes.

“It is our legal duty to protect official documents relating to the elections. Those that people are claiming to have seen are just draft documents. Those were not used for any election purpose. We are very certain about that. We regularly throw away used papers and rough documents,” Thowfeek told Haveeru.

Thowfeek said he had learned that the trash bag may have included a slip issued after voter re-registration, and said this may have been thrown away.

The EC Chair also said the commission had given permission to police to check the contents of the trash bags in the presence of EC officials.

“We have informed the police that they can check the trash bags to assure themselves as to whether they contain any official documents relating to the election. We are looking after the documents regarding the presidential elections round the clock. We have not thrown away any official documents and the allegations levied against us are outright lies,” Thowfeek explained.

Thowfeek went onto claim that such allegations levied against the commission at such a critical time were made with the intent to undermine  public trust and confidence in the institution. Such baseless allegations would not deter the commission members from executing their legal duties, Thowfeek added.

“We assure you that we have not done and will not do anything to manipulate the outcome of any election. We will fully protect all documents relating to the elections and the voting process,” Thowfeek claimed.

The conduct of the election has been broadly praised by local and international election observers from Transparency Maldives, India and the Commonwealth, as well as observers from other nation states.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives – which ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – also 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”.

The UK and the EU have both issued statements praising the conduct of Saturday’s presidential election, describing them as “transparent and competitive”.


High Court rejects JP request for order to stop announcement of official results

The High Court has rejected the Jumhoree Party (JP)’s request for an injunction seeking the halting of the Elections Commission (EC)’s announcing of the official results for last Saturday’s presidential election.

The High Court ruling (Dhivehi) stated that there were no grounds to grant the stay order based both on the reasons argued in the case filed by the JP as well as the regulations and guidelines for issuing injunctions. The three judges who made the ruling were Judge Abdul Gani Mohamed, Judge Ali Sameer and Judge Abdul Raoof Ibrahim.

The JP request was made in a case filed by the party seeking a court order to compel the EC to release the voters list from Saturday’s election. Election regulations require a court order before the registry can be released.

The provisional results of the election showed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finishing the race on top with 45.45 percent of the popular vote or 95,224 votes. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate MP Abdulla Yameen came second with 53,099 votes – 42,125 votes less than the MDP – while the JP led by resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim secured 50,422 votes to finish the race in third position. Incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan finished the race at the bottom with 10,750 votes – 5.13 percent of the popular vote.

As former President Nasheed fell short of the 50 percent plus one vote required for a first round victory, the MDP candidate will face the runner up Abdulla Yameen in a second round run-off on September 28.

JP complaints

Shortly before the provisional results were announced in the early hours of September 8, the JP challenged the results, later contending that the vote had been rigged in favour of both the PPM and MDP.

The party filed a case at the High Court on Tuesday (September 10) requesting an order for the EC to hand over copies of voter lists and result sheet of all ballot boxes.

The High Court however initially refused to accept the case citing incomplete documentation. The JP subsequently refiled the case with completed paperwork yesterday (September 11).

A member of the JP’s legal team, Mohamed Haleem, said the party had acquired ample evidence to prove the alleged discrepancies and irregularities, which included expatriates and dead people appearing on the voters list, use of multiple designs of ballot papers and double voting.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News on Tuesday that the JP’s claims were “baseless and unfounded”.

“The allegations by the Jumhoree Party are wasting our time actually. They don’t understand democracy or how to accept defeat, it’s a very unfortunate thing,” Thowfeek told Minivan News. “People who cannot accept defeat should not face an election,”

“Gasim wants to tell people that he has more than 50,000 supporters, but the 50,422 [who voted for him] are his real support, he should be grateful to the people who voted for him. There is no way he’s going to find any more, even if a recount is conducted,” Thowfeek said.

Speaking at the party’s main meeting hall in Maafanu Kunooz last night, Gasim said the JP has written to the EC requesting a recount of all 470 ballot boxes in the presence of observers as provided for in the election laws.
“We have doubts to a very high degree. Vote [ballot papers] were printed. Dead people were doubled [on the voters registry],” he said.
Gasim also expressed confidence of obtaining a favourable ruling from the High Court or upon appeal at the Supreme Court and praised the judiciary as “the life of the country.”

“We know judges will bring justice for us,” he said.

Despite the allegations of wrongdoing, international observers, including those from the EU, Commonwealth, UK, US and India, praised the conduct of Saturday’s presidential election, describing them as “transparent and competitive”.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) – who ran the most comprehensive observation operation on election day – announced that none of the incidents reported on September 7 would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.

TM said in a statement that all candidates “were well-represented during the counting, making the process transparent and adding to its credibility.”

Gasim Ibrahim was represented at 73.7 percent of polling stations during the vote count. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was represented at 29.6 percent of polling stations during the vote count. Abdulla Yameen was represented at 74.2 percent of polling stations during the vote count. Mohamed Nasheed was represented at 91.5 percent of polling stations during the vote count,” the TM statement stated.

“While only 0.22 percent of ballot papers were disputed by the candidate/party observers during counting, in the vast majority of polling stations (85.5 percent), the counting concluded without any controversy.”

The EC has since invited applications for voter re-registration and revealed that 500 new voters will be eligible to cast their ballots on September 28.

Third parties

The opposition MDP meanwhile joined the JP’s High Court case today – which has been scheduled to begin on Sunday at 1:20pm – as a third party while the PPM has told local media that the party was also considering joining the case.

MDP’s Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy confirmed to Minivan News that the party had decided to join JP’s case as it involved the legitimate interests of the party and presidential candidate, former President Nasheed.

The PPM meanwhile said that its election observers had also noted irregularities during the vote.

Vice presidential candidate of PPM, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, told local newspaper Haveeru that the basis of JP’s case had been derived from a previous Supreme Court case lodged by member of PPM’s Appeal Committee Ahmed Zaneen Adam.

“[The case] involves issues first highlighted by the PPM [in the Supreme Court case]. It is very important to verify the authenticity of the allegations [made by JP]. We hope that the court would make a quick and prompt decision,” Jameel told Haveeru.

Among the inconsistencies observed by the PPM’s election observers, Jameel claimed, included double voting and the election officials at polling stations being biased and prejudiced towards a “certain candidate” while announcing the election results.

The former Home Minister also raised concern over the “aggressive responses” given in the media by the members of EC regarding the issues. Jameel argued that EC members should not be personal in responding to complaints filed by candidates and other stakeholders regarding the election.


Elections Commission warns Adhaalath Party over political abuse of Islam

The Election Commission (EC) has sent a formal letter of warning to the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, stating that the commission would take action should the party continue violating the Political Parties Act – the parent legislation upon which all political parties are founded.

Speaking to local media, Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Ali Zahir confirmed to local media that the party had received the letter.

Zahir said that the EC, in the letter signed by the Vice Chair of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz and addressed to the President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the commission condemned remarks made by the members of the party during a rally held at the Jumhoree Party’s campaign headquarters at Maafannu Kunooz.

The Adhaalath Party, along with the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and the Jumhoree Party (JP) formed an umbrella coalition to back JP Leader and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim in the presidential election. However, following the defeat in the election, both the DQP and the Adhaalath have joined the JP’s contention that the election had been rigged in favor of both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

According to Zahir, the EC claimed that Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran’s speech during the rally could lead to chaos and ‘fitnah’ among the society.

The commission in the letter noted that the High Court could order the dissolution of a political party should the party attempt to incite hate and violence among the people, said Zahir.

Sheikh Imran during the speech claimed that the Jumhoree coalition would not accept the results of the scheduled run-off election, regardless of who won it. The Adhaalath party claimed that the dissenting remarks were made against the EC after it announced it would take action against the party for labelling opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters ‘Laadheenee’ (Anti-Islamic).

The rally eventually turned into a protest as the JP supporters gathered outside the residence of the EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek calling for his resignation. The protesters maintained that last Saturday’s election had been rigged in favor of PPM and MDP.

The EC during a press conference on Tuesday announced that legal action would be taken against those political parties who sought to deploy Islam as a political weapon.

“The EC will do everything it can to take legal action against those who use Islam as a political weapon by labeling others as impious,” said the Vice Chair of EC Ahmed Fayaz. “This is a duty of the commission.”

Fayaz noted that Islam cannot be “hijacked” or “held hostage” by one particular group or political party.

“Because the Political Parties Act states that no one can use Islam as a political weapon”, the courts would be asked to dissolve any political party that is guilty of violating the law, said Fayaz.

Legal action would also be taken against people who “insult” or “disrespect” Islam, he added.

Speaking to Minivan News on Tuesday about the threats of violence, Chair of EC Fuwad Thowfeek responded saying that “it is very sad – especially [coming from] big political parties and some with them, like Sheikh Imran [Abdulla], President of the Adhaalath Party, who spoke in an uncivilised manner. It’s a pity political parties are behaving in that manner.”

“Human beings are given the mental ability to think. That is how you know to distinguish right and wrong. I think what is happening here is someone has gone insane. When you lose your brain these things happen,” EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz was quoted as saying by local media outlet CNM.

“I have not done anything wrong. If I had done something wrong I would resign immediately,” Fayaz continued. “I wouldn’t wait until any state institution comes up and says that I breached the law. I’m not worried about security. You only die once,” he added.

The Adhaalath Party meanwhile questioned the motive of EC claiming that it was the only party who had received the letter from the commission while several other political parties had also criticized the commission.

“We also believe that action must be taken against political parties that violate the Political Parties Act. But it should be done in the right order. They should first take action against those who had breached the law first before coming to us,” said Ali Zahir.

Minivan News tried contacting both Chair of EC Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz, but were not responding to calls at time of press.