Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has called on Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek to proceed with the presidential election scheduled for tomorrow (October 19), should the Supreme Court not clarify what the EC must do in the event of presidential candidates refusing to approve the voter registry.
Nasheed – the Maldives’ first democratically elected president – was ousted amid a police and military mutiny of February 2012, but emerged the front-runner with 45.45 percent in elections held on September 7.
However, the Supreme Court annulled the first round citing vote fraud, and gave the EC a 12-day time limit to hold a revote. In its verdict, SC delineated 16 guidelines including compiling a new voter registry, new re-registration process, and approval of voter registry by all candidates contesting in the election.
The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) this morning refused to approve the new voter registry, demanding verification of fingerprinted re-registration forms. The EC has said the task is “impossible” as the commission does not have the capacity to do so. Meanwhile, the police have told the EC they would not support the election without all candidates approving the voter registry. The Supreme Court guidelines do not say what the EC must do should candidates refuse to approve list.
Nasheed’s representatives, EC officials and Department of National Registration (DNR) officials are currently at the EC signing and fingerprinting the voter lists for 470 ballot boxes.
Speaking to the press outside the EC today, Nasheed said that an election by October 20 is “paramount” to the Supreme Court guidelines, and hence the EC must proceed with elections preparations and stand ready to hold elections as scheduled until the Supreme Court clarifies what the EC must do, or until the PPM and JP approve the list.
“One of the views is that there is an obligation on the Elections Commissioner to have the elections on the 19th by the Supreme Court order. There are altogether 16 points in the guidelines. One of the points is to have the elections. Of course that is the most paramount of all the guidelines, just to have the elections. In having the election, the Supreme Court goes on to say what else has to be done. One of those things is to get the candidates to sign the voter’s list.”
“My view is that the Elections Commissioner must be ready and all the voting booths must be open at the time, but voting can begin when the Supreme Court either clarifies what they are talking about, which is signing the list or when the candidates sign the list,” he said.
If the Supreme Court does not clarify what the Elections Commission must do, President of the Commission Fuwad Thowfeek “has an obligation to go ahead with the vote”, Nasheed said.
“Logistically it is very possible. The Elections Commissioner has all the lists. He has all the arrangements ready at hand. There is no island in the Maldives that cannot be reached within three to four hours,” he added.
The EC at a press conference this morning said the commission is ready to hold the re-run of the presidential election’s first round tomorrow as soon as the candidates approve the voter registry. Ballot boxes have been shipped to London, Singapore, New Delhi, and Malaysia.
The commission said it has called, texted, and sent officials to individual’s houses – as well as to the homes of JP representatives Umar Naseer and Hassan Shah, and PPM representative Ahmed Ilham – but has received no answer.
The PPM and JP have said they would approve lists only if the EC verified 10 percent and 5 percent of re-registration forms respectively. The commission has said “the impossible task” would take at least 20 days as the EC does not have the capacity to cross check fingerprints and must hand the task over to the police.
Nasheed appeal to his rivals to contest tomorrow’s elections, stating “the people of the Maldivians are hungry for a vote. Please come and sign these lists. Please don’t run away. Please don’t hide. Come out and give us this fight.”
“I refuse to give up hope. I believe we will have the elections tomorrow,” Nasheed told the press on Friday afternoon.
Nasheed also criticised his former deputy and current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan for not doing enough to ensure polls proceeded as planned.
“I think Waheed has an obligation to facilitate the elections commission to go ahead with the elections. We want to see more robust engagement of Dr Waheed in this process and we are not seeing that now and that is very sad,” he said.
Waheed released a statement this morning urging parties “not to act in a fashion that obstructs holding of the election and to prioritise national interest over personal interest”.