MDP suspects electoral fraud in presidential election, says Nasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suspects electoral fraud using fake national identity cards in last year’s presidential election, former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

Speaking to reporters after voting in today’s local council election, Nasheed referred to the Elections Commission (EC) including ID card photos in voter lists used at polling stations.

“We now have photos of all eligible voters. [But] we can see people without photos in the eligible voters list. We suspect very strongly that those without photos are non-existent people. However, they voted in the presidential election,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed explained that all candidates were sent the marked voters registry after the election, which identifies those who voted.

“So we are very certain now that there was serious fraud in the presidential election,” he said, adding that there were discrepancies between the voter registry used in the presidential election and the one used today.

Nasheed said he believes that non-existent people were added to the database at the Department of National Registration (DNR) as part of “efforts to rig the election through the Supreme Court.”

On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round of the presidential election on September 7 based on a secret police forensic report despite international and domestic praise of a free and fair vote.

Subsequent attempts to conduct the polls were obstructed by the police after the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) refused to sign the voters registry – a requirement from a 16-point guideline imposed by the apex court judgment.

Nasheed was narrowly defeated by PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen in the second round of the presidential election that eventually took place on November 16.

Yameen received 51.39 percent of the vote (111,203) whilst Nasheed polled 48.61 percent (105,181) – a difference of just 6,022 votes.

Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round.

Nasheed meanwhile told the press today that discussions were taking place within the MDP on a course of action concerning the suspected electoral fraud.

“I believe we have to go to court, too. We have to raise our voices about this. We have to clearly find out what happened with this vote. We always suspected there was fraud committed through the Supreme Court. Now, God willing, we will be able to confirm with this information,” the MDP presidential candidate said.

He added that the party could not accept the results of the presidential election if allegations of fraud were substantiated.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee on Thursday (January 16) that the first list with ID card photos provided by the DNR was missing photos of more than 5,400 people.

However, the DNR provided photos of about 4,000 voters two weeks ago, Thowfeek told MPs, which left the final voter lists without the photos of 1,176 people.

Asked if photos could have been repeated in the DNR list, Thowfeek said the EC could not check and verify the information.

Speaking to press following the closing of polls today, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik addressed the allegations of phantom voters on the DNR list.

Manik said he personally did not believe that the DNR “as the institution responsible maintaining information of all Maldivian citizens” would provide fraudulent lists to the EC.

He added that the EC has not attempted to verify the authenticity of the photos provided by the DNR.

Thowfeek noted that the commission was legally responsible for compiling the eligible voters registry prior to the annulled presidential polls on September 7 last year.

However, the Supreme Court ordered the EC to consider the DNR list as the only source in compiling the registry, Thowfeek explained.

He added that the EC was forced to consider the DNR list as legitimate despite errors, such as citizens deemed deceased while alive.

“So it has become difficult for us to say anything about the validity of the list,” he said.


“No rest, no sleep” until deadline: EC Commissioner

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii

“We are very certain the election will be held as scheduled, but not everything is within our control,” Elections Commissioner (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek told a press conference tonight (October 16).

“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.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

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.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Currently, the commission is primarily working on processing voter re-registration forms and entering the information into its database, Thowfeek explained.

With the commission not yet having completed the process, it has extended its complaints filing deadline to 2:ooam.

“We are receiving complaints and will correct the mistakes based on the voter re-registration forms,” said EC Commission Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “The problem is that a large number of people want to be registered to vote at different locations [other than their home islands].”

Whether the EC can finish processing the re-registration forms by its goal of tomorrow morning has not yet been confirmed.

Deadline looms

Thus far, 56,243 forms have been processed and the EC expects over 60,000 people to have re-registered – leaving approximately 10,000 forms remaining. After this process is finished, the commission hopes to begin printing the final voter registry tomorrow morning.

The EC has already provided political parties with the voter lists and will give them the finalized voter registry once it is completed.

“We hope the candidates will sign the voter registry, as responsible people. If they don’t then we will determine what to do at that point in time,” said Thowfeek. “We do not know what to say if they do not sign the registry. We don’t know whether the election can be held or not if that occurs.”

Meanwhile, the EC has completed printing the ballot papers – with candidate number two, President Mohamed Waheed having been removed – and is in the process of verifying and checking the ballots.

However, the commission cannot seal the ballots for transportation until after the voter registry has been finalised.

Additionally, all the elections officials have been selected and trained, however they cannot be sent to the polling station locations until the voter list is finalized, noted EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar.

The EC is aiming for officials to depart to polling station locations on the islands tomorrow.

“If elections officials do not leave for London tomorrow night, there will be no ballots in London,” said Manik.

“For example, it would be really strange if you were asked to build a 10 story building in 10 days and then hand over the keys, but such a thing we are doing,” he continued. “This is not something we have ever experienced, we apologise for everything.”

“Last time we formed a timetable and followed it, but now we have minimal time, so we are trying to finish things as fast as we can,” he noted. “We are doing everything as per the Supreme Court guidelines.

“We need to consider the ongoing Cambridge O’Level examinations – that is also why we will hold the election Saturday,” he continued.

Ongoing challenges

The EC noted that the holiday period had made their task even more difficult.

“Some temporary officials took leave for Hajj and Eid, however we cannot hire new staff because it each person requires two hours of training,” said Thowfeek.

“The government is giving a lot of assistance, which is the only reason the EC can keep going,” he noted. “We are working around the clock to hold the election on October 19.”

The Department of National Registration (DNR) provided the EC with the details of their database, however they have since amended some of the information and still need to provide their updated registry to the commission, explained Manik. We are still talking with the DNR to resolve the issue.

He also noted that the EC is working with the DNR to verify individuals’ records and address complaints the commission has received.

“For example, according to the DNR, Moomina Haleem [the country’s first female cabinet minister] is deceased, however we met with her and determined it was actually her husband that died. So we have to make sure people like Moomina Haleem do not lose their right to vote, explained Thowfeek.

“Now an individual can only cast their vote if all their personal information is correct [in accordance with the DNR’s database,” he noted.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We are following the Supreme Court guidelines; we are doing everything as they’ve said,” Thowfeek emphasised. “We will take action against those who conduct fraud.”

“By the will of Allah we will do everything we can to hold the election on October 19,” he added.


Department of National Registration suspends issuing ID cards, citing malfunctioning air conditioning

Staff at the Department of National Registration have refused to continue issuing national identity cards 94 days before elections, complaining of a malfunctioning air conditioning unit and “discomfort in working conditions” for the past four days.

Services were stopped abruptly at approximately 10.30am this morning, after a long queue of customers had already been issued service tokens, according to local media.

Service seekers had expressed anger at the announcement that services will no longer be available, with some reports stating that the people had demanded that services be resumed as “whatever heat the staff feel, we feel too”.

Assistant Director at the Department of National Registration Abdulla Haleem has confirmed to local media that services have been temporarily discontinued due to faulty air conditioning in the department’s service area.

He stated that staff has continued to complain about the difficulties of working “under such warm and uncomfortable circumstances” for the past couple of days.

Haleem said that the department’s failure to repair the air conditioning has led to staff refusing to serve at counters, instead resorting to “sitting in the innermost rooms of the department which has functioning air conditioning”.

Haleem further stated that staff refused to provide services despite more citizens coming to apply for national identity cards during the school holiday period, when people from the islands find it more convenient to visit the capital.

Civil Service Commission Media Official Ali Nizar stated that the commission had not received any official complaints about the matter.

“As a commission, we focus on staff interests. We believe that the department should provide appropriate working conditions for their staff,” Nizar stated.

“Unless we get a direct official complaint, we tend to not get involved in such matters,” he said.

“As far as we know, services will commence again tomorrow once the department solves the issue and provides staff with suitable conditions,” he said.

The Department of National Registration was not responding to calls at the time of press.

“It is a concern, but will one day affect elections?” : Transparency Maldives

Local NGO Transparency Maldives, which will be active in elections monitoring during the September 7 presidential elections, stated that the interruption of services is a concern, if it may affect the upcoming elections.

“If the issuing of ID cards is affected by today’s suspension of services, then it may negatively affect elections. In such an instance, the problem needs to dealt with as soon as possible,” stated Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed Ibrahim.

“It is a question whether one day of non-service will have an effect on the elections, we hope it doesn’t. We need to be extremely careful these days and if there is a chance that it may have a negative impact, then it must be addressed as soon as possible,” he said.

“Huge concern with elections just 94 days away”: contesting parties

With 94 days to the presidential elections, contesting political parties have expressed concerns that the interruption in issuing identity cards may compromise the constitutional right to vote of a large part of the electorate.

“If we get to have a free and fair election, we intend to win it in a single round. However, with the state the system is in now, it is very complicated,” said member of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP)’s Membership and Campaign Committee, Ahmed Shahid.

“From the information we have gathered, we understand that approximately 40,000 identity cards will expire before September 7. According to the information we have, the Department of National Registration has the capacity to issue about 350 or so cards a day. This suggests that the 40,000 people from the electorate will not all be able to get the cards renewed before the elections. In a situation like this, now we have the service suspension from that department. This is a huge concern for us,” he said.

“From what we are seeing now, it doesn’t seem as though the state is really trying to solve these issues prior to elections,” Shahid alleged.

“In meetings with the Elections Commission (EC), we were told that about 1500 inmates will also be having their cards expired before election day. The Commission seemed unsure of who has to bear the responsibility for getting these cards renewed. An idea was floated that parents of inmates should take the initiative, but I don’t think that is a practical approach. The state must find a more responsible alternative,” Shahid continued.

“The EC also spoke of concerns that the department is not cooperating at its best so far, and about the reluctance to place absolute trust in them as the department is a government body. They’ve been requesting access to the department’s records in order to run a comparison with the EC’s electorate list, but said they’ve only been granted access a week ago,” he said.

“We are in an extremely sensitive situation now. With things as they are, actions like what the Department of National Registration has done today is a cause for extreme worry,” Shahid stated.

Jumhooree Party Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz also voiced concerns that the denial of a service as vital as the issuance of identity cards will lead to many voters and candidates being stripped of their constitutional rights.

“This leads to a huge loss for the citizens, as well as presidential candidates. The elections are looming close overhead, and the government is halting the issuance of IDs, which are absolutely necessary for anyone to be able to vote. Citizens are being thrust into a very sad situation,” Ramiz stated.

“The institutions which must be responsible need to attend to this immediately, even if they need to give up on all else they are doing now,” he said.

Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) Ahmed Thaufeeq, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeg and Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar were also not responding. EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz’s phone was switched off at the time of press.