Elections Commission processes 20,000 forms, as thousands queue to re-register

The Elections Commission (EC) has processed 20,000 voter re-registration forms, and is still serving a queue of thousands of tickets taken before yesterday’s 4:30pm deadline.

65,000 people re-registered to vote ahead of the September 7 election, which was annulled last week by the Supreme Court. With little over a week remaining before the rescheduled October 19 vote, the court at midnight on October 10 ordered the EC to collect voter fingerprints and restart the entire re-registration process from scratch.

The announcement of a 24 hour deadline for registration saw hundreds of volunteers in political party outposts working right through the night of October 11 in an effort to re-register thousands of voters. The largest party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which obtained 45.45 percent of the popular vote in the annulled first round, said it had re-registered more than 33,000 people.

A system crash around 2:30pm Sunday afternoon due to the large volume of data saw the EC begin manually entering data to continue processing while the system was restarted. An official told Minivan News the problem was fixed two hours later at 4:30pm, however some people reportedly became upset as the manual process meant they were unable to be immediately issued with a confirmation slip. 2500 tickets remained at the time of the crash, the official noted.

Boisterous Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and its allied Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) supporters in the queue quickly accused the EC of attempting to rig the election, while soon after 7:00pm police had arrived at the EC’s registration building and begun removing people from the waiting area.

By 9:00pm police had deployed barricades outside separating the MDP and PPM supporters, while the Elections Commission had begun calling numbers again and was stamping temporary receipts, with official receipts to be provided on Tuesday.

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News on Friday evening that the EC had received threats that the voter registration section would be attacked, and that “people would throw stones at the windows and burn things there.”

“When we received that information we wrote to the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) requesting protection of our office. It’s very sad. There are a group of people who want to block this [vote], those who know they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult. But I hope these things can be handled by the police and MNDF. The whole world is watching and wants this election,” he told Minivan News.

PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile reportedly called on the EC to verify the fingerprints on all registration forms submitted, despite no organisation in the Maldives having the capacity to do this.

Foreign reporters to require business visas

The Immigration Department, which operates under the Ministry of Defence, has meanwhile declared that foreign reporters and camera crew must now apply for business visas and be vetted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Visiting journalists have previously entered the country on tourist visas, as business visas (costing MVR750/US$50 for three months) have required the sponsorship and collection of the visiting person from the airport by a local company or organisation.

“Up until now, we issue visas based on a list provided by the Elections (Commission). We cannot allow them to enter on a tourist visa and cover the election. We have communicated this to the relevant authorities,” Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali told local media.

The procedure under which foreign media would be approved and sponsored was unclear, although Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mohamed Najeel suggested that this would be processed through the ministry.

‘Death threat’ phone lines suspended

The Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) has informed local media that it has suspended 15 phone numbers accused of issuing death threats against Elections Commission officials.

The death threats received by the EC’s permanent staff and polling station officials prompted the commission to file a report with police following the Supreme Court’s controversial suspension of the second round of polling, and subsequent annulment of the first round.

CAM CEO Ilyas Ahmed told local media that police had also filed cases regarding several numbers.

“We only take action if there’s a serious problem with a number, and after filing the case to the police. This is a criminal offence and there is a judicial procedure to be completed, so we’re filing them to the police,” he told Sun Online.