Week in review: September 13-21

Following a full week of hearings into the Jumhooree Party’s election complaints, the High Court granted the party’s request to view the offending register – under supervision- though the party is still seeking greater access in order to prove its claims regarding fraudulent voters. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court accepted to hear the JP’s case seeking to annul the first round altogether.

After hearing the claims of former Attorney General – and vice-presidential candidate – Dr Hassan Saeed, which included deceased, repeated, and fake voters, the court ordered that the Elections Commission (EC) hand over the voter registry for inspection. Repeated calls to respect the outcome of the election from across the international community failed to impress Dr Saeed.

Maintaining that all allegations are without merit, the EC continued to prepare for the upcoming second round – scheduled for September 28 – officially announcing the first round results despite the JP’s attempts to delay.

The barrage of criticism, particularly from Gasim’s own Villa Television (VTV), led the EC to warn the Majlis that national security could be damaged by “unfounded claims of corruption”.

The national broadcasting commission began looking into VTV’s reporting of unsubstantiated content this week, whilst the police finished looking into the content of the EC’s rubbish, finding no incriminating documents.

Further protests against the EC have been promised by religious civil society groups. The conservative Jamiyathuh Salaf group singled out the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for criticism in a nationally televised sermon that resulted in broadcasting commission being called before the Majlis once more.

The police appeared to have been drawn into the dispute as an alleged police intelligence document emerged on social media, alleging “some opportunity for fraud” and “illegal voting”. The report was quickly disowned by the police and condemned by the MDP, who also called the Majlis to reconvene tomorrow (September 22) in order to stop “undue influence of political parties in the judiciary”.

Elsewhere in the country, the police in Addu City searched a number of homes as part of their election security operation, whilst fears over black magic persisted in Guraidhoo – the local council refusing use of the school for polling.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP) followed its former coalition partner – the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in choosing a candidate to back in the endangered run-off. Waheed’s party chose to support the Progressive Party of Maldives’ candidate in round two, whilst the DRP leaders were paraded before MDP supporters following last week’s decision to lend support to former President Mohamed Nasheed in the race – a decision that resulted in the sacking of DRP minister Ali Shareef.

Nasheed visited the house of JP leader Gasim on Thursday though the JP insisted no decisions on future alliances would be made before the courts have finished their work. When addressing a youth forum earlier in the week, Nasheed had expressed confidence that Maldivian democracy could withstand a handful of coups and rigged elections.

Disabled Maldivians demonstrated this week against the impending closure of the country’s only school catering to those with special needs, whilst the pervasiveness of politics was revealed as deaf interpreter Shaheez Abdulla gave an account of his recent stabbing.

The ongoing case of former Civil Service Commission Chair saw his access to the commission as well as his salary revoked after Mohamed Fahmy Hassan had continued to come into his former workplace.

Finally, details were revealed of the government’s cancellation payments to forensic accountants Grant Thornton as well as the circumstances of Swedish nationa Filip Eugen Petre’s flight from the country following his acquittal of charges relating to the deaths of a British couple in 2011.


Supreme Court orders Elections Commission to hand over original voter list for “purpose of judges”

The Supreme Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to hand over the original voter lists of all ballot boxes placed during the recent first round of Presidential Elections held on September 7.

A Supreme Court battle between the EC and Jumhooree Party (JP) ensued this week after the latter announced its decision to dismiss the outcome of the presidential poll after narrowly missing out a place in the run-off election with 24.07 percent of the vote. The party accused the EC of electoral discrepancies and irregularities that altered the results of the poll to the JP’s disadvantage.

During the third day of continuous proceedings of the case held today (September 19), the Supreme Court ordered the EC to hand over the voter lists – which had been used by the election officials at polling stations to check off the names of voters who had cast their ballot – claiming the list was required “for the purpose of the presiding judges”.

Today’s proceedings began with the seven-member judges panel giving the JP the opportunity to question the members of the EC.

Elections Commission Members Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed, Ali Mohamed Manik and commission Chair Fuwad Thowfeek were present at the hearing along with the commission’s legal team, led by veteran lawyer and former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood.

The JP’s legal team led by running mate of JP’s Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim, Dr Hassan Saeed, posed questions to EC Chair Thowfeek regarding the party’s allegations that included: possibilities of double voting, registration of people on Male Municipality Register – a special registry of people residing in the capital without owning homes – without permit, underage voters and allegations of expatriates voting in the poll.

Saeed – who is himself a former Attorney General – also posed questions regarding the security features included in the ballot paper, the failure of the EC’s Ballot Progress Reporting system (BPRS) – a web based application that tallied the number of voters who had cast their vote or were in the queue to vote – and whether Indian IT specialists who had been working in the commission had a role in developing BPRS and whether it was possible that soft copies of ballot papers were leaked.

Responding to Saeed’s questions, EC Chair Thowfeek said the commission had only registered people in Male Municipality’s Register to the current addresses they were living with the intent to allow them easy access to polling. Thowfeek maintained that it was not permanent and was only for purpose of presidential polls.

Thowfeek also said that it was near-impossible for anyone to cast a vote twice since the commission had a strong mechanism to check for double voting that included use of indelible ink, checks for fake National ID cards and verification of electoral lists in cases of repeated entries.

He also said that allegations of votes cast under the names of underage and deceased people during the polls – levied by both the JP and the Attorney General Azima Shukoor – were unfounded because the EC had verified the voter list with the database of Department of National Registration (DNR).

Thowfeek also said that in a bid to further verify the issue of deceased people the commission had cross-checked the voter list against registries of people who passed away collected from local councils as well as the burial house located in Male’ Cemetery.

He also said the commission had not come across cases of expatriates voting in the election, but did tell the court that former head of DNR Ahmed Firaaq had told him that the DNR under its current management had “accidentally” issued a Maldivian national ID card to a Bangladeshi expatriate, who was later caught while attempting to obtain a Maldivian passport.

Explaining the reason behind BPRS system not working as expected, Thowfeek said that failed internet connections on some islands were the major reason for its under-performance. He also confirmed to the court that the BPRS was not built by the Indian IT experts nor did they have any role in the preparations of the presidential polls.

In response to the doubts cast by Saeed on security features of the ballot papers, Thowfeek responded stating that the commission had added three security features to the ballot paper that included: a watermark seal at the back of the ballot paper, a security code that shows different codes if viewed from each side and another security code that can only be seen through a special light.

He added that the commission had tested the ballot paper prior to the commencement of polling while maintaining that the security of the ballot papers had been intact from day one.

“I am extremely confident that no one, no one can come out and show an original ballot paper. It is impossible for anyone to come up with an original ballot paper to prove that it went out of our hands,” Thowfeek told the court.

After Thowfeek’s answers, Saeed told the court that despite today being the third hearing of the case, the EC had refused to give them the original voter list.

Saeed noted that it was the EC and the DNR that had the pivotal information that the party sought to verify the claims, and unless both agencies begin cooperating with them, their claims would remain unclarified, undermining the rights of 50,000 people who had voted for the JP’s candidate.

“When I first began practicing law in 1997, I often come across people who claim they had been tortured while in custody. They would say, look my arm was broken and it had not still recovered. But whenever they went to court, the judge would demand evidence. But all they had to say is it was the police and had nothing prove their claim. Today, the JP is in such a circumstance,” Saeed told the court.

Saeed claimed that last Wednesday night he had seen a video of an expatriate lady confessing that she had voted in the presidential polls and the video showed what he claimed was an indelible ink mark on her finger.

“Honourable Chief Justice, we are talking about an expatriate gaining our citizenship. We are talking about a case where an expatriate practiced a constitutional right given to a Maldivian citizen. Tomorrow, that expatriate will get medical expenses covered under Aasandha. That expatriate can own Maldivian land [just like a Maldivian citizen],” Saeed said.

“When I called the police commissioner, he said he can only investigate after Elections Commission gives a heads up. I said I am hanging up the phone. I called the Prosecutor General. He said he couldn’t do much. Honourable Justice, this is the situation we are talking about,” Saeed added.

EC’s lawyer Suood responded to Saeed’s statement claiming that Saeed had finally confessed that their claims did not carry any weight.

Suood however reiterated that the EC were prepared to hand over the original voter list should the Supreme Court order to do so but raised concerns over the undermining of the privacy of the people in the list.

Suood repeated his argument that should the list be given to JP, it would undermine the privacy of the voters including their national ID Card numbers, their date of birth, whether they had voted or not and if they did vote, which ballot box had they voted.

While the hearing was about to conclude, several Supreme Court Judges including Judge Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi, JSC Chair and Judge Adam Mohamed, Judge and former Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, Judge Ali Hameed and Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz posed questions to Thowfeek, inquiring regarding the JP’s allegations and concerns.

Concluding the hearings, Chief Justice Faiz said that another hearing of the case would be scheduled, but did not specify a date.


Gasim to contest election results in court: “I am saying I believe I was in first place”

Third-placed candidate in Saturday’s presidential elections, Gasim Ibrahim, has announced that he will not accept the results released by the Elections Commission (EC).

“I am saying I believe I was in first place,” said Gasim at a press conference this afternoon. “Different result reports on different media shows there were many, immense issues.”

His Jumhoree Party (JP) is disputing the election following rumours that 10,100 additional votes appeared on the results published in a number of media outlets on polling day.

Vice President of the EC Ahmed Fayaz today maintained that the EC did not consider the complaints credible, describing them as “ridiculous” and “baseless”.

According to the provisional results Gasim received 24.07 percent of the votes, narrowly losing the position of runner up to Abdulla Yameen with 25.35 percent. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) placed first with 45.45 percent of the vote.

At today’s press conference, Gasim alleged that the EC had recommended the JP take the case to court after refusing to provide information that the party is legally entitled to.

“In some boxes, there were lots of discrepancies in numbers of eligible voters, votes cast, invalid votes,” said Gasim, whilst running-mate Dr Hassan Saeed argued that the voter lists included deceased persons and children.

“If they aren’t guilty, they should clarify offer clarifications already,” said Gasim.

JP spokesperson Ibrahim Khaleel told Haveeru earlier today that, despite approaches from other parties, Gasim had not yet held talks regarding a coalition with either of the parties through to the second round.

Commonwealth observers have praised the voter registry as “accurate and robust”: “Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded, based on the low incidence of election day complaints,” the group stated, in its interim statement released this afternoon.

Lessons to be learned

Fayaz explained that the EC was still in the process of re-checking all votes, anticipating that a final result may be confirmed tomorrow.

Asked about the confusion over the voting figures, Fayaz criticised local media’s role in the confusion.

“Politicians and newspapers have reported this [10,000 votes issue]”, he said, singling out the online publication Times.mv for particular criticism.

Fayaz urged all media outlets to carefully check their information before publication, though he did acknowledge that the EC’s own website was a source of concern.

“We wanted to share real-time results but the system did not function properly – many got misleading information from our website,” he said, assuring that the problem would be fixed before the second round.

Revealing its election observations today, the Commonwealth observer acknowledged issues related to the “private media”.

“We have to highlight this point as an area where the authorities in the Maldives should in the future sit down and see where improvements can be made. In this context the role of the Broadcasting Commission we consider to be extremely important,” said mission head Lawrence Gonzi.

“Similarly, it is important for the institutional set up to be clear on who is responsible for what. Should this be dealt with by the Elections Commission or Broadcasting Commission, and does the law empower them to redress an imbalance and what solutions are put forward?” he continued.

Drawing other conclusions from the first round, Fayaz singled out the performance of certain election officials as an issue that would need addressing.

“Some elections officials were too slow during the first round. Some will need re-training and some will need replacing,” he explained.

Upon hearing the rumours of unexplained votes after the closing of polls, a group of demonstrating JP supporters delayed the EC’s announcement of the provisional result early on Sunday morning (September 8).

The small but vocal group called for the resignation of EC Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek, who – when finally able to announce the provisional results – dismissed the possibility of this many anomalous votes.


Comment: Revisiting the Maldives’ transition to democracy

This article was first published on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

The first multiparty presidential election of 2008 in Maldives saw an end to the 30-year dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the adoption of a modern democracy for the first time in the Maldives. Nevertheless, as in many other nascent democracies, there is real doubt whether Maldives can sustain its democracy in its fullest sense, especially after the recent coup that ousted the first democratically elected president in February 2012.

Some scholars argue that the mode of democratic transition a country experiences proves to be a critical factor in determining the country’s democratic future. Hence, an analysis of the mode of democratic transition that occurred in Maldives may help in predicting whether democracy could be sustained in future.

Political scientist Samuel Huntington argues that the process of democratisation could be determined based on ‘the relative importance of governing and the opposition groups as the sources of democratisation’.

He identifies three broader modes of democratisation; (1) ‘transformation’ (from above) occurs when the regime itself takes initiative in bringing democracy; (2) ‘replacement’ (from below) occurs when opposition groups take the initiative and replace the regime by bringing democracy; and (3) ‘transplacement’ (through bargain) occurs when both government and opposition work together to bring about democracy.

My aim here is to analyse the process of democratisation in Maldives in terms of the theories offered by Huntington, and identify the modes of democratic transition that occurred in Maldives.

This in turn may help predict the future sustenance of democracy in Maldives. I will argue that no one particular mode of democratisation occurred in Maldives as none of them materialised fully. However, various efforts from the current opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), together with the leadership of Mohamed Nasheed, have contributed significantly to the process and facilitated negotiations with the regime leading to democratisation.

To achieve the stated-aim, I will discuss the major events that contributed to the democratisation process in Maldives by relating them to the modes of transition outlined above.

The initial period of democratic struggle – a period of near ‘replacement’

The initial period of the struggle for democracy in Maldives depicts characteristics of ‘replacement’ where citizens started to challenge the regime through various means and made attempts to overthrow the autocratic government. The first serious challenge to dictator Gayoom was in 1988, with a failed coup attempt carried out by Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries financed by wealthy Maldivians. A year after the attempted coup, the election of western-educated young politicians to the parliament in 1989 resulted in increased pressure for democratic reforms.

However, many of them and their family members faced significant threats from the regime and some of them were imprisoned for various politically motivated charges[3]. The regime continued to suppress major opposition figures through arbitrary arrests. In 2001, Mohamed Nasheed – both a Member of Parliament and a major opposition figure – was arrested and imprisoned for two and half years. The same year, the opposition MDP made their first attempt to formally register themselves as a political party. The Home Ministry, mandated to register civic organisations, sent the petition to parliament where it was overwhelmingly rejected.

On September 20, 2003, civil unrest broke out in the capital Male’ sparked by the death of prison inmate Hassan Evan Naseem. Evan was tortured to death by security forces during an interrogation. News of his death led to riots in the prison and a subsequent shootout by the police that killed three more inmates and injured many others. The news spread throughout Maldives, becoming the major trigger for many to publicly demand democratic reforms.

Since the September unrests, Gayoom came under tremendous pressure from both domestic and international actors that compelled him to announce democratic reforms. On June 2004, during an informal meeting, Gayoom announced his proposed changes to the Constitution including two term limits for the president, direct election of the president, measures to increase separation of powers and removing the gender bar for political participation. Moreover, he urged citizens to publicly debate his proposals. The opposition were still very sceptical about Gayoom’s real intentions and raised doubts about whether he could bring about concrete reforms.

However, the reform announcement itself facilitated the opposition to organise more activities publicly. Matt Mulberry from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, argues that the reforms announced by Gayoom ‘technically gave citizens freedom of speech and freedom of assembly’. As a result, some citizens organised a series of “minivan debates” (‘minivan’ means ‘independent’ in Dhivehi) where they discussed the political issues facing the country. Unsurprisingly, the government sent police to disrupt these debates, eventually declaring them illegal.

Despite these repressive actions, the opposition organised a huge protest on August 12-13, 2004 to mark the death of Evan Naseem and demanded reforms, including the release of political prisoners. A record number of citizens took part in the protest which became the largest political gathering ever in the history of Maldives at that time.

The crackdown that followed the protest led to the arrest of hundreds of activists and injured many protesters. As a result, violence erupted in capital Male’ and other parts of the country. Despite the oppressed media, news of the regime’s repressive actions attracted the attention of many international actors. By then, President Gayoom faced immense pressure from the UK, US, India and Sri Lanka to bring about political reforms.

From ‘replacement’ to ‘transplacement’ – a period of joint action

The mounting international pressure and political instability in Maldives led to a new phase in the democratisation process as the regime agreed to have serious negotiations with the opposition. The willingness of joint action from both the regime and the opposition led to a period of ‘transplacement’ in the democratisation process. The regime agreed to sit with the opposition for the first time in the UK.

During the negotiations, the regime agreed to more reforms including formation of independent oversight bodies such as the Police Integrity Commission and the Judicial Services Commission. Moreover, informal talks between reformers within the regime and the opposition were held in Sri Lanka facilitated by the British High Commissioner.

However, the lack of true commitments from the regime led the opposition to realise that international pressure alone would not help bring down the autocratic leadership. Hence, they increased their efforts in organising more protests, speeches and sit-ins. As a result of the mounting support for the opposition’s cause, reformers within the government increased their efforts in pressuring Gayoom to implement urgent reforms.

The pressure from a few reformers within the government and the opposition MDP led to a period of ‘transformation’ where the regime was compelled to take reform actions. In April 2005, the then Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed overturned his predecessor’s decision by issuing a formal legal opinion to allow the registration of political parties. In June 2005, the parliament unanimously voted in favour of a resolution to allow multi-party democracy for the first time in Maldives. The MDP – the main opposition party – led by Mohamed Nasheed was formally registered, along with several other political parties representing different views. In March 2006, the regime published a roadmap that ‘included 31 proposals for revision of the Constitution, a series of time-bound commitments on human rights, and proposals to build institutions and mobilise civil society’.

However, many still doubted whether the regime was committed to real reforms. Ahmed Shaheed (then Foreign Minister) later argued that, through the reform agenda, Gayoom was seeking to get rehabilitated and thereby stabilise his presidency. He argued that, by 2007, Gayoom had achieved his aim by gaining widespread domestic support and getting rehabilitated.

However, new cracks that significantly weakened the regime emerged as those most closely associated with the reform agenda left the government. On 5th August 2007, both Dr Hassan Saeed and Mohamed Jameel (Justice Minister) resigned from their posts. They claimed that working outside Gayoom’s regime was the only option to advance their reform agenda. Later on the same month, Ahmed Shaheed resigned from the post of Foreign Minister, accusing the government of stalling democratic reforms. These developments saw more public support for the opposition reform movement. After several disagreements with the Special Majlis (Special Parliament), Gayoom ratified the new Constitution in August 2008, allowing key democratic reforms and paving way for the first multi-party presidential election in October that year.

Democracy sustainable?

As evident from the discussion above, three modes of democratisation have contributed to the democratisation process in Maldives, though characteristics of ‘transformation’ are very little. Interestingly, there appears to be a correlation between each mode as the occurrence of one type led to the other. This observation therefore contradicts Huntington’s view that the three modes of democratisation are alternatives to one another.

However, it is important to note the significant role played by the opposition MDP, especially Mohamed Nasheed as the leader who never took a step back in his quest to bring democracy to Maldives. It is clear that MDP played the most critical role in the process of democratisation. I have previously argued that Gayoom is the major obstacle to sustaining democracy and the threat is heightened more than ever with his current political activeness.

Reflecting on the process of democratisation and the strong influence of Gayoom on many institutions till today, I still doubt sustenance of democracy in the Maldives. Similar to the 2008 election, this year’s election is very much a choice between democracy and autocracy.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Vice President should not be a “spare part”: Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed last night told state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) that a vice-president should not be treated like a “spare part”.

Speaking in the second of a series of TVM interviews with next month’s presidential candidates, the incumbent president stated his belief that the vice president ought to have more responsibility.

“I believe that changes are needed. A vice president should not be a spare part that replaces the president if he resigns or passes away. The people choose a vice president after careful consideration. They vote for two people, the president and the vice president, on the same ticket,” President Waheed said.

Waheed assumed office on February 7, 2012, after being elevated from his position as vice-president to Mohamed Nasheed. President Nasheed resigned amidst chaotic scenes as police mutinied following weeks of anti-government agitation.

Waheed told his interviewer, Leeza Laurella, that Nasheed had reneged on a prior agreement to hand the vice-president powers over foreign policy – giving preference to fellow Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members.

Soon after Waheed assumed the presidency, his frustration with his previous role was described by his then-special advisor Dr Hassan Saeed in a leaked audio recording.

“There was no major role for President Waheed in the previous government. Very many days [spent] bored in the office… When an educated man like him whiles the day away being like this, going on the Internet… really it is sad. This is how Waheed was,” said Dr Saeed.

Prior to his political career, Dr Waheed was notable for being the first Maldivian to gain a doctorate as well as being the first person to appear on Maldivian Television, anchoring TVM’s first broadcast in 1978.

After a short period as a member of the People’s Majlis, Waheed spent a number of years working for UNICEF, eventually becoming Deputy Regional Director for South Asia.

Role in February 7

Responding to the repeated accusations that he did not fulfil his responsibilities in supporting President Nasheed during the February 2012 crisis, Waheed told his interviewer that Nasheed had not asked for his counsel.

“President Nasheed did not call me. If he wanted to talk to me, he could have asked the SPG (Special Protection Group), the same group that protects us both. He could have handed me the phone through them, could he not?”

Maintaining that the events of February 7 marked the final stages of a conspiracy in which Waheed was complicit, the MDP have repeatedly accused Waheed of failing to fulfill his duties as second in command.

Mentioning a late night meeting with anti-Nasheed figures just days before the transfer of power, Waheed told TVM that Nasheed had been informed of the meeting and all normal procedures followed.

MDP MP Mariya Didi manwhile published a report in June 2012 arguing that Waheed’s failure to fully discuss this meeting with the rest of the cabinet represented a violation of his responsibilities as the vice-president.

Waheed had been open on a number of previous occasions regarding his marginalisation in the decision making process, in 2010 describing the Nasheed administration as a “one man show”.

Nasheed will stand against Waheed in September’s poll, having chosen Dr Musthafa Luthfy as his running mate. When making the announcement, the MDP stipulated that Luthfy would call an election immediately should Nasheed be “killed or incapacitated” rather than assuming the presidency himself.


Waheed yesterday explained that he had chosen his current running-mate, Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) leader Thasmeen Ali as he is “well-mannered and keeps his word”.

During the interview he also denied that he had described the Adhaalath Party as containing extremist elements – comments which prompted the religious party to leave Waheed’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition in June, later allying with the Jumhoree Party (JP).

Yesterday’s interview, the second in a series featuring all the presidential hopefuls, followed Friday’s combative encounter with Jumhoree Coalition candidate Ibrahim Gasim.

Following Gasim’s discussion with Laurella, JP deputy leader Ilham Ahmed told local media that the JP would be considering a boycott of the station. Ilham argued that, contrary to the shows title – with ‘siyaasath’ meaning ‘policy’ – the presenter asked Gasim a series of personal questions in an attempt to damage his reputation.

“This was done with the intention of demeaning a person under a systematic plan. We don’t believe that this could have been done under press freedom,” he explained to reporters from Haveeru. “We have seen TVM going after Gasim.”

Ilham also insisted that the show had made repeated attempts to make Gasim appear “odd”.

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) defended its station, telling local media that Gasim’s TVM interview was conducted within its editorial policy.

It was announced in June that TVM would be scheduling a presidential debate featuring all four candidates for September 1.


DRP denies holding coalition talks with President Waheed’s election rivals

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has rejected allegations it ever considered forming a coalition to back a candidate other than President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Local media quoted senior figures in the Jumhoree Party (JP) of accusing DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali of unsuccessfully trying to become the running mate of its presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim, before opting to side with the incumbent in May this year.

JP candidate Gasim, one of the country’s highest-profile business figures, has since formed his own coalition with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) after they both defected from President Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition in July.

“Last minute” decision

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef today categorically denied that discussions had ever been held over backing any other candidate for this year’s election, claiming the decision to stand in a coalition with President Waheed has been made by the party’s council at the “last minute”.

“We were originally trying to run on our own [as a party] right up to the last minute,” he said. “However, it was decided to sacrifice [the party’s] ambitions for the sake of the nation.”

Shareef claimed that in comparison to the three other candidates preparing to contest this year’s election, President Waheed was not promising policies that could not be delivered under the current economy.

He accused Gasim, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed of being “very unrealistic” with their campaign promises.

“We are careful to make promises within the resources we have available and within the budget,” Shareef added.

Both the PPM and MDP have previously accused President Waheed of making development pledges outside the approved budget, while also alleging he had been using state resources to campaign for his own Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP).

According to Shareef, the ‘Forward with the nation’ also faced notable challenges in terms of limited party financing compared to other parties, accusing both the AP and DQP of defecting to Gasim’s coalition simply to secure an increased campaign budget.

“They went to the person who has money, while we are concerned with running an effective campaign,” he added.

Shareef said this year’s election was very much a “money game” that had affected the wider campaign atmosphere in the country, notably in how individual candidates were being portrayed in the media.

He expressed particular concern at the role the country’s media – often owned and controlled by political parties and business men – played in the electoral process.

Shareef argued that with media in the Maldives controlled by just a few powerful figures, it was difficult in the country’s fledgling democracy to effectively explain a candidate’s individual stand to the “ordinary public” and therefore allow them to make an informed decision and hold public figures to account.

On the campaign trail

A source in President Waheed’s campaign team told Minivan News that the defection of the AP and DQP from the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition had required little change to the coalition’s campaign strategy, and that the party’s internal polling data suggested this had had a negligible impact on the coalition’s election chances.

The source said the departure of the AP in particular had actually increased the party’s support among the under 35 demographic.


“Gasim Ibrahim’s journey to wealth worthy of pride”: Dr Hassan Saeed

The Jumhoree Alliance’s vice-presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed has declared the coalition intends a first round victory in September.

The new coalition consists of resort tycoon, media owner and presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) led by Saeed, and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

Prior to the formation of the alliance, both the DQP and AP were part of incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s ‘Forward with Nation’ coalition.

However, both the DQP and AP left the coalition and joined the Jumhoree Alliance after claiming that family members and foreigners within President Waheed’s campaign team had been making all the decisions.

Shortly after the formation of the alliance Saeed was appointed as Gasim’s running mate.

Along with Waheed and Gasim, former President Mohamed Nasheed and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)’s Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen are also contesting in the upcoming elections.

Speaking during a press conference held on Saturday, Saeed blasted rival candidates for disparaging remarks about Gasim’s wealth, claiming that “it seems getting rich is a crime”.

Instead, Saeed claimed that Maldivians should be proud of Gasim’s “journey to his wealth”.

“But the truth is that [Gasim] arrived to Male’ as an orphaned boy. Gasim is someone who began work with nothing in his hands, but through his hard work he is now the richest man in the country. This is something we should be proud of,” Saeed claimed.

Saeed also contested that, should any of the presidential candidates other than Gasim become president, the Maldives would never see a second tycoon such as Gasim.

However, Saeed claimed that should the Jumhoree Alliance win the race, a future government led by the coalition will give the opportunity for poor people to “become a Gasim”.

“[Wealth] is not something we should be ashamed of. In fact we should be proud [of such an opportunity to become a Gasim]. Our focus is to create multiple ‘Gasims’,” Saeed said.

He added that Gasim is facing criticism from other political parties because he had decided to run for president, and claimed that Gasim was as rich as he was now as when former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom appointed him governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and later as Finance Minister.

“Some presidential candidates begged Gasim Ibrahim to join them. Some wanted him as their running mate. Others wanted him a different way. Today, because he decided not to go behind anybody else, and when it is becoming clear that he will win the elections, suddenly being rich has become a crime,” Saeed said.

“In my view, I think we all should be proud of a poor boy who became the richest man without any fraud or robbing a bank. Shouldn’t we be proud of it?”


Dr Hassan Saeed unveiled as the running mate of resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim

Resort tycoon and Leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim has announced former Special Advisor to President Mohamed Waheed, Dr Hassan Saeed as his running mate for the upcoming presidential elections scheduled to take place in September.

The Chairman of Villa Group is among the five candidates who have formally declared their intention to contest in the presidential race. Other candidates include opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen, and current President Waheed – who heads the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition consisting of his party Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). Former PPM Council member Dr Ahmed Saud has also declared that he will be contesting the polls as an independent.

Shortly after President Waheed’s controversial ascension to power in February 2012, Saeed was appointed to the position of Special Advisor. The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) – of which Saeed is the leader – was announced as part of Waheed’s new national unity government. Last April, DQP announced its plan to join President Waheed’s coalition and support his bid to seek re-election.

However, Saeed last Thursday made a sudden announcement that he and his party had decided to leave Waheed’s coalition, claiming that President Waheed was strongly influenced by his family and relatives, was making decisions from his “palace” instead of discussing with other coalition partners.

In a statement released by the DQP at the time, the party said its council had unanimously agreed to leave the coalition after accusing Waheed of being incapable of protecting the interests of his coalition partners.

“The president dissolved the steering committee established with coalition partners to resolve issues within the coalition and resorted to taking decisions within his palace,” read the DQP statement. “Therefore, despite repeated efforts, President Waheed’s failure to resolve these issues” forced the party to leave the coalition, DQP claimed at the time.

The accusations were dismissed by the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition and claimed that DQP’s departure would have little effect on its campaign.

In a campaign rally held last Friday evening, Gasim Ibrahim declared that Saeed will be his running mate and that Jumhoree Party have come to a coalition agreement with Saeed’s DQP and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party. Gasim also said that the three parties will contest in the presidential elections as a coalition under his leadership.

The Adhaalath Party was also initially part of President Waheed’s coalition but later left, criticising the campaigning and claiming “unknown activities” were being carried out within the coalition.

The party’s decision to part ways with President Waheed came shortly after the party slammed Waheed for telling the AFP that it had “extremist” elements within the party ranks. Adhaalath responded strongly to the remarks dismissing that it held “extreme views” and claimed that the party did not promote extremism but had always stood by “Islamic principles”.

Addressing the small number of people gathered during the rally, Gasim Ibrahim spoke highly of both Saeed and the Adhaalath Party.

Gasim, who claimed he met Saeed while during the formulation of the current constitution, described him as an “educated, experienced and hard working person who would never be involved in any corrupt activity”.

He also praised the Adhaalath Party stating that the religious conservative party had proven its “sincerity and integrity” even in 2008 presidential elections by joining his party, and claimed that it was prepared to make “any necessary sacrifice” for the country.

“This is indeed a memorable night for all three parties. This coalition represents a group of individuals committed to uphold the national unity and Islam,” Gasim said.

He further said that the coalition, once elected, would steer the country towards a safe harbour and bring development and progress to the people.

Hassan Saeed addressed the crowd, praising Gasim’s efforts during the reform movement and claimed that the resort tycoon was behind a lot of reforms. Saeed described Gasim as an individual who would not waste time to make important decisions concerning the people and development.

“In our government, political-economic principles will be based on the principle which will make Maldivian multi-millionaires into billionaires, make millionaires into multi-millionaires, and make average businessmen into millionaires. It is the principle that will allow expansion of smaller businesses to medium and large ones,” he said.

Both Saeed and Gasim contested in 2008 presidential elections as separate candidates and came to third and fourth positions behind then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Nasheed. In the run-off elections, both Saeed and Gasim backed Nasheed and campaigned strongly against former President Gayoom.

Once elected, Saeed was appointed as the Special Advisor to Nasheed while Gasim was appointed as the Home Minister. However three months into the new government, both Saeed and Gasim left government and joined the then opposition. Both Saeed and Gasim later played a significant role in ousting Nasheed’s administration from power.


President’s coalition expects to be joined by the Jumhoree Party ahead of election

A coalition of political parties backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September’s election has expressed confidence it will be joined by the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) – despite no official talks having taken place as yet.

Abdulla Yazeed, a spokesperson on the media team of President Waheed’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition, said the group would continue to welcome other political parties to join its existing members, but denied any such talks were presently being held.

“Our plan is to have a very large coalition backing President Waheed,” he said.

However, JP MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla today said that while no decision would be taken on whether to join President Waheed’s coalition before its national congress scheduled for later this month, the party anticipated fielding its own candidate during the election.

“What I will say is that our articles and regulations state that our leader has to run as a presidential candidate. We have to run for the seat on our own,” he said.

Raheem added that the party did nonetheless have criteria under which it would look to join a coalition.

“We have done this before. In 2008, we stood alongside the Adhaalath Party,” he said.

However, Raheem said that while the JP was presently a member of President Waheed’s coalition government, it would not advocate for him during September’s election, citing concerns that he had agreed upon assuming office in February 2012 that he would not seek to stay in power.

He also questioned the legitimacy of the president’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and whether it had officially obtained 10,000 members that is required to be registered as an official party under contested legislation passed this year.

“Right now, our party has more than 10,000 members and is a legitimate party,” Raheem added.

Party lines

At present, the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are the only two parties to have announced their intention to field individual candidates against President Waheed’s coalition during Septembers election.

Both parties have recently dismissed the viability of forming coalitions in the Maldives based on past experiences in the country, claiming that the vast majority of the country’s electorate where divided between their two competing ideologies.

Coalition Media Team Spokesperson Yazeed said today that group of parties backing President Waheed, which had not yet declared their values and full campaign manifesto, would still seek to expand support before voting begins.

With the election scheduled for September 7, Yazeed said that while the MDP and PPM were already campaigning around various islands, the coalition remained confident there was sufficient time to inform the public of its message going forward.

“This will be a very tight campaign, but we are already planning on having teams simultaneously planning to visit islands,” he said.

Earlier this week, President Waheed pledged to establish a housing policy for the people of Male’ as part of his bid to secure election in the upcoming presidential elections.

Yazeed’s comments were made after President Dr Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed was quoted in local media yesterday (June 10) as claiming that a single candidate or party such as the government-aligned JP would not alone be able to manage to run the country ahead of this year’s election.

He reportedly told a crowd gathered on the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll that the JP and its leader Gasim Ibrahim did not presently have a team of other parties backing him during September’s voting, limiting his ability within the country’s political arena.

Saeed is the leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), one of three parties within the present government coalition along with Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the the religious conservative Adhaalath Party to have so far backed President Waheed and his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) in the election.

He also yesterday criticised President Waheed’s direct election rivals, claiming the country – despite its current financial challenges – faced being set back by three years in the past under an MDP government or 30 years should the public elect the PPM.

However, following yesterday’s announcement that DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali would be standing as President Waheed’s running mate in the election, political rivals claimed the decision would have little impact on their own campaigns.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that Thasmeen’s appointment as Dr Waheed’s running mate was not seen as a concern by the party and would actually serve as a positive development for its own election campaign.

“He is the weakest link among all the wannabe leaders at present,” Nihan said after the announcement.

Nihan said that the party would therefore carry on with it plans to begin campaigning in the north of the country ahead of September’s election.  “This is the very least of our concerns as a party,” he said.

Nihan nonetheless said that the party continued to remain concerned at what it alleged was President Waheed’s continued use of state funds and resources to support campaigning for the coalition.

“This is our one crucial concern. President Waheed needs to facilitate a free and fair election, but he has today used government speedboats to transport coalition members. This should not be seen n a democratic society,” he said.

Meanwhile, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed contended during an interview with state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on May 16 that President Waheed and the DRP has been forced to form a coalition out of necessity.

Nasheed therefore questioned the president’s coalition’s claims that it presented a “third way” for voters as opposed to the policies of the MDP and PPM. Nasheed reiterated his belief that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with the Maldives’ presidential system of government.