Candidates asked to sign voter lists on Thursday and Friday

Presidential run-off candidates will be given the opportunity to sign the voters register on November 14 and 15, the Elections Commission (EC) has told local media.

The court mandated procedure, requiring all candidates sign the amended voter lists before the vote can proceed has caused problems in the run-up to both polls scheduled over the last month.

Police moved to block the October 19 vote after both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party refused to sign the lists. Last Saturday’s successful poll also came under threat when both parties again refused to sign the lists shortly before reversing their decision under intense international pressure.

The PPM’s candidate Abdulla Yameen also suggested he would not sign the voter lists for the run-off – originally scheduled for last Sunday (November 10) – before the Supreme Court stepped in to delay the vote.

The EC has been accepting and assessing complaints regarding re-registration today, after the window to lodge grievances closed at midday. The re-registration process was completed yesterday.

Local media has also reported that the candidates have both expressed a preference for maintaining the same numbers on Saturday’s ballot. The Maldivian Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nasheed will again be listed as candidate number 4, whilst Yameen will be candidate number 3.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Sun Online that transportation of the ballots to the atolls would begin on Thursday.


Preparations underway for second round of presidential election

Preparations are underway for the second round run-off of the presidential election scheduled for September 28.

Former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who placed first in the first round with 45.45 percent of the vote, will be facing off against runner up Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen who took 25.35 percent of the vote.

“There is so much work to be done before the second round, which is less than three weeks away,” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News.

“We are expecting a few additions [to the voter registry list]. Twenty people reported their names were missing from the list, so their names will be added [so they can vote in the second round],” he explained. “[Additionally], people who registered for the first round but have since died will be removed from the voter list.”

“Proof is needed in either case – house registration or ID card if their name was missing from the registry list or a death certificate if the person has since passed away,” he noted.

Amid concerns raised by the Jumhoree Party (JP) that local media had reported polling figures that did not reflect those of the Elections Commission during the vote counting – a discrepancy which led to a skirmish between police and JP officials outside the Dharubaruge convention centre early Sunday morning – Thowfeek explained steps the commission will take to prevent such an occurrence during the second round.

“We are making the process as transparent as possible – by publishing the data as early as possible and making sure media and everybody has access the results and election process,” said Thowfeek. “Many [observer] passes have been issued to the media.”

He also noted that the four day voter re-registration period will be Thursday (September 12) to Sunday (September 15), so individuals registered to vote in one location can change that location according to their needs.

“After the re-registration period the list will be published, printed, signed, and sent – like during the first round,” he added.

In the lead up to the second round, the EC will be open 8am-10pm daily, except for Friday’s when it will be open 2pm-10pm.


President Waheed files candidacy forms with Elections Commission

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has officially filed his candidacy with the Maldives Election Commission (EC) to stand in the upcoming presidential election.

President Waheed was joined by his running mate, Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, as he submitted his candidacy forms to EC President Fuad Thaufeeq ahead of voting scheduled for September 7, his campaign team confirmed.

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz confirmed to Minivan News that the commission was now verifying the 2,000 signatures submitted by President Waheed backing his candidacy, before making a final decision on any approval.

“We would have announced his acceptance today, but he submitted 2,000 names that we will need to check,” he said.

Fayaz said it was possible the EC would make an official announcement concerning President’s Waheed candidacy tomorrow (July 22), once the signatures were verified.

Amidst the possibility of his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) facing dissolution for not having the 10,000 members required to officially register a political entity in the Maldives, President Waheed on Tuesday (July 16) announced his intention to stand for election as an independent candidate.

On Friday, President Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition announced he had obtained the 1,500 signatures required to register himself as an independent candidate.

Despite the recent defections of the government-aligned religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and later the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) from his coalition, the DRP said Friday that the incumbent’s campaign was “going to plan”.

According to Sun Online, the EC will decide on all candidacies within 48 hours of their paperwork being submitted.

Meanwhile, former President Nasheed filed his own candidacy papers with the EC on Thursday (July 18). His candidacy was approved later the same day, according to the EC.

Nasheed and the MDP maintain he was compelled to resign during a police and military mutiny on February 7, 2012. His successor and former vice-president, Dr Mohamed Waheed, maintain the succession was legitimate.

Fraudulent party enlistment allegations

Investigations are meanwhile underway into 46 cases of fraudulent political party enlistment filed by the EC, as well as another case individually lodged.

The fraudulent political party forms are said to include 15 signed to President Waheed’s GIP, five from his DRP running mate Thasmeen, and 27 from prominent businessman and MP Ahmed Siyam’s Maldives Democratic Alliance (MDA).

Some of the people signed up to the parties were alleged to already be deceased at the time of their registration.


Elections Commission confident of resolving all voter registry issues

The Maldives Elections Commission (EC) has said it remains confident it will have resolved all 2,279 complaints raised by the public over the recently published list of eligible voters, in line with today’s deadline (June 14).

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News that the commission’s work amending the voter registry had so far gone “better than expected”, with all submissions received from the public amended. However, he conceded that challenges still remained in notifying all the complainants about the changes made to the list, as required by regulations.

“The challenge we have experienced so far is delivering the message to all the people who made these complaints that the requested changes have been made,” he said. “It is proving a bit difficult, though our staff are working very hard, in some cases up until 10:00pm at night to get hold of them.”

Transparency Maldives has meanwhile said that it has received only one significant complaint at present regarding outdated voter registry information, adding that all other complaints raised were small and sporadic in scale. However, the NGO said it continued to advocate a simplification of the present law on making further changes to the voter registry.

Thaufeeq said the corrected voter registry will then be published on either June 15 or June 16 in the government gazette and on the EC’s own website.

“What happens next?”

According to Transparency Maldives, anyone who has registered complaints with the EC regarding data on the voter registry will have five days to file a complaint with the High Court should they wish to appeal any decision made by the commission.

Under law, the High Court is then required to rule on any such appeal within 15 days.

Upon publication by the EC of the amended voter registry, any Maldives national over 18 will then be given a further 10 days to lodge any complaints concerning changes made to the list, the NGO added.

Transparency Maldives said the final process would be voter re-registration, where members of the public will be required to confirm or change their present permanent residence either in the country or abroad to confirm where they wish to vote.

The NGO emphasised that this stage will be critically important, as a person from an outer atoll presently living in Male’ will be required to return to their home island unless they re-register their new location with the EC.

A date for voter re-registration to begin has yet to be decided by the EC.


Transparency Maldives Project Director Aiman Rasheed said the NGO had so far received only one significant compliant about the registry, which was made by members of Fuvahmulah council concerning the amount of outdated details of islanders on the list.

“The last time we spoke to the EC we raised this issue and they had a rational explanation for what had occurred. It seemed that people who moved house on the island or left for Male’ had not been updated,” he said.

Aiman said the EC had dealt with the issues where possible, with other corrections expected to be made during the re-registration process that will be announced at a later date.

“Apart from this, there have been no major complaints beyond some small, sporadic issues,” he added.

Aiman said that with an estimated 25 percent of the population living away from their registered address in the Maldives, re-registraton was expected to be a much larger issue towards ensuring the vote to everyone in the country eligible to do so.

He argued that the NGO still believed the voter registration could be simplified by requesting the public to check their permanent address at the same time as other details on the registry.

“The argument against this has been from the section of the population employed as fishermen, as they do not know where they will be later on in the year. It was therefore easier for them to wait nearer to the election,” Aiman said. “There is a challenge there, but we still feel [voter registration] should be simplified. This is of course not the EC’s fault though, this relates to the law.”


31,000 new voters eligible to vote in upcoming presidential elections: Elections Commission

The Elections Commission (EC) has revealed that approximately 31,000 new voters will be eligible to cast their vote in the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled to be held on September 7.

Speaking to Minivan News on Sunday, Vice President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said that the number of eligible voters currently stands at 240,302 – 31,008 more than the number of eligible voters in the 2008 presidential elections (209,294).

“We are currently working on the voters list and it will be announced next month,” he said.

Fayaz said that the commission will in March also open registration for voters who are currently not residing on the island where they are initially registered to vote.

“This is a very large election. Usually, people are unable to register when the period given for registration is too short. That is why we decided to open registration in March,” he said.

According to President of Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq, eligible voters include 123,565 male voters and 116,737 female voters, however this was subject to change, he said.

The commission will formally declare the start of campaign season in July. However, all major political parties including the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and government-aligned parties such as the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ithiaad Party (GIP)  have all begun their presidential campaign. The PPM is meanwhile scheduled to hold its primaries by the end of February.

Previously, the Elections Commission expressed concern over the lack of sufficient funding given to the Elections Commission and warned that if additional funds are not made available, it will be unable to hold a presidential election this year.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Thaufeeq said holding the nationwide elections would cost between MVR 55-60 million (US$3.57-3.89 million). However, he expressed concern that the commission’s current budget would be insufficient.

“With the current budget given to the Elections Commission, I am afraid we may not be able to hold the elections. The commission has raised concerns with the Finance Minister, the President’s Office and Parliament’s Public Finance Committee,” he said.

EC president added that Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had told the commission to carry out its work with the current budget allocated, claiming that the government would “somehow find a way” to provide financial support to the commission.

Thaufeeq also said a budget shortfall may “slightly impact” the fairness of the elections, but said the commission would do everything it could to ensure the elections were free and fair.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad also said that the government would provide assistance to the commission in facilitating the elections.

“We will provide sufficient funds to hold elections. There is no question about it,” he said at the time.

In April 2012, the US government pledged to provide US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) as assistance for an elections program intended to support Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.

Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo, Valerie Fowler, said at the time that the funding would be made available from July 2012.

The US would lend any support, including technical assistance, to ensure the next presidential election in the Maldives is conducted “smoothly and observed the rule of law”, Fowler said.

“Through USAID we are in the process of starting an election program that will assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. We have allocated US$500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012,” she noted at the time.


EC announces by-election to replace dismissed Thulhaadhoo councillor

The main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) is preparing to mount a legal challenge to the dismissal of Thulhaadhoo Councillor Umaira Abubakur after the Elections Commission (EC) yesterday announced a by-election for August 20 to replace the party’s sole representative on the five-member island council.

The DRP contend that four councillors of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) conducted emergency meetings while Umaira was attending a workshop as part of “a planned effort” to remove her from the post.

Article 119(b) of the Decentralisation Act states that a councillor can be removed if he or she misses seven consecutive meetings “without offering a valid reason that is acceptable to the council.” Umaira did not attend ten meetings which took place while she was ostensibly participating in a workshop in Bandos Island Resort.

Speaking to Minivan News today, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef lambasted both the MDP-majority Thulhaadhoo council for “abusing the law to silence a minority voice” and the EC for “failing to carry out their responsibility.”

“The dismissal was unfair, unjust and completely against democratic principles,” he said, warning that the EC’s decision to uphold the council’s dismissal could set “a very dangerous” precedent.

Island councils where one party had a majority might be encouraged to arbitrarily dismiss minority members, Shareef suggested, which could “plunge the nation into chaos and anarchy.”

Moreover, the MDP councillors’ dismissal of the only female member of the council amounted to “discrimination against women.”

Shareef said that a delegation from the DRP held a meeting with members of the EC today, “but what we saw from them was arrogance.”

“The mandate of the Elections Commission is not just holding elections,” he said, adding that the commission was “not independent anymore.”

Shareef claimed that as a result of the ruling party’s new majority in parliament, the EC was “forced” to act in the government’s interest.

“I will recommend the DRP council to look into the independence of the Elections Commission,” he said.

EC Chair Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that the commission had received letters of complaint from both the dismissed councillor and some members of the Baa Atoll Council.

“But this is not a concern of the atoll council,” Fuad explained. “It is up to the island council and in this case a member was removed by the other four councillors.”

Fuad added that the EC did not have the authority to either postpone or cancel the by-election unless ordered to do so by a court order.

“The law does not say that the atoll council can overrule a decision made by an island council,” he said. “Only a court of law can invalidate the decision. We will stop the election immediately if there is a court order.”

Thulhaadhoo Council Chair Ahmed Rasheed told Minivan News earlier this week that the decision to dismiss Umaira was taken after consultation with the Local Government Authority (LGA) and based on legal counsel from the Attorney General’s Office.

“She did not inform in writing as she was required by law either before she left or during her holiday,” he insisted.

While confirming that six of the ten meetings in question were emergency sessions, Rasheed however denied the DRP allegation of actively plotting to dismiss Umaira.