Presidential polls set for November 9

The Elections Commission (EC) has set the first round of presidential elections for November 9, after the police forcibly brought a Supreme Court-ordered revote to a halt on October 19.

“We have decided to hold the first round of presidential elections on November 9, and if necessary, a second round on November 16,” Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek said.

The Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential polls held on September citing electoral fraud despite unanimous domestic and international praise over a free and fair vote. The apex court delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.

According to the guidelines, the EC must obtain signatures from all candidates on the voter registry. However, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) refused to approve the lists and police stopped the election an hour before polling was to begin. The move has prompted widespread international concern and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.

Thowfeek said the EC had held meetings with the President, the cabinet and political parties on the earliest possible date for a new election.

“We have said, when we get to a certain point, when a certain party doesn’t do what they must do, it should not affect the entire election. If that is the case, we will never be able to hold an election,” Thowfeek said.

“They assured us they will not allow for these kind of obstructions in the upcoming election. Ministers have given us commitment that they will find a solution and facilitate this. That is why we have started work again. If the same thing happened as before, this is not something we must do. We are starting work again because we are confident there will be an election. I am certain we will succeed this time,” he added.

During the various meetings, the government had said it would provide facilities to verify fingerprints re-registration forms – one of JP and PPM’s conditions for approving the voter registry. The EC has said the commission does not have the capacity to do so.

The EC will continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but will seek to change them in the future, Thowfeek said. In a previous interview on Television Maldives (TVM), he described the guidelines as “restrictions.”

“I hope the government considers these restrictions in the future and finds a solution. Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy.”

After technical information regarding the EC’s database was shared with the Supreme Court during the vote annulment hearing, Thowfeek said the EC’s server had been compromised with external actors accessing the database and changing data. However, he believes the security glitches will be fixed before the upcoming election.

“We are working with the NCIT [National Center for Information Technology]. They have not given us a report yet. They are working non-stop. We are certain when the election comes, we will be able to block everyone out of our system and they will no longer have access to our data. We are proceeding with the assurance given to us by technical people,” Thowfeek said.

The EC said within the next three weeks, it would allow registration for new eligible voters, and re-registration for voters who will be voting in a different location other than their home island. However, voters who re-registered for October 19 will not need to submit re-registration forms again.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said he does not wish to stay on as President even one day beyond the end of the presidential term on November 11. If no candidate wins over 50 percent in the first round of polls and a second round needs to be held, interim arrangements will have to be made. The Supreme Court has previously said Waheed’s government would continue until a new president is elected.

The JP and PPM have pledged their support to Waheed staying on, but former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has called for Waheed to resign, allowing a transitional government under the Speaker of Parliament to oversee elections.


EC dismisses possibility of electoral fraud using deceased voter details

The Elections Commission (EC) has rejected any possibility that the identities of deceased citizens could be used to fraudulently vote in the upcoming election, despite opposition allegations that security forces were seeking to influence polling by misusing such data.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has continued to accuse both the government and senior police officials of trying to undermine free and fair elections, alleging the institution was actively seeking deceased lists detailing the country’s deceased in an attempts to try and rig voting.

Rejecting any allegations that figures within the institution were seeking to rig polling, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) today confirmed it has been seeking a list detailing deceased peoples from across the Maldives as part of an investigation into allegations of fraudulent party membership.

The police service last month last month claimed of having experienced “difficulties” investigating 47 cases of fraudulent political party enlistment, with “no way” to hold the respective political parties accountable.

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz confirmed that the commission had officially asked the police to investigate allegations that certain political parties had previously attempted to register the deceased as party members over fears of registration fraud.

“There were concerns that parties were using details of the deceased to register,” he said. “We therefore asked police to look into the issue as we did have some forms filled in by people who were already deceased.”

Fayaz also rejected any possibility that details of deceased peoples could be used to fraudulently vote in the election, adding that Police Commissioner Riyaz had also openly refuted allegations that the institution was trying to influence September’s vote in local media.

“I don’t think that anyone could affect the election or vote using the identity of a deceased person,” he said of the MDP’s allegations.

Fayaz said that MPS had not officially requested the EC provide any data to it concerning voter lists or details on the deceased, instead seeking the information through local authorities.

“We have heard that police contacted either atoll or island councils to request details of deceased people,” he said. “We have not been in contact with them on the matter.”

Referring to the police investigation into membership fraud, Commissioner Riyaz was quoted in local media yesterday (August 4) as rejecting any allegations that police would seek to tamper with ballots or voter details.

“Police will not rig this election in any way. That is something we will never do. The information we receive from the councils will be forwarded to the elections commission,” he told the Haveeru newspaper.

Reiterating the commissioner’s claimed today, Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef added that as part of investigations into potential fraudulent party membership, requests had been sent to local councils for them to clarify the status of deceased voters on their islands.

Police influence

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that concerns about police trying to seek the details of deceased nationals reflected the party’s wider suspicions that senior figures in the MPS were trying to use their influence to manipulate the election.

Ghafoor said one key concern had been an announcement back in June that staff at the Department of National Registration were refusing to continue issuing national identity cards 94 days before elections, complaining of a malfunctioning air conditioning unit.

He added that the party has suspected there had been some connection on the matter of ID cards, which would affect all political parties in the country if not resolved.

With an estimated 30,000 ID cards said to have expired ahead of the election, Ghafoor added that the halting of work at the Department of National Registration had been placed on the agenda of the opposition majority Independent Commissions Oversight Committee in parliament.

“We fear that police are trying to force their way in and influence the database for their own ends,” he said.  “We are therefore suspicious that there could be a connection with the issue of ID cards.”

Voter “lenience” calls

The EC meanwhile claimed last week it had rejected calls from the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) to make voter registration more “lenient”. Commission President  Fuwad Thowfeek said efforts were continuing to step up measures in preventing voter registry fraud.

The EC added that it had already discussed with parties the measures it had taken prevent electoral fraud, while also trying to deal with key errors that had arisen since the country’s first multi-party election in 2008.

“We have worked to rectify these mistakes and in the last council elections there were hardly any complaints raised with us by political parties,” he said at the time. “More than that, we have worked hard this year to get the registry up to date.”

According to Thowfeek, the EC has also run campaigns on state media requesting the public update their details to ensure voters and their families were correctly registered ahead of voting.

“I can assure everyone that we are using the best system available right now,” he said. “Even if someone is to die [in the lead up to voting], their name cannot now be changed from the list of registered voters that has [been published in the government gazette], but it will still be a very accurate voter registration.”