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.