Candidates from political parties finish signing voter lists

All 188 candidates representing political parties in the upcoming parliamentary elections finished signing voter lists by noon today, Elections Commission (EC) Director General Mohamed Shakeel has confirmed.

Shakeel told Minivan News, however, that some independent candidates have not signed the final eligible voters registry.

Of the 114 independent candidates, the EC media official said 18 candidates have not signed the lists.

Aside from the 18 independent candidates failing to sign, Shakeel said the EC’s “preparations for the election are perfectly on schedule.”

He noted that the EC had decided to extend the period offered for candidates to complete signing the list to 12:00pm today.

The commission has yet to make a decision on a further extension, he added.

Candidates were invited to the Dharubaaruge convention centre during the weekend to sign off on the final lists.

Obtaining signatures of candidates on the voter lists used at polling stations was among the 16-point guideline imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court in its judgment annulling the September 7 presidential polls last year.

The EC was required to ensure that the voter lists are agreed upon as valid by candidates or their representatives ahead of the polls.

However, the local council elections on January 18 took place as scheduled despite candidates signing voter lists for just 81 out of 464 ballot boxes.

Of 543 independent candidates, only 147 candidates had signed the lists.

The 302 candidates contesting the second multi-party parliamentary elections meanwhile include 85 candidates from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, 50 candidates from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, 28 from the Jumhooree Party, 12 from the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, seven from the Maldives Development Alliance, and six from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party.

Quorum

The EC’s capacity to conduct the parliamentary polls as scheduled on March 22 was thrown into doubt last week following the Supreme Court’s controversial removal of EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz for contempt of court.

Less than two weeks before the election, the dismissals left the EC without the three members required for a legal quorum to hold meetings and approve decisions.

However, on Wednesday (March 12), parliament approved Ismail Habeeb to the commission to replace former member Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed, who had resigned in October citing poor health.

Following the vote to approve Habeeb, President Abdulla Yameen presented the letter of appointment to the former EC director on Thursday morning.

Shakeel noted today that the decision to extend the period for signing voter lists after the initial deadline expired at 10:00pm last night was made at a commission meeting.

The President’s Office welcomed parliament’s decision to approve Habeeb to the commission, noting that it “enables the EC to function with the legally required quorum and hold the general elections scheduled for 22 March 2014”.

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Over 1,500 complaints lodged over voters list

More than 1,500 complaints have been filed at the Elections Commission (EC) concerning the eligible voters registry for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

According to the EC, the Progressive Party of Maldives submitted 1,385 complaints while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party made 66 complaints.

A further 120 complaints were lodged by individuals, the EC said.

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National Complaints Bureau investigating 181 complaints concerning council elections

A total of 181 complaints were submitted to the independent National Complaints Bureau concerning yesterday’s local council elections.

Bureau Chief Ali Azim informed the press yesterday that none of the issues raised could have a material effect on the outcome of any local council contest.

“Of the 181 complaints submitted so far, we have not identified any that could impact the outcome. But we are looking into it,” he said.

The most common complaint concerned the Elections Commission’s (EC’s) decision to display national identity card photos in the voter lists placed outside polling stations, Azim said.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told reporters yesterday that photos were included in the voter lists as a safeguard to prevent fraud.

In addition to a number of phoned in complaints, two women submitted complaints in cases where ID card photos were taken before they wore face veils, said EC member Ali Mohamed Manik.

Following complaints from women who wear the hijab, Azim said the complaints bureau brought the matter to the attention of EC members and “informed [polling stations] to cover with a piece of paper the photos of people who insist on taking it down.”

The decision to display photos also drew criticism from some religious scholars, with NGO Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem calling to punish those responsible.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla contended that the practice was contrary to Islamic principles and infringed on the rights of veiled women.

Meanwhile, Azim revealed that complaints submitted through official complaint forms included 78 cases of voters registered for the wrong ballot box, one case of a voter’s name missing from the list, three cases of alleged illegal campaigning, six cases of ballot boxes transferred to a different location, three cases concerning assisted voting, two complaints concerning inmates, one case of a voter displaying a marked ballot paper, and seven complaints about the EC.

Phoned in complaints included 27 complaints concerning voter registration issues, two complaints from voters registered for the wrong ballot box, 11 complaints of deceased citizens in the voters list, one complaint of gender mismatch, three complaints of illegal campaigning, three requests to transfer ballot boxes, two complaints about the EC and 28 complaints about displaying identity card photos.

In addition, a complaint was made alleging that two pens with fading ink were used in a polling booth.

“Concerning that complaint, we have seized the two pens through the Maldives Police Service. We are considering verifying through forensic investigators in the country or abroad,” Azim said.

According to the police, three men aged 38, 42, and 48 were taken into custody in Addu City for allegedly displaying their marked ballot papers. All three have since been released.

Two men from Faafu Nilandhoo were also briefly taken into custody after attempting to prevent the closing of the ballot box.

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