DhiFM Plus asked to publicly apologise for upside down pictures

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has asked private media outlet DhiFM Plus to issue a public apology for broadcasting an upside down picture of former Elections Commissioner President Fuwad Thowfeek.

In a statement (Dhivehi) on MBC’s website, the commission has noted that the act was in violation of the broadcasting code of practice and that it had violated the honour of Thowfeek.

MBC said that the commission had previously advised the TV station that content containing upside down pictures of persons were in violation to the broadcasting code of practice but that the TV station had failed to correct it.

The TV station was asked to issue a statement of apology before 26 March and to display the statement from 8pm to 10pm.

On February 12, 2014, the MBC asked private TV station DhiTV and its sister company, the radio station DhiFM Plus, to stop using upside down images of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek.

In a statement issued on the MBC website at the time, the commission asked the TV channel and the radio station – a pioneer of ‘visual radio’ in the Maldives – not to broadcast such content until the commission had concluded its investigation into the case.

MBC had given similar advice to the two stations in November last year after they had shown upside down photos of three members of the EC – Thowfeek, Ahmed Fayaz, and Ali Mohamed Manik – with a caption alleging that they had committed electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

After questioning the Supreme Court’s actions following an investigation into the alleged fraud, both Fayaz and Thowfeek were dismissed from their positions by the court earlier this month.

Following the incident, MBC sent a circular to all broadcasters noting that complaints regarding the disrespectful use of photos had led to it taking action against media outlets for violating the broadcasting code.

CEO of DhiFM Masood Hilmy told newspaper Haveeru at the time that the photo of the EC president was displayed after the Supreme Court had sent summons to the EC, but it had been removed upon MBC’s request.

The broadcasting commission is a 7-member body entrusted with implementation of broadcasting policy, regulation of broadcasting industry, and the promotion of responsible broadcasting. It was formed in 2010 under the Broadcasting Act.


Broadcasting commission asks DhiTV to stop using upside down photo of EC chief

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has today asked private TV station DhiTV and its sister company, the radio station DhiFM Plus, to stop using upside down images of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek.

In a statement issued on the MBC website, the commission asked the TV channel and the radio station – a pioneer of ‘visual radio’ in the Maldives – not to broadcast that content until the commission had concluded its investigation into the case.

MBC said that a letter had been sent today by commission President Mohamed Shaheeb advising the two stations not to broadcast anything in a way that it might encourage unrest, and to keep in mind that the parliament elections are ahead.

The Supreme Court has today launched a surprise trial against Thowfeek and his EC colleagues, using ‘sumoto’ proceedings to both initiate and preside over contempt of court hearings.

The president of MBC also advised the two stations to be aware of the code of practice established under the Broadcasting Act’s article 37.

MBC gave similar advise to the two stations in November after they again showed photos of three members of the Elections Commission – Thowfeek, Ahmed Fayaz, and Ali Mohamed Manik – upside down with a caption alleging that they had committed electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

Following the incident, MBC sent a circular to all broadcasters noting that complaints regarding the disrespectful use of photos had let to it taking action against media outlets for violating the broadcasting code.

CEO of DhiFM Masood Hilmy told newspaper Haveeru that the photo of the EC president was displayed after the Supreme Court had sent summons to the EC, but it had been removed upon MBC’s request.

Last month, MBC ordered both the Maldivian Democratic Party-aligned Raajje TV and the Jumhooree Party-aligned VTV to issue apologies for the content broadcast during the prolonged presidential election period.

While Raajje TV was found to have aired content defamatory to the Supreme Court, VTV was asked to issue an apology for material defaming the MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, MP Rozaina Adam, and EC President Thowfeek.


Social media storm surrounds “national hero” Thowfeek

The Chair of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek has been under heavy fire from supporters, politicians and presidential candidates belonging to both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP).

Thowfeek has been subjected to heavy criticism ever since  the Elections Commission announced the preliminary results of the first round of presidential election held last September 7 – which eventually came to a bitter end after the Supreme Court annulled the poll on the grounds of irregularities and discrepancies.

After consulting a secret report by the police, the court found that discrepancies amounted to a “systematic failure”.

More verbal attacks from supporters of the JP, led by resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, and former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s PPM followed after the EC yesterday announced it could not hold the re-scheduled poll, after police refused to cooperate with the commission and prevented the election from taking place.

Since the disputes concerning the elections arose, Thowfeek has been subjected to massive criticism – including personal attacks launched against him, his wife and his family. Supporters of both PPM and JP used Twitter and Facebook hash-tags #FraudThaufeeq and #FraudFuad as part of the attacks directed at him, while Thowfeek himself has said he and his staff have received death threats.

The criticism not only limited to just verbal attacks. Thowfeek was also depicted in photo-shopped pictures suggesting his independence had been compromised. One of the photos depicted him being tied to a chair and held at gun point by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

National Hero

Alternatively, hundreds of Maldivians on social media have also appeared in support of Thowfeek, with some labelling him a “national hero”.

A Facebook page titled “Our Heroes” also appeared yesterday shortly after the EC’s decision to call off the election, that quickly received more than 5,300 followers less than 48 hours after it first appeared.

“This is a community page to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude, admiration and respect, to the People’s Heroes: Fuad Thaufeeq and his dedicated team working tirelessly for our right to vote,” read the page’s introduction.

The page posted messages of gratitude to Thowfeek received from users who followed the page.

“If anyone is to get a medal of honour, it is you Fuad and the rest of your team. We Maldivians love you all,” read one such statement.

Another supporter wrote on the page, “Thank you so much for standing up against the corrupt and working tirelessly for a better Maldives”.

“EC team has shown professionalism to a heroic level. Proud of you, EC team,” wrote another person.

Supporters also uploaded posters expressing gratitude to Thowfeek and the EC’s work. One such poster, 10 year-old Imaan, gives the EC an ‘A plus’ for “For being fair, fighting for our rights, trying very hard and not giving up”.

Meanwhile on twitter, supporters of Thowfeek used the hashtag #InFuadweTrust to convey their messages of gratitude.

“Where there is a Fuad, there is a way,” one individual tweeted.

“Saddest day at work”

Amidst the comments on social media, Thowfeek told local media that Saturday had been his  “saddest day at work”.

“I have never experienced such a big disappointment in my life. A large number of public funds are being wasted every time. This is my greatest disappointment. It is hurts to know that our efforts put in the past 11 days, day and night did not bear any fruit. The last five years, I haven’t seen my staff so let down. They appear like they had been beheaded,” Thowfeek told local newspaper Haveeru yesterday.

The EC earlier announced that it had decided to take “no rest and no sleep” until it was able to hold the presidential election -scheduled for Saturday but blocked by police at the last minute.

The unrelenting efforts by the EC  to hold the poll were stalled after the police refused to cooperate with the commission. The police argued that the EC had failed to fulfill one of the prerequisites mentioned in the Supreme Court guideline, requiring presidential candidates or their representatives to sign and have their fingerprints on the voter lists that were to be sent to polling booths.

“Come to think about it, I have never seen a group of people who have worked this hard. Some of them continue working even as they keep falling asleep. When ever they doze off, they wake themselves up and start working again. They worked to the extent until they collapse, they were only able to continue because of their courage and determination,” Thowfeek said.

“They worked so hard and yet no result came out of their hard work. Their grief and hurt would be much greater than mine. They would be far more disappointed than I am,” he added.

Shortly after the EC called off the election, an official from the commission told Minivan News that “Thowfeek was up for over 48 hours just to keep up the moral of EC staff”.

The official praised Thowfeek for leading by example and making himself available to EC officials and staff at all times to alleviate concerns during their efforts to prepare for presidential election in just 11 days.

“While the other commissioners are good, Commissioner Thowfeek is something else, he is inspirational and we salute him,” the official said.

Despite the EC’s efforts not resulting in an election, Thowfeek appeared confident.

“I will not bow down and go home. Because I do not see it as a solution to the problem. I will renew my hopes. I will give my maximum strength until an election is decided. People are hungry for elections,” Thowfeek said.


Elections Commission delays publishing amended voter registry

The Elections Commission (EC) has said it has been forced to delay the publication of an amended voter registry for September’s presidential election as a result of the number of complaints filed by the public.

The amended list of voters was originally due to have been published today in the government gazette.

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz said that despite the delay, the commission was in “full swing” with its preparations for the presidential election scheduled for September 7. He added that the commission was presently working to address a number of concerns, including assuring that the legitimate electorate were not deprived of their right to vote due to preventable issues.

According to the latest EC records, the electorate presently consists of 240,302 individuals – 31,008 more voters than the number of participants in the 2008 presidential election.

The statistics indicate that 123,565 males and 116,737 females are presently eligible to vote on September 7.

Voter registry to be “hopefully complete by week’s end”

Thaufeeq informed local media that the commission had received 2,790 complaints based on the initial voter registry, adding that verifying these complaints had proved to be highly time consuming.

“When we are verifying complaints about deceased people being listed in the voter registry, sometimes we need to actually send staff to the addresses in question to carry out verification of the claims. It’s this verification process that is taking up time,” he was quoted as saying.

Thaufeeq stated that with the commission’s staff working day and night to complete the required amendments to the voter registry, he remained hopeful that the final list would be published by the end of the week.

Thaufeeq further called on citizens and political parties to extend their cooperation in checking whether the amended list had addressed the previously lodged complaints.

“It is also very important that each individual checks the voter registry within five days after it is published to ensure that their details are correctly included in it,” he continued.

Previously, EC President Thaufeeq stated that the commission was confident the voter registry would be completed by a deadline of June 14.

He said at the time that the amendment of the voter registry had gone “better than expected”, despite challenges remaining in notifying all the complainants about the changes made to the list, as is required according to regulations.

Ballot boxes

The EC said it estimated approximately 500 ballot boxes would need to be set up for the vote on September 7.

“As per our current estimate, 495 ballot boxes will need to be set up countrywide, but that number may still increase,” Thaufeeq was quoted as telling local media.

According to the existing EC plans, 122 ballot boxes will be placed in Male’ City: 48 for citizens registered in Male’, and an additional 74 for citizens registered in other islands who live in Male’. While ballot boxes are to be placed in other inhabited islands, 55 tourist resorts will also have polling booths stationed in them.

Resorts which do not have a minimum of 50 eligible voters working in it will not have a dedicated polling booth. Instead, the Elections Commission is appealing to management of such resorts to allow staff to travel to the nearest island to place their votes.

Additionally, all jails and detention centres in the country will have ballot boxes, as well as other nations which have a minimum of 100 Maldivian citizens living in them. These countries are said to include India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the UK.

Concerns pending solutions

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz has however expressed concern that the identity cards of hundreds of inmates will have expired prior to voting day.

“We have been discussing the issue with them. The renewal of identity card requires a fee to be paid, and the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services have told us that they do not have sufficient funds to carry out ID renewals for the inmates,” Fayaz said.

“In the end, the only viable solution is for the concerned state authorities to find a solution for this,” he said.

Political parties contesting in the upcoming election have previously spoken to Minivan News about their respective concerns over registration and identity card renewal ahead of the vote.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Membership and Campaign Committee member Ahmed Shahid spoke of such concerns, alleging that based on the current situation, “it doesn’t seem as though the state is really trying to solve the issues prior to the elections”.

“From the information we have gathered, we understand that approximately 40,000 identity cards will expire before September 7. According to the the information we have, the Department of National Registration has the capacity to issue about 350 or so cards a day. This suggests that the 40,000 people from the electorate will not all be able to get the cards renewed before the elections,” Shahid said at the time.

Earlier this month, Government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan said the party was continuing to come across issues within the recently published election registry due to incorrect information and the inclusion of voters now believed to be deceased.

He said that with an estimated third of the population also having moved from their home islands to the capital in recent years, correct registration would be another vital issue in the lead up to September.

Nihan claimed the EC therefore “has a lot of work to do” in the lead up to September to ensure its database of registered voters was both up-to-date and correct.

“The government also has to try and provide the funds for the EC and also participate with international stakeholders to get the assistance to ensure elections are free and fair,” he said.


Parliament orders Elections Commission to drop fingerprint verification for party membership forms

Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee has requested the Elections Commission (EC) cease requiring fingerprints on applications for political party membership.

According to local media, the parliamentary committee today decided that no law or regulation existed that required the EC to request fingerprints to verify the authenticity of new party members.

The committee members questioned the efficiency of fingerprinting technology, arguing that no mechanism or database presently existed in the Maldives that could store the required amounts of information.

However, local NGO the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) told Minivan News that while it was unsure of the efficiency of the previous fingerprint system, fraudulent membership registration for Maldivian political parties remained a significant problem that needed to be addressed.

“The problem that exists right now is that there is a lot of fraudulent membership within political parties. Often, people are not aware they have been signed up,” MDN stated. “It is imperative that it is down to an individual to decide which party they want to belong to and no one else.”

MDN Executive Director Humaida Abdul Gafoor said it was vital that some form of verification mechanism was in place to ensure party memberships were genuine, adding that a bigger issue facing the committee should be finding an alternatives to the fingerprint technology, rather than simply halting it.

“We don’t know if the EC’s adoption of fingerprinting was a move in the right direction in first place,” she added.

Verification systems

Explaining the decision to discontinue the EC’s request for fingerprints, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Institutions Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer, said that the Maldives did not presently have a mechanism or system to collect and store such information.

“In regards to issues with the fingerprinting system, the EC, Department of National Registration and the Maldives Police Service all agreed they didn’t have enough records or verification systems available,” he told Minivan News.

The Department of National Registration, which had also been summoned before the committee, was reported to have confirmed that no fingerprint database presently existed in the Maldives.

Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq was not responding to calls at time of press.

System critics

One critic of the EC’s fingerprint system is MP Ahmed Mahloof of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Back in September, Mahloof alleged via local media that close to 8000 membership forms from his party have been rejected by the Elections Commission (EC) – mainly due to the quality of fingerprints appearing on the forms.

The MP claimed that the fingerprint issue had arisen because the EC did not have sufficiently modern machinery to look at the fingerprints, relying instead on the perception of its staff – drastically limiting memberships numbers for the party.

A spokesperson for the EC told Minivan News at the time that similar complaints had been received from other political parties including the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“Party membership forms go through a 50 step verification process. We are doing this to minimise chances of fraud. After we introduced this procedure, we are no longer receiving any complaints from individuals who have been placed in parties without their knowledge,” the spokesperson said.

The EC accepted that did not have machinery to verify fingerprints, but claimed that it had been able to forward complaints to the Maldives Police Service, which was able to use its resources to look into the matter.


Electronic voting depends on public awareness in Maldives

The Maldives has expressed support for electronic voting systems in India and Pakistan, and is taking steps to introduce Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to its own electoral process.

At an informal meeting of Electoral Commissioners from SAARC member countries in India, the Maldives joined Bhutan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka in praising India’s use of EVMs and indicated that “legal amendments would be thought of to see that EVMs were made popular to ensure free and fair polls in their countries,” Indian news outlet The Hindu reported yesterday.

Commissioners met to discuss Afghanistan’s voting procedures in light of waning financial and other aid from NATO allies.

Maldives Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq said the commission, which is developing a proposal for Parliament regarding EVMs, has met with the Committee on Independent Commissions to discuss their implementation.

“So far, we have been getting information from many countries in Europe, South America and Asia which have used these. Regionally, India, Nepal, and Bhutan have used the machines and we are also getting advice from them. Hopefully the system will work, but some laws will have to be changed and the public must support the decision,” said Thaufeeq.

Prior to the 2008 Presidential election, India had offered to donate several hundred EVMs to the Maldives. “But it was the wrong time,” said Thaufeeq. “The machines India was using could not do print-outs. This year, they upgraded and added a verification process. I think it’s necessary for the Maldives to have a verification system,” he said.

Thaufeeq indicated that the commission may approach India’s High Commission to renew their offer of donations. Otherwise, he said machines will be chosen through a negotiation process with various companies, and bids may be solicited.

Electronic and internet voting systems have been used worldwide for decades, and have triggered much debate.

India first used electronic voting machines in 1982; in 2002, they became an election standard nation-wide. However, India’s 2009 elections were discredited when Omesh Saigal, an IIT alumnus and IAS officer publicly proved that the electronic voting system may have been rigged.

In 2006, the Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service proved that electronic voting machines could be eavesdropped from up to 40 metres. EVMs were subsequently eliminated.

Since the 2000 presidential election, the United States has reported problems with electronic voting machines in a number of local and national elections. Mis-punched cards, security flaws, and touch screen malfunctions were some factors that have tipped votes over the past decade.

Internet voting was proposed for the Maldives’ Parliamentary elections as a means of cutting costs and confusion for Maldivians living abroad. Project Coordinator at NGO Transparency Maldives Aiman Rasheed said the motion was swiftly rejected by Parliament, and although Transparency has not been officially informed of the discussion, doubts that EVMs will be treated differently.

Observing that EVMs are acceptable under the right conditions, Rasheed explained that the advantages of using EVMs in the Maldives did not justify the disadvantages.

“In a large country with dense population centers, they can be useful,” he said. “But the Maldives is so small, and population areas are so widely spread out, with only 400 polling stations I don’t think that they would be a major improvement.”

Rasheed said the disadvantages of EVMs could have a significant political impact, and believed the public should be involved in the decision.

“I think Parliament and the Elections Commission should carefully consider the cost-benefit. Is the quick count worth the room that the new system with EVMs would leave for accusations of fraud or lack of transparency?” he said, noting that Maldivians tend to have a high “trust deficit”, and pointing out that Maldivian law does not allow for exit polls.

Building public trust is driving the dialogue over EVMs in the Maldives. Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef  agreed with Rasheed’s assessment.

“There is a lot of suspicion about new innovations that people are not familiar with. If done correctly, and people are informed, then EVMs shouldn’t be a problem for democracy in the Maldives,” he said.

However, Shareef observed that “any electronic machine with passwords can be corrupted,” adding that corruption is a higher risk for small communities. He recommended the Elections Commission “prove it cannot be manipulated” by issuing public education programs through the media.

“There is no public participation in the Election Commission’s discussion right now. Many islanders are unaware of how these things work. Without building trust, there will always be suspicion,” he said.

Rasheed explained that the “trust deficit” was a symptom of a young democracy.

“The Maldives’ biggest issue is that it has only had three free elections, and those were very recent. The latest Parliamentary and Presidential elections did very well under the circumstances, but the local elections have definitely declined in terms of transparency.”

Rasheed said that during these elections, political parties and NGOs sent volunteers to observe the electoral process, promoting transparency. Although new legal framework was implemented a mere one-and-a-half months prior to the Presidential election, and three months prior to the Parliamentary elections, “they did quite well,” said Rasheed.

Local elections, which had 18 months to prepare, performed well administratively “but they did not do so well in terms of transparency,” said Rasheed.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla also believes that free, transparent elections must be routinised before electronic modifications are made to the electoral process.

“I’m not sure if we are willing to move away from the physical voting system. It’s only been three years since we began trusting independent voting procedures,” she said.

Abdulla believes that Maldivians are quick to absorb new technology, but doubts that the advantages of EVMs are relevant to the Maldives.

Previously, island geography meant that counting and recording votes could take several days. “Now, officials count the ballots in front of the people on the same day, and we have our results immediately,” said Abdullah.

The Elections Commission has a different impression of the situation.

According to Thaufeeq, the average five to six hours that manual voting procedures involve is too long, and the costs of employing workers to manage the polls is too high. He said that while the transparency of open counting is important, there are significant advantages to electronic voting.

“Responses from MPs and the general public has indicated that people are more ready today than they were three years back. People are more familiar with technology right now, an EVM is similar to an ATM, which everyone can use,” said Thaufeeq. “But above all, we want the approval of Parliament and the public, to be sure that everyone is aware and comfortable with the system.”

Public examinability of voting procedures has been identified as an essential factor of free elections by government and independent groups worldwide.

In 2007, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen commission a statewide “Top to Bottom review” of electronic voting systems. According the report, every mechanism contained at least one security flaw that would allow a single non-expert to compromise an entire election.

In 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany found that when using voting machines the “verification of the result must be possible by the citizen reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject.”

Although the Maldives’ plans for implementing EVMs are far from concrete, the sentiments behind the suggestion are strong.

“Historically, the Maldives has had close elections with little information, which has generated suspicion of fraud,” Rasheed said. “If people can’t see what is happening, it will feed the country’s rising trust deficit.”


Kaashidhoo MP requests EC delay by-elections pending court appeal

President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq has said that the commission does not believe that the Kaashidhoo seat in parliament is vacant following the Criminal Court’s sentencing of Kaashidhoo MP Ismail Abdul Hameed for corruption, as it had been notified by Hameed that he would appeal the decision at the High Court and would wait until the judicial procedure was concluded.

‘’The Commission does not believe that the Kaashidhoo constituency seat in parliament is vacant because MP Ismail Abdul Hameed has sent a letter to the parliament saying that he will appeal at the High Court,’’ Fuad told Minivan News. ‘’He requested the commission delay the by-elections until the judicial procedure was over.’’

On August 29, the Criminal Court sentenced Independent MP Ismail Abdul Hameed to one year and six months banishment after he was found guilty of corruption.

The Prosecutor General pressed corruption charges against Hameed alleging that he had abused his authority as the former Director of Waste Management at the Male’ municipality to financially benefit a Singaporean company named Island Logistics in a deal to purchase a barge.

Under article 73(c)(3) of the constitution, MPs found guilty of a criminal offence “and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months” are to be stripped of their seat.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has asked the Parliament to inform the commission if any seat of the parliament was vacant, as the commission required confirmation from parliament before holding a by-election.

In a statement the commission said that it had asked the parliament to send a stamped official document mentioning why the seat became vacant, and if it was due to a court verdict, to submit the court verdict as well.

Fuad told Minivan News that the statement was not issued following the verdict against MP Ismail, but was rather a general statement to inform society that there was  “no official way we can confirm that a seat is vacant unless the concerned institution informs the commission.”

‘’It was not in connection to the court ruling on MP Ismail Abdul Hameed, it was a general statement,” he said. “We have also informed island councils and atoll councils to tell us if any seat in the council becomes vacant.’’


EC warns of potential two month delay for local council elections in Addu, pending court battle

President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq has said that local council elections in Addu could be delayed by up to two months, with the EC forced to conduct voter registration again after President Mohamed Nasheed declared the atoll a city for the second time yesterday.

The Civil Court ruled on Sunday in favour of the minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), that the President had no authority to do declare Addu a city until it met the then-unstated requirements for a city, as determined by the Local Government Authority.

Yesterday the authority – currently consisting solely of the Home Minister – published the requirements in the government gazette, and the President declared Addu a city for the second time, after Adduans and MDP activists took to the streets to protest against the Civil Court’s decision and the DQP.

“The Local Government Authority consists of only one person, which is Hassan Afeef, and today I asked Afeef to determine whether Addu Atoll meets the requirements to be a City,’’ President Nasheed said, addressing a rally at Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.

However overcoming the technicality raised in the Civil Court was not so simple, warned Thaufeeq.

“When the Civil Court ruled that the first declaration of the Presdient was invalid, it also invalidates all the work done by the commission to hold the Local Council Election,’’ said Thaufeeq.

“Now we will have to register all the citizens of Addu, will have to announce for the elections, will have to elect candidates and will have to give them time for campaign. The commission will have to repeat the whole process for the Local Council Elections in Addu.

“There would be a delay of almost two months [in Addu], while all the other atolls will have concluded the elections and have elected councilors,’’ he explained. “The best way is to hold the elections across all the islands at the same time, by overturning the Civil Court’s ruling.’’

He said the EC was seeking legal advice and trying to determine a way to resolve the issue.

“We have not decided what we will do yet, but these are the issues that will arise if the second declaration is be implemented,’’ he added.

Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad has already said the government will seek to appeal in the High Court, but with the elections scheduled for February 5, a delay could be possible.


Elections Commission calls for “changes” to party registration after “dead” members row

The president of the Elections Commission (EC) has hit back at criticism from the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) that suggested the independent body had failed to carry out its duty after it removed deceased members from the party’s registry, by claiming the entire political membership system requires legislative “changes”.

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that it had acted on “information supplied by Island Officers” on December 2 this year, which found that six people on the DQP’s membership registry had died during 2010, requiring their removal under the commission’s regulations. He claimed that new regulations currently awaiting approval in the Majlis are expected to remove similar confusion and “concerns” in the future over remaining a member of a political party after death.

Thaufeeq was responding in particular to criticism of the EC made this week by the DQP, with the party alleging in a statement that 32 of its members had been removed from registration within the party after they were found to be deceased.

The DQP is now reportedly set to file charges against the EC, which the party claimed needed to be “stronger and more careful in order to achieve democracy” or risk losing the public trust.

“Because Elections Commission has neglected its duty, DQP has decided to file charges against the Elections Commission. It has been decided to request the court to recheck the cases of all the members who were removed from the party’s registry,” the party reportedly stated, according to Haveeru.  The DQP was unable to respond to Minivan News at the time of going to press.

However, Thaufeeq said he was unsure why the DQP had stated that 32 of its members had been removed from its registry, with the EC having removed just six party members that were found to have died between January 1, 2010 and early December 2, this year.

“I don’t understand what is behind the issue,” he said. “When we notified the party earlier this month [of the six membership removals], we asked them to inform us of any objections [the DQP] had – they have been silent.”

Beyond the current DQP criticisms of the EC, Thaufeeq claimed that political party members were required to be removed from a registry once they had left the organisation or died; a rule he said was important to ensure that political funding allocated to parties on the basis of their membership size was correct.

The EC President added that he believed that for a number of the country’s political organisations -including the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the opposition Dhivehi Rayytithunge Party (DRP) – there appeared to be reluctance to update memberships.

“They are very keen to add membership, but not so concerned about reducing their numbers,” he said.  “Initially we expected all these areas [informing the EC of members who have left a political party or died] to be carried out by the parties themselves,” Thaufeeq said. “When we started getting many complaints from former members that their parties were not removing their registrations, we started acting on the issue ourselves.”

Multi-party “problem”

Thaufeeq claimed that updating member registries has become a problem common among “almost every political party in the Maldives”, with the EC acting to remove any members that it can verify to have died or left a particular part.

The commission said that it uses information sourced from a number of bodies like Island Officers, the Ministry of Health, the Department of National Statistics or confirmation by the deceased’s family to verify its records.

“We don’t think the DQP case is too significant,” he said. “This is a straight forward case; when a person is dead they cannot remain a member.”

According to Thaufeeq, the EC is looking for the approval of new legislation in parliament that will “outline changes we want to bring to the registration system.” “These laws have been sent to parliament for approval, which we believe will provide solutions to the current problems [of membership registries],” he claimed.

Membership benefits

Thaufeeq put forward a number of suggestions to what he believed may indicate why the issue of registered party members appeared to be a concern for political organisations.

Primarily, he claimed that under current government funding agreements for registered political parties, 40 percent of allocated expenditure was divided equally among the group. The additional 60 percent was then rewarded on the basis of parties with the highest memberships, Thaufeeq claimed.

“Also, a group wishing to register as a political party must initially have more than 3000 registered members to qualify. After that, there is no regulation or rule that would change back their status if they fall below this figure,” he added. “There are political parties with less than 3000 members.”