Local council elections scheduled for February 5, 2011

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced that the local council elections will take place on February 5, 2011, two months after the period stipulated in the Local Council Election Act.

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that the commission took into consideration the number of public holidays, including the end of the year school holidays, as well as the rights of candidates.

“If we ignored these holidays and conducted the local council elections, many people will experience difficulties,’’ he said.

He added that the courts and government offices would face difficulties if the EC did not take public holidays into account.

“If the commission decided if a candidate was not eligible, the person would have to file the case at the High Court and the court will determine whether he is eligible,” Fuad explained. “But if that sort of issue was raised when the courts are closed, that would be a much bigger problem. So we decided to hold the elections in February next year.’’

While the constitutional deadline for council elections elapsed in July 2009, enabling legislation for the elections was ratified by President Mohamed Nasheed on July 29, 2010.

The Local Council Elections Act stipulates that elections must take within a 122-day period after ratification.

”Dates are not applied, all the due dates have been passed,” said Fuad. “If we have to conduct it according to the deadlines we cannot do this at all.”

In accordance with the Decentralisation Act, the list of 184 administrative constituencies was published in the government gazette on Thursday.

Following the public referendum on October 9 on the government’s proposal for administrative consolidation, Addu Atoll is listed as a single island.


Veto could impede local council elections, says EC

The Elections Commission (EC) would be in “a difficult situation” if the president ratifies the decentralisation bill but vetoes the complementary local council elections bill, EC President Fuad Thaufeeq has said.

If the president leaves more than a 28-day period between the ratification of the two bills, said Fuad, the EC would not have enough time to prepare for the elections.

President Mohamed Nasheed has said he will veto the local council elections bill as article four of the legislation woul disenfranchise “half the electorate” as it requires citizens to be present in their registered constituency to be able to vote.

“If he ratifies the decentralisation bill first, it states that elections should take within 150 days,” Fuad said. “But the other bill, the local council elections bill, gives a period of 122 days. So even if the Majlis passes amendments as soon as possible, say in June, we won’t have enough time to prepare.”

He added that the EC believes the two bills should be ratified together in order to avoid the clashes.

Moreover, if an amendment is passed to allow remote voting, the EC would need “double the funds to allow people to vote anywhere”.

The EC would need “a lot of manpower” as there would be 279 constituencies and some islands would require 100 different kinds of ballot paper.

The EC did not raise concerns with article four as it would be fairer for those living in their registered constituency or island of birth to elect local government representatives.

“It would be better for those who actually live in the island to be able to vote than those who are registered,” he said.

In his weekly radio address on Friday, President Nasheed said article four would disenfranchise “at least 60,000 people” from the atolls currently residing in Male’.

Nasheed said he would ratify the bill only as “a last resort”.

“In my view, it is not the right thing to do. It is not a good bill,” he said.

Mohamed Zuhair, president’s office press secretary, said parliament had to bear responsibility for the problems as “they passed the bill knowing all these periods were in there”.

In addition to problems regarding process, he added, the president had to consider economic, social and legal ramifications.

“We can’t sacrifice content or substance because it could compromise the process,” he said. “But the president hasn’t made a final decision and he will serious consideration to these issues.”

Although article four did not allow for remote voting in the original draft legislation submitted by the government, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposed an amendment to allow people to vote anywhere in the country.

However, the amendment did not garner bipartisan support as MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) voted against it.

Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan said the DRP said he participated in a “heated debate” at a meeting with the EC over article four.

Nihan said the DRP agreed to keep the article unchanged based on the EC’s recommendations and the government’s assurances.

“We passed the bill the way it was sent to us by the Attorney General,” he said. “Now [MDP] are trying to blame us. We have said we will submit an amendment to allow everyone to vote even if takes three times more money.”

Nihan said the DRP parliamentary group was ready for an emergency sitting of parliament to vote on amendments, but added that the president should ratify the bill first as further delays would put the government and the Majlis “on the back foot”.


Fraudulent party registrations force EC to issue fingerprint forms

The Elections Commission (EC) has released a new political party registration form to avoid a recurrent problem of people being registered for political parties without their knowledge.

President of the EC Fuad Thaufeeq said the commission had uncovered an estimated 900-1100 people registered to political parties without their knowledge, “from all political parties.”

Fuad said the commission had sent notice to all the political parties that they would not accept any other registration form than the new form.

”Before all the parties had their own registration forms,” Fuad said. ”Those forms only required the person’s name and identity card number.”

Fuad said the new form required the person’s fingerprint, two witnesses and their signature.

”If anyone complains about the registrations [from now on] we can check the fingerprint through the police fingerprint database,” he said. ”If a form is presented with the wrong fingerprint we can identify the person and charge him with forgery, giving false information and signing another person’s signature.”

He said that the commission was contemplating creating a law concerning false registration.

”We cannot charge anybody over the 900-1100 false registrations,” he said, ”but hereafter we can identify it and treat it as a serious issue.”

He said the new registration form was now effective.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahloof said that he was pleased with the new procedure.

Mahloof claimed that there were many recent complaints by DRP members that they had been registered instead as members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

”They have stolen lots of our people,” he claimed. ”MDP would not even have a membership of 25,000 people.”

MDP MP Ahmed Easa said the new procedure was good and would avoid false registration.

Easa said MDP had received many complaints from people that they were registered in a political party without their knowledge.

”This form will make it more difficult for people to be registered in political parties,” he said.


MDP now the largest political party, says Elections Commission

The Elections Commission has announced that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has overtaken the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to become the largest political party in the country.

President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq said the MDP is now the largest political party with 31,171 members, narrowly overtaking the DRP’s 30,775 members.

Fuad noted that there was a possibility the DRP would regain its position once another 2000 membership forms were processed.

DRP Secretary General and MP Abdulla Mausoom claimed the EC had not included the forms of 2400 DRP members in the list it had released.

”We want to believe that EC is an independent commission,” Mausoom said, ”but sometimes questions arise about them.”

DRP MP Ali Waheed accused the the commission of failing to include DRP members, claiming it was influenced by the ruling party.

”We are visiting the atolls this weekend,” he said, ”and during that  visit we will reveal what action we plan to take.”

Fuad rejected the allegations as false information.

”We cannot be influenced by any party,” he said, noting that the commission did not support or depend on any political party. In a previous interview with Minivan News, Fuad has noted that sometimes existing members seeking to join other political parties failed to realise they had to leave their current party before applying.

MDP MP Alhan Fahmy said the DRP’s claims the EC was being influenced were “regrettable”.

”Everyone must respect the independent commission,” he said, ”and when things do not go the way [DRP] planned it is unfair to say the commission was influenced.”

Alhan said when he joined MDP, “many DRP members followed.”

Umar Naseer said he respected the EC and did not believe it was being influenced, but suggested DRP’s membership would top MDP when the new membership statistics settled this week.

By the numbers

After the two major parties, the third largest party in the Maldives is the  Jumhooree party with 7565 members, followed by the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) with 5359 members and the  Adhaalath party with 5163. Former President of the IDP Umar Naseer is currently attempting to dissolve the IDP, however the EC has ruled against this decision.

The People’s Alliance (PA) has the least number of members at 3107, below the Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP)’s 3480 members.