The winner of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) primary for the upcoming by-election of the vacant mid-Fuvahmulah atoll council seat, Shaffaf Naseer, has lost the party ticket after failing to submit an ID card original before the 3pm deadline yesterday.
Shaffaf won the primary election that took place on October 9 with 112 votes followed by Mohamed Abdulla Didi with 97 votes. In lieu of not fielding a candidate, the runner-up was registered at the Elections Commission (EC) on Sunday as the MDP candidate.
MDP Secretary General Hassan Shah told Minivan News today that Shaffaf contacted him from Fuvahmulah on Thursday and requested assistance with completing the documentation.
After collecting a stamped document from the Department of Judicial Administration around 2pm yesterday, Shah said he discovered that Shaffaf’s ID card original was missing from the documents when he went to file them with the EC.
According to the application form (page 11, bullet point 3), the form should be submitted with the original ID card of the candidate.
Shaffaf had sent his ID card on a flight that landed “10 minutes before [the 3pm deadline].” Shah explained that he did not believe the person delivering the card could make it to the EC from the airport before the deadline elapsed.
The second-placed candidate was meanwhile “monitoring the situation very closely” and was prepared with the required documentation.
“My thinking was that the party should not lose the opportunity to compete in the election,” Shah said, adding that the application form was handed in “seconds before the EC closed.”
If the last minute decision had not been made, Shah argued that the party would not have had a candidate in the by-election scheduled for November 19.
“They [the EC] had already rejected one of our candidates for a by-election because he didn’t submit an ID card original,” he said.
The former mid-Fuvahmulah atoll councillor, Hassan Saeed, also a member of the MDP, lost his seat after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that he had a decreed debt.
The EC announced yesterday that three candidates have filed applications for the mid-Fuvahmulah by-election, including one MDP candidate, one opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) candidate and one Independent candidate.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Shaffaf Naseer criticised the party’s administrative staff and senior leaders for not providing adequate assistance with his application.
“It is not at the last minute that the party should know that the ID card original is missing,” he said.
Shaffaf however praised MDP Secretary General Shah for “working very hard” this week to complete the documentation.
“But when it came to him it was too late,” he added. “He was very helpful and cooperative. But I didn’t get any cooperation from the party officials before that.”
After winning the primary and returning to his home island, Shaffaf said he was assured by senior members of MDP that the party would handle the application process.
“So I was busy preparing my campaign and meeting family members, relatives and supporters,” he said. “Our forecasts show that I would have won easily.”
Shaffaf particularly objected to the party not providing him with a signed resolution confirming his candidacy: “They didn’t monitor the situation or check the documents to verify them,” he said. “There should be principles, rules and procedures to follow in everything.”
If the party had informed him of the requirement of the ID card original, said Shaffaf, he would have flown to Male’ during the weekend.
“If they submitted my forms with the Elections Commission and got rejected, I would have accepted it,” he continued. “But they could have waited 15 minutes [past the 3pm deadline] for the person delivering my ID card to get there.”
As a result of the incident, Shaffaf said, MDP members in Fuvahmulah were “divided, confused and fed up.”
Shaffaf called on senior leaders of the party to “investigate what happened and take action against those responsible.”
“I believe the party leadership has to come to Fuvahmulah now and explain how this happened,” he said, adding that the move would be necessary to unite members ahead of the by-election.
Shaffaf said he hoped that the party would strengthen its internal mechanisms and administrative functions as a result of the incident.
The ruling party has strong support in the mid-Fuvahmulah constituency, which is represented in parliament by MDP MP Shifaq Mufeed ‘Histo’.
While he was “disappointed” with the incident as “this should not happen in the largest and most exemplary democratic party in the country,” Shaffaf said he would back the MDP candidate and support the campaign.
However, he added, the voters in Fuvahmulah were independent-minded and he “could not influence how they vote.”
Shaffaf insisted that he did not wish to pursue the matter any further or cause internal disputes in the party.
“I was among the first people from Fuvahmulah to sign for MDP and I will remain a member of the party,” he said.