Supreme Court gives green light for Majlis polls despite missing candidate signatures

The Supreme Court has advised the Elections Commission (EC) that Saturday’s parliamentary elections can go ahead despite 16 independent candidates not signing voter lists for 13 electoral constituencies.

The court advised that candidates refusing to sign voter lists during the period offered by the commission without raising any concerns through the official complaints mechanism “would not be an obstacle” to conducting the polls, the EC said in a press release today.

“Therefore, the Elections Commission has decided that the 18th parliamentary election will be held as scheduled on Saturday, March 22, 2014,” the press release stated.

The EC sought counsel from the apex court this week after 16 out of 114 independent candidates did not sign the voter lists. All 188 candidates representing political parties had signed the lists by noon on Sunday.

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 first round of the presidential election held on September 7 last year.

A revote ordered by the Supreme Court for October 19 was obstructed by the police hours before polls were due to open after Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim refused to sign the voter lists.

On the morning of October 19, police officers prevented EC staff from taking any election-related documents out of the commission’s office.

The police commissioner then informed EC members that the Maldives Police Service would not support an election held in contravention of the Supreme Court guidelines.

The Supreme Court however advised the EC yesterday that submitting complaints regarding the eligible voters registry during the window offered by the commission was the “legal responsibility” of candidates.

A candidate refusing to sign the voter list without officially lodging complaints would not affect either the legitimacy of the election or decisions made by the EC, the Supreme Court stated.

None of the 16 independent candidates who have yet to sign off on the voter lists have reportedly submitted any complaints.

The Attorney General has meanwhile advised police to cooperate with the EC in conducting the polls despite the 16 missing signatures.

The local council elections on January 18 also 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.


Supreme Court issues edict insisting all guidelines be followed

The Supreme Court last night issued a ruling ordering the Elections Commission (EC) to continue to abide by the guidelines in its October 7 verdict scuttling the results of the first round in September.

The latest ruling declared that “as the aforementioned presidential election not being held on the dates in the judgment is not a legally justifiable reason for not holding the election in accordance with the guidelines provided in Supreme Court case number 42/SC-C/2013, [the Supreme Court] informs and orders the Elections Commission and all relevant institutions of the Maldivian state to hold the presidential election that must be held in 2013 in accordance with the guidelines provided in Supreme Court number 42/SC-C/2013.”

The guidelines included holding the election before October 20, as well as demanding that all parties sign the voter lists, effectively giving presidential candidates power of veto.

The day before the election candidates Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim had still not signed the voter lists and were not responding to phone calls from the EC or officials sent to their homes.

The pair, who received 25.35 percent and 24.07 percent respectively in the annulled first round, subsequently demanded extensive fingerprint verification of the new voters’ registry – another Supreme Court demand, issued at midnight on October 10. The evening before polls were due to open, both sought a Supreme Court ruling demanding that the election be delayed.

Receiving only a brief instruction from the court to follow its guidelines, the EC prioritised the guideline requiring an election before Oct 20 and proceeded with the vote. However, staff attempting to leave the commission’s office with ballot documents and equipment just hours prior to polls opening were obstructed by police.

Following the rescheduling of the election for November 9 – just two days before the end of the presidential term – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek labelled the Supreme Court’s guidelines as “restrictions” and expressed concern that they effectively allowed political parties to stop elections from happening.

“We have said that 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, following meetings with the President, the cabinet and political parties.

“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.

“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,” he said.

Last night’s Supreme Court ruling

“The constitution of the Republic of Maldives obligates the Elections Commission and all relevant state institutions to ensure that the presidential election that must be held in the Maldives in 2013 is one where all Maldivian citizens eligible to vote is able to exercise the right [to vote] freely and without any kind of obstacle,” read the Supreme Court edict, signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain.

“The elections must be held in accordance with the guidelines stated in the Supreme Court case number 42/SC-C/2013 to ensure that elections held in the Maldives are fair and conducted transparently in line with the principles specified in article 170 of the constitution of the Republic of Maldives,” read the edict.

The integrity of the Supreme Court has meanwhile come under increasing criticism, domestically and abroad.

Following the Supreme Court’s indefinite suspension of the first round despite local and international praise of the vote as free, fair and democratic, Transparency Maldives warned “the failure of parliament and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address alleged integrity issues of the Supreme Court judges have “created avenues for political and other actors to question the conduct, injunctions and verdicts of the Supreme Court”.

Prior to his registration as a presidential candidate Gasim was a member of the JSC, and was responsible for rejecting a recommendation from the JSC’s own subcommittee recommending that Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed be suspended pending an investigation into his leaked sex tapes.

The sex tapes and suspension of the election have resulted in escalating protests targeting the courts, with large pairs of white underpants quickly becoming widely adopted as a protest symbol.

“Expeditious resolution of such allegations and issues is imperative to ease rising tensions in the election environment and prevent the derailment of democratic processes,” said Transparency Maldives in its statement.

“Relevant state institutions, including the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliament of the Maldives must expedite the resolution of these issues and allegations, in a transparent manner free of conflict of interest, to reduce questioning of and allegations of partisan bias in such processes.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, raised concern over the politicisation and impartiality of the Supreme Court as far back as May.

Knaul expressed “shock to hear that many members of the judiciary, including in the Supreme Court, hold memberships in political parties.”

Conflicts of interest and the resulting impact on judges’ impartiality was a concern, noted Knaul.

“It seems that judges, and other actors of the State, do not want to fully acknowledge and understand this concept, leading to the dangerous perception from the public that the justice system is politicised and even corrupted,” she said.

The Supreme Court, she noted, had been “deciding on the constitutionality of laws ex-officio, without following appropriate examination procedures, under the understanding that they are the supreme authority for the interpretation of the Constitution.”


Elections Commission restarts polling preparations

The Elections Commission (EC) has published the eligible voters list and accepted complaints regarding the voter registry, sourced from the Department of National Registration (DNR), from 9am until 6pm today.

Voter details can be checked in the Maldives by sending an SMS to 1414 in the format ‘VIS [ID#]’, or by calling the helpline on the same number. The eligible voter list can also be checked online at

The voter registry will also be availabe on every inhabited island and Male’ residents can verify their information at the Elections Commission Voter Registration Section, located in the former Godown building.

Complaints forms can be downloaded from the EC’s website and are also available at the commission’s secretariat, Voter Registration Section, and at all Island Council offices.

The Elections Commission (EC) has begun preparations for the presidential election for the fourth time in two months. The police  forcibly brought a Supreme Court-ordered re-vote to a halt on Satyrday (October 19) after previously surrounding the EC to stop the September 28 second round run-off from taking place.

Last night the EC announced the first round of presidential elections will take place November 9 and the second round – if necessary – will be held November 16.

The Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential polls held on September 7 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.

The commission will continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but will seek to change them in the future, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek said. In an October 20 interview on Television Maldives (TVM), he described the guidelines as “restrictions”.

The EC said that in the next three weeks it would allow registration for new eligible voters, and re-registration for those voting in a location other than their home island. Voters who re-registered for the October 19 poll will not need to submit re-registration forms again unless they wish to change their voting location.

Candidates signatures

According to the Supreme Court 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) last week refused to approve the lists, leading police to stop the election an hour before polling was due to start.

The move has prompted widespread international concern and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.

However, the President, the cabinet and political parties have since assured the EC that “they will not allow for these kind of obstructions in the upcoming election”, explained Thowfeek yesterday.

EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz has noted that candidates will be given a specific time period to sign the voter registry, after which the commission will continue with the election.

Thowfeek confirmed to Minivan News on October 19 that Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim had been appointed as the government’s focal point for anything election-related.

“I believe [his role] is to find agreement on the disputes between all the candidates,” Thowfeek said during an October 20 televised interview.

Voter registration process

Meanwhile, the Maldives’ Department of National Registration (DNR) has recently said there is a possibility that names of deceased people could be included in the electoral register as it “faces difficulties in obtaining information” to maintain a more current database.

However, the Supreme Court guidelines have mandated that the EC disregard its voter registry and use the DNR’s database as the primary source for the voter lists.

For the annulled first round as well as past elections, the EC compiled its voter registry by collecting current data from island council and city council offices, which was cross checked with the DNR database, and then updated after the commission publicly published the list and provided voters with an opportunity to amend any incorrect information.

“It has been very hard work over the last five years to come up with a voter registry of this standard,” Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News in a previous interview.

The 17 member Commonwealth election observation team in particular praised the final voter registry, describing it as “accurate and robust”.

Election obstructions

“There are a group of people who want to block this [vote], those who know they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult. It’s very sad,” Thowfeek noted a week prior to the halted October 19 election.

Both the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) filed cases with the Supreme Court on October 18 requesting that the October 19 re-scheduled election not go ahead without all parties having first signed the register.

The parties then refused to sign the registry without fingerprint verification of over 10,500 re-registration forms – PPM demanded a random 10 percent sample of forms verified, while JP wanted five percent.

Once the PPM and JP had submitted their letters to the EC after midnight on October 19, the party leaders then became unreachable, while the police refused to support the election taking place without the candidates’ signatures.

The PPM also requested the apex court order the annulment of the voters’ list used in the first round on September 7, threatening that the party would not accept the result if the existing list was used, according to local media.

This resulted in a midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10, ordering the EC to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

Prior to the first round, the PPM had called on the EC to make the voter registration process “more lenient” and requested access to the commission’s IT section.

“There is no rush”: Gasim

The PPM also sought an order at the Supreme Court on October 11 to block former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy on the grounds of his criticism of the judiciary and his being “irreligious”.

Meanwhile, on October 16 the JP also raised concerns about the voter re-registration process, with the party’s representative on the EC’s National Advisory Committee accusing the MDP of being able to access the commission’s servers and directly register its own candidates – compromising the system.

The JP said it had filed a complaint with police over its allegations, demanding law enforcement officials address the concerns it had raised, according to local media.

Two days later (October 18) – on the same night JP and PPM filed cases to delay the October 19 poll – JP’s presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim stated that the party will “accept elections readily if it is conducted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the SC” and that the party was ready to proceed with voting once it was “absolutely certain that the voter registry satisfactorily meets our standards”.

There is no rush, it’s not like we are a soul caught in a life or death situation,” added Gasim.

Gasim has since called on President Mohamed Waheed to take action against Elections Commission members for allegedly violating the constitution “even by declaring a state of emergency”.

Meanwhile, an internal inquiry has been launched by the police professional standards command following allegations by EC Chair Thowfeek that Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz obstructed the EC from conducting the presidential election scheduled on October 19.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) declared on October 19 that the police had no legal mandate to intervene and stop elections this morning, local media has reported.

Riyaz has denied the allegations, insisting that police only refused to provide security as the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court judgment were not followed by the EC.


Voters, monitors, media banned from taking phones, cameras, files into polling area as per Supreme Court guidelines, advises EC

All eligible voters who wish to vote on Oct 19 somewhere other than their permanent address must re-register using the new fingerprint forms.

Voter re-registration will close at 4:30pm today. Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, diplomatic missions and at In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration status online, or by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, or call the hotline on the same number.

Voting will begin at 7:30am on Saturday, October 19 and polls will be closed at 4:00pm, the Elections Commission (EC) announced at a press conference last night. Those in the queue at 4:00pm will be allowed to vote, said EC Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.

Two ballot boxes will be placed in Sri Lanka and one each in India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The previous requirement for more than 100 voters to register for a ballot box to be kept overseas would not be enforced this time, Thowfeek said, adding that ballot boxes would be placed in resorts and industrial islands whether or not the registration exceeds 50 persons.

The re-registration deadline for persons voting outside their home islands is 4:30pm today, after the Supreme Court ordered the EC to restart the registration process in line with the court’s guidelines.

Thowfeek explained that while forms submitted on October 9-10 with fingerprints in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines would be valid, re-registration forms processed before the annulled September 7 presidential election as well as for the postponed second round scheduled for September 28 would be invalid.

Among the 16-point guidelines imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court judgment annulling the first round of the presidential polls was a requirement to include fingerprints of persons submitting re-registration forms as well as the fingerprints of two witnesses, if the form was submitted by a third party.

“Registration by forms submitted in September have been invalidated now. So until registered, a person’s name will be under his or her permanent address [on the voter registry]. Until a person registers elsewhere they have to vote in the place of the permanent address,” Thowfeek said.

“We do accept that this is a very short period we are offering to citizens. But as you know, because of the Supreme Court verdict we cannot provide a long period for any process. The verdict states that the first round of the presidential election must be held before the 20th of this month.”

In line with the Supreme Court guidelines, Thowfeek said voters would not be allowed to take phones, handbags or any other item into the polling station, advising voters to keep phones at home.

“The Elections Commission and relevant authorities should make it illegal for any person (including officials) who enters the polling station to carry phones, handbags, files or any item (excluding pens) that could be considered to infringe upon the rights of candidates and ensure that no such action takes place,” reads point 10 of the Supreme Court guidelines.

To abide by the guideline, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik revealed that media monitors would not be allowed to bring cameras or phones into the polling station.

“We sincerely apologise to you for this because in the past monitors took cameras and phones but we have to abide by the [Supreme Court] judgment,” he said.

The EC was given legal advice recommending that “any persons” stated in the guideline included media monitors as well, Manik said.

As elections officials would not be allowed to carry phones either, Manik said a communications official would be stationed outside each polling place.

In addition to a communications official, a second official would be added to supervise the handing out of tokens.

Asked if the EC could provide assurances that the voter registry would not include underaged citizens or the deceased, Thowfeek explained that in line with the Supreme Court judgment, the main source of the registry would be the database at the Department of National Registration (DNR).

“The department is tasked with maintaining [records] of births and deaths. So if they are maintaining the list correctly, I believe it shouldn’t include the names of any deceased,” he said.

In the past, Thowfeek said, the EC sought lists from the DNR and island councils, which were cross-checked to compile the voter registry.

The DNR has provided regular access to its database as well as identity card (ID) photos for the EC, Thowfeek said, adding that the ID card photos would be used along with the voter lists at polling stations.

Regarding the recent resignation of EC member Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed, Thowfeek said Waheed informed the commission that he was advised to resign by doctors as it was “not advisable to work in a stressful environment” due to his health.


Political parties launch last minute re-registration drive, ahead of 4:30pm deadline

All eligible voters who wish to vote on Oct 19 somewhere other than their permanent address must re-register using the new fingerprint forms.

Voter re-registration will close at 4:30pm today. Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, diplomatic missions and at In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration status online, or by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, or call the hotline on the same number.

The Elections Commission has opened up a 24-hour re-registration window for all eligible voters, after the Supreme Court ordered the EC to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

With the new ruling, the EC opened up a 24-hour window for fingerprinted re-registration starting at 4:30 pm on Friday, October 11 and closing at 4:30 pm on Saturday, October 12.

Political parties have started re-registration drives throughout the country with hundreds of volunteers working around the clock filling out forms, copying identification documents and submitting forms to the EC headquarters.

On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 2013, citing electoral fraud, and ordered the EC to hold a revote by October 20. In its verdict, the apex court provided guidelines for the revote including fingerprinted re-registration forms.

However, with only 12 days for the new polls at the time of the verdict, and more than 65,000 registered to vote in locations different to their permanent address in the annulled first round, the EC said re-registration would only be required if a voter would be voting in a different location than that already registered for in the annulled vote.

But the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) filed a complaint at the Supreme Court on Thursday claiming the EC was not following the SC guidelines.

The Supreme Court then opened at midnight on October 10 and issued a second ruling, ordering the Elections Commission to disregard previous reregistration efforts and restart the entire elections re-registration efforts.

Read the 16 point Supreme Court guideline here.