Q&A: Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek

The Maldives’ Elections Commission (EC) is preparing for the presidential election’s second round run-off amidst the Jumhooree coalition’s refusal to accept its first round defeat, triggering a barrage of judicial, political, media and civil society actions against the commission.

The Jumhooree Party (JP) – in conjunction with the Attorney General (AG) and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – has led a Supreme Court case to annul the election, whilst the party’s High Court case against the commission was conducted in tandem. In response to the JP’s vote fraud claims the police barricaded the EC secretariat and searched its garbage, while multiple protests and threats have targeted  the commission and its members and local media has broadcast unsubstantiated information about the commission and electoral process.

The EC has emphatically dismissed allegations of vote rigging as “baseless and unfounded”, highlighting its transparency and extensive preparations – conducted with international support – to ensure a free and fair polling process. International election observers have unanimously commended the first round of polling, calling for losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled.

With the September 28 run-off less than a week away, Minivan News discusses some of the challenges faced by the commission with Fuwad Thowfeek, Chairperson of the country’s first independent Elections Commission (EC).

Supreme Court case

Leah R Malone: Considering the politicised nature of the Supreme Court – as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul – is there a risk the Supreme Court’s order to hand over the EC’s only original copy of the voter list could lead to it being tampered with? Specifically, given the lack of material evidence or witnesses presented against the EC thus far, is there a potential opportunity for names to be added to the original voter list to substantiate the JP’s claims?

Fuwad Thowfeek: Thursday (September 19) the Supreme Court ordered the Elections Commission provide the original voter list, so we’ve been making color copies. EC members sat down and discussed [the situation], the constitution and presidential election laws, as well as met with our legal team. Since it’s a Supreme Court case they can order anything be given, so it’s best to follow that order [and provide the list].

However our legal team advised us to take very accurate color copies of each page before sending the originals. We are keeping the duplicates and in case any changes are made [to the originals] we will very easily be able to recognise them. It is the best solution we have at the moment.

As of about 3:45pm or 4:00pm Friday (September 20) we sent 120 lists to the Supreme Court. 200 will be sent Saturday and the day after the remaining lists. We are sending the original documents as the copies are being made.

LRM: If the Supreme Court rules to annul the presidential election’s first round, what will the Elections Commission do?

FT: That’s a big question because according to the constitution and even elections law there is nothing said [about whether the Supreme Court can take that action]. We have to ask the Supreme Court to give a timetable or something [for the presidential election]. Other than that there’s nothing we can do.

We won’t be able to fulfill the time requirement set forth in the constitution [if the run-off isn’t held on schedule]. 120 days before the end of the current president’s term a presidential election must be held. If there is no election then the [democratic] constitution, presidential and general election law will not be satisfied.

The strangest, funniest thing is that they are still not able to identify a single person who has voted fraudulently. For example, they have not been able to show anyone who is younger than 18 has voted, but they have been claiming many underage people fraudulently voted. If there are many [that voted fraudulently] they should be able to verify and show at least one person. They are also claiming that dead people voted, and when they submitted the list of seven names to the High Court, the court gave us the list to check. So we reviewed the voter registry and voter list, found phone numbers on record for four people and when we spoke with them, the individuals verified they were indeed alive and had voted. We are sure we will be able to find the remaining three people.

The other thing is if a dead person voted, someone should be able to show that this is the person who voted under the deceased’s name. Also, the JP is claiming 50,000 fraudulent votes have been added. The strangest thing is none of these ballots have been identified. No ballot boxes were found to have more votes cast than voters registered. Only one ballot box – located on a resort island – was found to have exactly 100 percent voter turnout. The average voter turnout was 88.44 percent nationwide.

LRM: Has Attorney General Azima Shukoor been in contact with the Elections Commission?

FT: That was another surprise to us actually. She has not been in contact with us and then suddenly appeared in the Supreme Court case. The funniest thing is the AG is supposed to support government institutions, but in this case the AG is speaking against the EC. She is supporting JP without evidence or witnesses, just saying there were errors in the voters list, but is not able to cite what those specific errors are because she has not seen [or requested to see] the list.

When I heard the AG was going to participate in the Supreme Court case, I thought it would be on behalf of the EC and she would tell the court [the vote rigging allegations are] simply not possible and the court cannot give any room to cancel the first round and re-hold it. [However,] when the AG came out and spoke against the EC – just like any political party supporter of JP – we released a press statement stating that the commission regrets this action by the AG. Both the AG and the JP have not provided any evidence or witnesses to support their allegations.

The government has spent over MVR 30 million (US $1,949,310) on the first round, there is no budget remaining [to hold both rounds again]. If it’s difficult for the government to provide the additional budget for the second round, there will be so many difficulties if the [results are annulled and] voting rounds are held again.

[Prior to the Supreme Court case] we hadn’t had much contact with the office of the AG or the AG. Last year after the change of government, in March or April, the EC met with the AG and spoke about changes that were required in the election laws, but nothing has materialised so far. She told us at the time that there were so many laws requiring revision.

Before the end of the last Supreme Court session, the Chief Justice ordered the EC to submit the original copy of the voters’ list. They are probably going to check the list to see whether people below the age of 18 voted. If they want to check for that, it’s fine. We are 100 percent sure they will not find anyone below 18 who voted.

Accessing the voter list

LRM: Following the High Court order for the EC to allow JP access to the voter list – under the guidelines determined by the commission – what were the exact protocol guidelines the EC enacted during the JP representative’s visit? What other political party representatives were present?

FT: Tuesday (September 17) the High Court ordered the EC to show the voter list to political parties. We have only one original [copy of the voters list] and had to make arrangements to follow the High Court’s order to show JP [the list], so we made the arrangements for Thursday (September 19).

This was because the EC needed time to prepare, seek advice from our legal team, and to hold a discussion meeting with our members. At the same time, arrangements for other candidates to see the voter list were also made. We invited all four political parties to send representatives to see the original voter list.

The viewing started at 10:00am. A team from JP came and GIP, but no PPM – even in court they said they did not want to see the voter list. An MDP representative came, but he said he did not want to see it.

We asked the other two – representatives from JP and GIP – what they wanted to see. Then again they wanted more people [from their parties] to come and for the EC to make copies [of the list for them]. But we couldn’t make that arrangement because we have to be very careful with our only copy [of the list], so our own official would show it to one representative at a time. There were arguments from the political party representatives [about these guidelines].

[However,] the lawyer, Dr Hassan Saeed [JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s running mate and head of JP’s legal team] said that now he does not need to look at the voter list anymore because he would prefer for the EC to hand it over to the Supreme Court.

(JP’s Legal Advisor Mohamed Haleem told Minivan News last week that the party would seek an additional High Court order for unrestricted access to the voter list).

LRM: With the ‘leaked’ police intelligence report – which the AG is citing in the Supreme Court – alleging there were “some opportunities for fraud” and “illegal voting”, the AG arguing for the Supreme Court to order the police to investigate the EC, and the police barricading and searching the EC’s garbage, do you think the police are politicised and acting against the EC?

FT: I don’t think anything will happen. I heard the AG demanded the PG issue an order to the police to investigate some of these allegations, but so far the commission has not been contacted by the police or the PG. But we don’t know anything about this. The AG should have met and spoke with the EC before making such a decision and then advising another institution [to take action].

LRM: What has been the outcome of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC)’s investigation into Villa TV (VTV) broadcasting programmes to incite hatred and create an uprising against the EC? Have any substantive actions been taken by MBC against VTV?

FT: We don’t know about the [outcome of the] MBC investigation. They said they will be taking actions against those broadcasting untruthful content. We know that VTV has stopped broadcasting the ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ (‘fraud in the name of the vote’) programme. But for a very long time they have been showing ‘Fasmanzaru’ (‘five horizons’), where various JP political party members or supporters just talk against the EC or against the election’s first round. Although what they have to say has no substance.

Saturday or Sunday we have to send a complaint letter to MBC. Again I have called MBC’s President Mohamed Shahyb and by phone have spoken to him about ‘Fasmanzaru’ [and the unsubstantiated claims its spreading].

LRM: How will the EC provide more timely information to media during the second round run-off to avoid the confusion created by inaccurate local media reports of polling station figures during the first round?

FT: We have not yet decided. I think we need more frequent refreshing of figures and will try to have more frequent reports from the EC on the 28th. If everything does not go well it may be difficult… we may not be able to go to the Dharubaaruge [convention centre in Male’]. We will try to have better updates through the internet, but will be focusing on communicating directly with the media.

Threats and protests

LRM: The ‘National Movement’ has announced they will raise their voices in protest if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule against the EC. They are calling for the EC to be reformed – with yourself, the Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz, and commission member Ali Mohamed Manik resigning. Have previous JP protests and planned National Movement protests caused any problems for the EC? Why are they targeting the three of you?

FT: Even JP supporters – except the 20 or 30 people shouting on the streets – have accepted the first round results and are not causing any problems.

Thursday night around 10:30pm 20 or 30 protesters came near the EC Secretariat, shouted for 30 minutes and left. They were demanding my resignation and saying ‘thief of votes’ and that type of thing, they wanted the [first round] results cancelled and a fresh election to be held. Sometimes they ask for myself and the Vice Chair to resign, sometimes different EC members, and sometimes the entire commission.

These are a few unsatisfied people paid by somebody – who has the money – but they know they’re not shouting for any solid thing. They get on a loudspeaker [and protest] after somebody asks or pays them – they are doing it for that reason alone, not based on anything reasonable. If it was a public thing then I’d be more concerned. But this is just a few people and most are not educated. They don’t know what’s going on [with the election] or how the voting process works.

There are five members of the EC and all decisions are made by the five members. [However,] the Vice Chair Fayaz, member Manik, and I are the three members interacting the most with the public, on TV etc  – that’s why they are going against us.

LRM: What kind of threats have been made against EC members and/or staff?

FT: Some of us are getting threats from unknown people. I have received SMS messages saying ‘be careful when you come out on the street, you’ll be stabbed in the stomach’. We [commission members] have security provided by the police and we move around with them.

My wife has been scared. Two times people went near our home shouting [and protesting], but the police protected our home and stopped the people from coming too near.

LRM: Do you think the MPS can provide adequate security for EC members?

FT: Yes, the MPS is fully capable. I’m sure nobody can harm me. They have to look at a distance but can’t touch me. Of that I’m fully confident, I’m not scared. I’m confidant know what I’m doing is right and I have the support of the people and the whole international community – observers and monitors. They’ve seen the electoral process [during the first round], which they have commended, praised, and complemented. I’m very happy and am moving ahead with my duties. My work cannot be stopped by a few people. I have full confidence in myself and am moving ahead.

LRM: The JP, some of their supporters, and the National Movement have claimed the EC, its members and staff are biased toward MDP – will you clarify for the public whether there is any truth in this accusation?

FT: There’s no truth to that, it’s some kind of story that some of the opponents wanted to spread. This commission, all its members and staff, do not belong to any political party or align with any political party.

We have staff who are married to people from different political parties – PPM, MDP, DRP, etc – and police officers. Staff members’ spouses may belong to a political party, but that is their own interest and has nothing to do with the duties of our staff. I have full confidence in our staff, they are very faithful to their duties and this commission and would not do anything unjust. I’m confident in my staff and that none are aligned with the MDP.

If they [a particular politician or political party] don’t get the result they want from a particular institution, they tend to claim that institution is opposition-aligned. The MDP got the best result [Nasheed secured 45.45 percent of the vote], so this time the EC is accused of being MDP aligned. If Yameen won then the EC would be accused of being PPM aligned.

In another instance, right after the change of government [in February 2012] some said the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) was PPM aligned, because most of the decisions made were more likely to the advantage of PPM. That’s just the kind of talk that happens.

Run-off preparations

LRM: What kind of support are local and international partners providing the EC for the second round? Is anything additional needed prior to the run-off scheduled for the 28th?

FT: We are getting a lot of support from international and local partners. The Commonwealth has expressed their satisfaction with the EC’s professionalism and their continued support for the commission. They will be sending another observer team for the run-off. The EU sent different observer teams – from various countries – on the 7th and will most likely send more for the 28th. Observers from Japan, Thailand, India, UK, US, and a Pakistani Elections Commissioner were present during the first round and expressed their interest in observing the second round. They will most likely send more teams for the run-off. I think they will come before the 28th to see the place, visit other islands, and see how ready we are for the second round.

Transparency Maldives sent the observers nationwide and their report praised the electoral process. The HRCM also observed the first round and praised us on our work and confirmed everything during the election went well. The Maldivian Democracy Network also expressed their support and commended the work the EC has done.

LRM: How have EC members, staff, and their families been impacted by the controversy the commission has faced since the first round? How has this impacted run-off election preparations?

FT: Right now there is very heavy work we have left to do before the 28th. We are so busy we are working 24 hours a day and the EC staff works in shifts, half are sent home to sleep when the other half report in.

For example, in addition to the 470 ballot boxes necessary for the first round, the second round will require an additional box be placed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and two more on tourist resorts that have applied to keep ballot boxes this round.

Everyone of us has to spend so much time in the office. We go early in the morning and stay until late at night, even on weekends, while our families are alone at home. Our families suffer, but they fully support us so we can fulfill our national duty.

It’s a very difficult job but I’m lucky to have the confidence of the people and [political party] leaders – even Gasim’s close people, President Waheed and President Nasheed know me well, and the honorable Yameen and Gayoom know and trust me. Even those who speak against me only speak for political gain or just to control their supporters.

I know what I’m doing is right and everything will be fine for elections to take place the 28th. We are fully ready for the second round. If we are able to hold on until the 28th then we will know the next president of the country.

LRM: Given the barrage of judicial, political, media and civil society actions against the EC, is the electoral environment still conducive to holding a free and fair presidential election on September 28?

FT: I think on the 28th of September the second round will go ahead as we have planned and have been working toward. There has been very little or no change [in the electoral environment] that would require we make any changes to our own program. Compared to last week, this week things have very much improved. I’m very confident things will calm down.

I’ve spoken to different people [representing political parties] and the most interesting thing is even those against us in the Supreme Court, they know there was nothing wrong with the election. Gasim’s employees, senior political party members, are trying to just give him a perspective that they did so much to cover up their failure to get Gasim the required number of votes [to proceed to the run-off]. They know the cases submitted in the High Court and Supreme Court are not going to give them any recount. Nothing will come out in their favour. They just want to go as far as they can go.

A lot of energy has been wasted by everyone – their people, our people, the Supreme Court.

I’m very hopeful the country will be ready for the run-off. We cannot keep this second round [from happening on schedule]. Particularly for the benefit of the country, to maintain the peace and harmony of our home [nation], we have to hold the second round.

If we fail, we will likely face more and more problems as the time passes. It will be in the interest of the government, all political parties, and all thoughtful citizens of the country to hold the run-off. Anybody trying to obstruct the election is unpatriotic.


State broadcaster hosts Presidential Debate ahead of September 7 election

State broadcaster Television Maldives on Sunday aired a live question and answer session with the four candidates contesting the September 7 presidential election.

Moderator Heena Waleed stated that the questions asked – concerning education, health and economy, development and social protection – were based on a survey done by the Maldives National University (MNU) on citizens’ concerns.

The candidates included Gasim Ibrahim representing the Jumhoree Coalition – consisting of the Jumhoree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and former PPM interim deputy president Umar Naseer and supporters, President Mohamed Waheed contesting as an independent candidate in coalition with the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) coalition, Abdulla Yameen representing the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) coalition, and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

TVM also held a running mates’ debate on August 26.

In their introductory statements Gasim, Waheed and Yameen spoke of the “deteriorating standard of living, torn up social fabric and the lack of peace and unity”, pledging to rectify these issues if elected.

Waheed said that he had assumed power in very dangerous times – referring to 7 February 2012’s controversial transfer of power – “I will remain a faithful leader,” he pledged.

Nasheed focused on reiterating the policies covered in MDP’s “Costed and Budgeted” manifesto, which was released on August 24.

Education policies

The first question posed concerned what changes would be brought to the education system, with the host claiming that  many citizens felt that while the country followed the UK system, other South Asian countries had “far better systems with a higher pass percentages”. This was followed by asking how the candidates planned to increase the number of people interested to pursue a career in teaching.

All candidates spoke of making arrangements to allow teachers to work on their islands of origin, to provide accommodation, and of introducing or continuing vocational technical training and higher education opportunities.

The three candidates from the current government’s unity coalition also emphasised that building interest in the field depended on how much financial and other incentives can be offered, pledging to increase them.

Gasim added that he will introduce Islam, Dhivehi and Quran as subjects, although all three are already taught in primary and secondary schools. He also said that all students in and above Grade 8 will be given a laptop and an internet connection under his government.

Nasheed spoke of his previous three years in office, noting that he had introduced single sessions for 150 schools, built 243 classrooms, and worked towards increasing the the number of students who passed at least five subjects in GCE O’Level examinations. He said that if elected, his administration will continue these efforts while also training educators to conduct multi-grade teaching.


Candidates were asked to name three steps that could be taken immediately to strengthen the country’s weakened economic status.

Gasim spoke of decreasing the deficit and establishing a tax system.

Waheed highlighted the importance of broadening existing industries, claiming that he was currently holding discussions with foreign bodies to introduce new industries including financial and ICT services.

He also claimed that he had brought down the budget deficit from 14 percent to 5 percent.

Yameen spoke of increasing investor confidence and establishing special courts to look into cases of concern for the investors. He added that fishermen would be given “a monthly salary of MVR 10,000 (US$650) whether they catch fish or not.”

“In the first two years we will make the budget zero or completely get rid of deficit. In the remaining three years there will be a budget surplus,” Yameen stated.

Nasheed stated that his party’s aim is to decrease the difference between the rich and the poor, adding that this can be achieved through setting up a solid tax system.

“It is very important to decrease debt. Although Waheed just claimed otherwise, our economic situation has been deteriorating ever since he brought about the coup d’etat. Debt is at 82 percent of GDP, there is a huge deficit, inflation is extremely high,” Nasheed retorted, adding that an MDP government would work to bring all of this back into balance again.

While all spoke of how the difficulty of getting foreign currency in the country could be addressed through increasing foreign investment, Nasheed alleged that investors are reluctant to invest in the Maldives “after the coup d’etat and the harassment of investors following it, including sending our investors without any justification”.

Waheed responded by saying that “It is ridiculous to claim we are not getting foreign investments now. They are very eagerly coming, even more now. One example of a great investor that I brought in recently is BlackStone.”

The US private equity firm bought both Maldivian seaplane operators, Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) and Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT), in February 2013 for an undisclosed sum.

Cost of living

All candidates pledged to establish sewerage and water systems on all islands.

Asked about policies focused on permanently reducing costs of electricity, Waheed and Nasheed spoke of increasing the use of renewable energy.

“While some people spend time acting in movies with the pretence of ‘protecting environment’ and managed to make no more than US$11 million available for renewable energy, in the past one and a half years I have raised US$200 million. I will make 30 islands run 100 percent on solar energy in the next two to three years,” Waheed claimed, referring to Nasheed’s documentary, the Island President, filmed while Waheed was serving as Vice President in Nasheed’s administration.

Gasim also spoke of introducing solar energy, promising to “create power stations and then connect them with a grid through submarine cables or something like this. In order to bring down electricity prices, we will maintain the same price countrywide for wheat flour, rice and sugar”.

Social protection

All candidates except Nasheed spoke of establishing centres to care for the elderly. Nasheed’s proposal is to continue offering a pension to the elderly.

“I plan to build rehabilitation centres for the elderly in the atolls, which can be managed with the cooperation of the community. The problem of elderly or of health can be dealt with through a sustainable insurance scheme,” Yameen said.

Gasim said: “As Muslims, we see parents taking care of children, treating them like [the apple of their] eye. And we should return this care when parents grow old. Our manifesto also says we will provide health care through insurance or something so I have no worries about that,” Gasim stated.

Waheed, meanwhile, pledged to increase the current monthly allowance to the elderly of MVR 2300 to MVR 3500, while Yameen said he will increase it to MVR 5000.

End notes

Waheed was mainly asked how much independence should be granted to the judiciary, to which he responded, “I don’t think that in the history of the Maldives, except in the past year and a half, there has been a single president who did not meddle with the judiciary. I have never done so, and I never will.”

“I have done as much work as anyone else here to bring democracy and I will protect it. But differing opinions can’t be an excuse to commit arson and murder. A lot of people even accused me of not wanting to hold elections, but look, we are having elections soon. I will remain a faithful leader,” Waheed stated.

Responding to a question on what assistance would be provided to pre-schools if he was elected, Yameen said he would ensure that pre-schools stop charging fees.

“An elected president must be someone who will spend all day, every day thinking about nothing but the country’s economy,” he ended.

Gasim, asked about corruption and gang violence, among other topics, focused mostly on reviewing existing laws. He said he is of the opinion that corruption is lower in the private sector, adding that salary increments for government posts could be a possible solution.

He also said that gang crimes can be dealt with by introducing legal frameworks into the school curriculum and offering rehabilitation to gang members, while better implementing legal action against gang crimes.

“I will do all possible to make Maldives into a country like Singapore or Dubai,” was Gasim’s concluding statement.

Questions posed to Nasheed were regardingthe high level of corruption, separation of powers, and concerns that political activity and its broad media coverage has decreased national unity.

“Some people feel that remaining behind an authoritative leader without asking questions is unity. But in the new constitution we adopted, there has to be differences in opinion. We must be able to conduct freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” Nasheed began.

“Our aim was to expose and reveal all corruption cases that we discovered. This led to the illusion that corruption increased. However, after the coup, we have not seen the audit of the coup regime’s spending, nor has the corruption index been publicized. We will govern with transparency.”

He ended saying that Maldives needs to rid itself of its culture of coup d’etats, adding “we see the situation the people that called themselves “the unity government” is in now. The insults they hurl at each other are far harsher.”

Nasheed closed the show criticising his opponents for the lack of projects completed in the past one and a half years, while saying, “the people of Maldives are aware that the competitors are “baaghee” [traitor] who are part of a coup regime. The people want governments to change through votes. The people will no longer give a chance to those who flee at every sign of political turmoil.”

Watch the debate:


PPM predicts election win, barring any “major incidents”

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Mahloof has stated that the party is confident of winning the September 7 presidential election unless there are “major incidents” on the day.

The party’s biggest concern was the chance that a large part of the electorate registered in polling stations other than those at their permanent residences may be denied the right to vote, he said.

“We are confident that unless such a problem arises, or some major incidents are carried out on voting day, we can smoothly win the elections even if things carry on as now,” Mahloof continued.

“Honestly, what worries us is that thousands from the electorate may be unable to cast their votes. However, the Election Commission (EC)’s Vice President [Ahmed] Fayaz has assured us at the last meeting we had that the EC will ensure no more than 50 people will be unable to vote due to any complications that may arise from re-registration,” he stated at a press conference held today (August 26).

Fayaz today suggested that the PPM’s concerns may have resulted from them “somehow misquoting” what he had said to them during an informal meeting.

Mahloof said although the party accepted that a low number of persons may be unable to vote due to unavoidable complications that may arise on election day, he felt it was better to air any concerns prior to polling day.

“This country needs peace and calm. There will never be peace in this country if the day after the elections, a group comes out again, expressing dissatisfaction with the results, and commits arson and assaults,” Mahloof said.

Mahloof declared that the PPM’s weekly survey showed the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was rapidly losing the support it had previously had.

The PPM poll currently predicts the PPM will receive 46% of the votes, the MDP 29%, the Jumhooree Party (JP) coalition 18%, and President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) just 7%.

“If we consider the number of votes, MDP gets about 63,000 votes, PPM gets 103,000 votes, JP will get about 39,600 votes, and it looks like GIP will get approximately 15,000 votes,” he revealed.

Mahloof claimed that these sudden changes in survey figures were a result of the electorate becoming aware of the policies of different candidates through various televised interviews.

Mahloof went on to suggest that a drop in support may have been behind the MDP’s decision not to compete in Saturday’s (August 24) council by election held in the island of Nolhivaram in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

“There are some very active and courageous MDP activists in that island, and yet the party head office in Male’ didn’t dare contest as it might expose the lack of support the party has now,” he alleged.

“We’re democratic, unlike the PPM”: MDP

Responding to Mahloof’s allegations, MDP spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy stated that his party refused to take part in any election if it could not democratically select a candidate.

“With the presidential elections this close, that is our main focus. We do not have time to hold primaries for a post in local councils that will only last for the next four months, as holding primaries is itself time consuming,” Fahmy said.

Fahmy also dismissed the PPM’s survey as “baseless”, saying that few Maldivians were even aware of such a poll.

“It’s easy to come out with poll results ‘conducted’ by themselves and announce a clear win, but it’s absolutely baseless. No surveys have thus far been conducted in the country with the oversight of an independent body.”

“All the candidates have at one point or another agreed that MDP is leading the race. The debate they engage in is about which of them will come second in the elections. MDP has garnered even more support as more people are becoming aware of our policies,” Fahmy said.

“MDP wishes to engage in competitive multi-party politics, and to contest in a free and fair competitive election. We are not the ones with a culture of attempting to win elections through bribery, vote-rigging or influencing the authorities,” Fahmy stated.

“Look at the allegations PPM is levying against the EC… we suspect that they are voicing so many complaints about the EC now only because the commission is standing as a barrier between them and some underhand plans they may be cooking up,” Fahmy alleged.

PPM is aiming to create unrest, discord: JP Coalition

JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz meanwhile alleged that PPM press conferences were often used for “fear-mongering”, aiming to “create discord and unrest.

“Although they’re working under a different name now – from DRP [Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] to PPM – these are the same people who threw balls of fire at crowds and created havoc in 2008,” Ramiz continued.

“Mahloof’s statement saying ‘unless ‘huge incidents’ occur seems like a forecast they are giving, possibly meaning that if they lose, they will create unrest. That’s how we interpret it.”

“As for those polls and surveys they speak of, we do not accept those results at all. They are just saying whatever works in their benefit, probably without even having actually conducted any research,” Ramiz said.

“Although [Abdulla] Yameen appears to be the PPM candidate, it is actually [former President and PPM Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom] who is doing the campaigning, and Maumoon who will be in pulling the strings. And we know who Maumoon is. He has remained two-faced, both when in power and now. He will appear all sincere and benevolent, but will be burning inside. Even now, with this survey, we see his habits on display, the habit of working in the interests of nepotism, doing whatever will benefit him, his family and those he considers ‘close’ to him,” Ramiz stated.

Ramiz further argued it was unbelievable that the PPM could gather that much support from the public, suggesting that the public had no trust in Yameen, and that his running mate – Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – was a man “full of nothing but envy.”

“Jameel’s always throwing a fit, loudly proclaiming to put all his competition in jail for long term, or to flog someone, or to amputate someone, or something of this sort. He’s another man that the public no longer accept in the political arena. The poll they speak of is a farce. How can they have such support with men like this,” asked Ramiz.

“Insha allah, the elections may turn out exactly opposite from what they have predicted,” he added.

Gaumee Ithihad Party (GIP) Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls at the time of press.


PPM presidential candidate “root of all nation’s problems”, Umar Naseer tells JP rally

The “Jumhoree Gulhun” – a new coalition consisting of the Jumhoree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) – held a rally on Monday night to celebrate new arrivals, including Progressive Party of Maldives’ former interim Vice President Umar Naseer, former PPM Youth Wing Leader Ibrahim Nazim, PPM MP Shifaq Mufeed and Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) leader Hassan Zareer.

“None of these fresh people joining us laid any conditions, demands or excuses before joining our coalition. They have come to join us to protect our sovereignty, our religion and the way of our ancestors,” JP Leader and presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim said, addressing 200-300 supporters gathered in their Male’ campaign office.

“Their self interest is the self interest of the Maldivian citizens,” he continued. “I would like to tell all those who have newly joined us that we will not disappoint you. Our desks are extremely clean. There isn’t even a single piece of paper which might be stained.”

“It is my belief that together with the other parties’ members, our coalition will now have at least 50,000 members. Therefore, there is no doubt that our coalition will win the elections, be it in one round or even if we go to a second round,” Gasim predicted.

“Yameen is the root of all our country’s problems”: Umar Naseer

PPM’s former interim Vice President, who lost the party’s presidential primaries to PPM Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen spoke at the JP coalition’s rally tonight, criticising the presidential candidates of both PPM and MDP.

Stating that he and his supporters who had joined the JP coalition alongside him are “ultimately supporters of Gayoom”, Naseer said Gayoom’s half brother, Yameen “is a completely different story”.

“There is no way PPM can win the September 7 elections with Yameen as a candidate,” Naseer claimed.

“Yameen is the root of all the problems faced by our country today. The 40,000 illegal immigrants who have entered the country are people brought in under his nose. People say that there is a connection between Yameen and the illicit drugs that are sold on the streets of Maldives,” Naseer alleged.

“And so, any person who loves this country being in PPM and voting for a man like this is nothing but a betrayal to the nation. Even though you remain a member of PPM, you do not have an obligation to vote for a corrupt man like Yameen. The nation is far more important than that,” Naseer said.

Naseer stated that in the first round of elections, it will be Yameen who contests most closely with Gasim, adding that it is “of utmost importance to defeat him”.

“If Yameen comes to power, nothing but an empty pit will remain where the country’s safe deposit ought to be,” Naseer continued.

“I speak out of experience. And therefore, I pray we get Allah’s blessing in these efforts to save this nation, to prevent it from going into the hands of a corrupt group of people, to save it from the irreligious ideology of Mohamed Nasheed and to protect our nationalism.”

Naseer also stated that he had the utmost respect for current President Mohamed Waheed, but added that he could not support Waheed as he had appointed Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Thasmeen Ali as a running mate.

Rationalising his refusal to support a Waheed-Thasmeen presidency, Umar alleged that Thasmeen had made “underhand deals with Nasheed to sell out the airport to GMR” and described him as “a traitor to the nation”.

He also predicted that the days leading to the September 7 election will prove to be “highly dangerous and risky”, stating that MDP’s apparent plans to file a case against Gasim gives weight to his concerns.

“It will also go to the point of physical fights on elections day. What I have to say to the people of this nation is that this is the time when history will be written. We must defeat Nasheed at any cost.”

“Be vigilant as [they] might attempt to stop you from voting”: Gasim

JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim advised his supporters to be “very vigilant and careful” on election day.

“We all know there is a certain group of people who will vote first thing in the morning on election day, and will then proceed to harass people who try to go to the voting booths after them. So be extra careful to cast your votes as early as possible,” Gasim said.

“Beware of losing your national identity cards before election day. And be wary of other people living in the same house as you, as they may be instructed to hide your ID cards so as to stop you from voting,” he cautioned.

“If such things happen, then these people might win in one round, as they keep saying repeatedly. So be vigilant. Be extremely careful,” Gasim said, referring to the Maldivian Democratic Party.

“Nasheed keeps saying he will come to power ‘at any cost’. Listen carefully, he says ‘at any cost’, meaning he is willing to do anything at all to rise to power. This means they intend to create enough chaos and trouble to cause the international community to not accept the elections,” he stated.

“Some of your sons and daughters living in your homes are, like that man [Nasheed] says, not always in a sound state of mind or sober. They might be paid some amount of money to hide your ID cards and stop you from voting, so be very careful of this. Be vigilant and careful in order to fulfill this legal, national and religious obligation,” Gasim stated.

From PPM to JP

Along with Umar Naseer, other council members and general members of PPM also joined the JP coalition.

Ibrahim Nazim, who resigned from his post as PPM’s Youth Wing Leader on Monday night and joined the JP rally the same evening, also echoed Naseer’s claims that Yameen “has no way of winning the presidential elections.”

Nazim stated that he had defected to the JP as the PPM failed to respect elected positions in the party, including himself.

“It is impossible to even contact the leadership, be it via phone or even text messages. I do not see how a person like this can contribute to empowering youth. I have decided to support Gasim as he is the only one of the four contesting candidates who seem to be working with the common people.”

Having initially supported Naseer, Nazim later called on PPM youth supporters to back Yameen after he defeated Naseer in the party’s presidential primaries.

Following June’s Civil Court ruling that the outcome of the PPM primaries cannot be made void, Nazim called on Naseer’s supporters to remain or come back to the PPM, adding that he believed Yameen would maintain the political ideology of Gayoom.

Despite this, Nazim then left his position at the PPM and joined the JP coalition with Naseer and his supporters that evening.

MP Shifaq Mufeed, who initially was in MDP and later defected to PPM in 2012, also joined the JP coalition.

Mufeed stated that he had come to the JP coalition not due to any monetary incentives, but because he believed in Gasim’s pledges and political ideology.

PPM’s ‘Maaz’ Ahmed Saleem, who supported Naseer in the party’s primaries also spoke at Monday’s rally.

Speaking in praise of JP’s presidential candidate, Saleem said, “Gasim already owns 30 percent of this country. What reason is there to not grant him the remaining 70 percent?”

“We gave power to Waheed on February 7, 2012 with a lot of hope. But today we are seeing Waheed filling his pockets with irreligious thoughts and imparting these anti-Islamic ideologies to the people,” he said.

“And as for Nasheed, if he wins the election, it is a fact without doubt that we will see the construction of temples in our Islamic nation.”

“Umar Naseer and I, we worked very hard to get the PPM to hold primaries. We did succeed in doing so. But then, the half-brother poked his hands in and meddled with the primaries, making it corrupt too,” Saleem alleged.

Other speakers at the rally included Abdulla Mohamed, who led the Civil Coalition of NGOs, the main organiser of the December 23 coalition which held the 2011 rally under the banner of “defending Islam” from the MDP.

Abdulla Mohamed said the JP stands an “irrefutable likelihood of winning the election if every member guarantees an additional 10 votes for Gasim.”

“Although initially Gasim was going to contest in the elections with only a handful of people backing him, as in just his Jumhoree Party, he now has the support of a large coalition, which guarantees he will win,” Abdulla claimed.

“On February 7 we rid the nation of a creature far more fearful than the historical sea demon known by the name of Rannamaari. We rid the nation of Nasheed and his sidekick, Mariya Ahmed Didi (MP and former MDP Chairperson), whom we can call ‘AnniMaari’. We must do so again in September,” he said.

“If we can do that, and if every member obtains 10 more votes, winning this election will be as easy as peeling an onion.”