MDP proposes changes to Supreme Court bench and no-confidence motion against Attorney General

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) decided during a contingency meeting of the party’s national council on Friday (September 20) to pursue a no-confidence motion against Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor and change the composition of the Supreme Court bench through legislation.

The meeting took place after three consecutive days of lengthy Supreme Court proceedings of a case filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC) seeking annulment of the first round of the September 7 presidential election. The Supreme Court hearings adjourned for the weekend on Thursday.

At its meeting yesterday, the MDP national council adopted a resolution to undertake all necessary efforts to ensure that the presidential election would be free, fair and transparent and “decided only by the vote of the people and not by the courts”.

The resolution submitted by MDP MP Ahmed Hamza was passed with unanimous consent of all 51 members of the national council in attendance.

‘Certainty of the margin’

During the debate on the resolution, the MDP presidential candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed said it was important for all political parties – including the JP – to have no doubts over the integrity of the electoral process.

Nasheed said that the JP’s main issue was the narrow margin of 1.28 percent – a difference of just 2,677 votes – between its candidate Gasim Ibrahim and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

For the JP to accept the narrow margin, Nasheed said that the registry of voters had to be checked to verify the JP’s claim that ineligible voters were on the list.

Nasheed noted that the EC had published the registry in the government gazette for public scrutiny, after which the MDP had identified some 800 people in the list that were either deceased, underage or repeated more than once.

The question that has to be answered, said Nasheed, is whether more than 2,000 people who were not eligible to vote had cast their ballots.

The former president expressed confidence that electoral fraud had not occurred in the September 7 election even if there were problems with the voters registry.

Altering Supreme Court composition

“As experts are noting that some judges on the Supreme Court bench lack certain kinds of legal knowledge and experience, it is our view changes has to be made to the composition of the Supreme Court’s bench. That is, by amending the Judges Act,” Nasheed said.

Shortly before the MDP government was toppled on February 7, 2012, the party proposed a bill to amend the Judicature Act that would reduce the number of judges on both the benches of the Supreme Court and High Court.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News at the time that the amendments had been forwarded due to inefficiency of both the High Court and the Supreme Court in concluding cases.

In March 2013, the MDP national council, following a controversial Supreme Court ruling that overturned parliament’s decision to vote out Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan on sexual harassment charges, passed a motion calling on its parliamentary group to seek to abolish the existing Supreme Court bench and replace it with a new panel of judges, including foreign judges.

Meanwhile, during Friday’s national council meeting, Nasheed also stressed the importance of speeding up the process of appointing a parliament representative to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The seat reserved in the JSC for a member of parliament was declared vacant after JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim formally became a candidate of the presidential election.

No confidence motion against Attorney General

During the debate, MDP MP Ahmed Sameer announced that the MDP parliamentary group has prepared a no-confidence motion against Attorney General Azima Shukoor.

Sameer contended that the Attorney General neglected her duties and has advocated on behalf of a political party against the EC, a state institution.

A special sitting of parliament during its ongoing recess has been scheduled for Sunday upon request by 29 MDP MPs.

Deputy leader of PPM’s Parliamentary Group Moosa Zameer told local media outlet CNM today that the PPM would not support such a motion against Shukoor in parliament.

Zameer said that although the PPM had not taken an official stand on the matter, the party would not support removal of its former council member.

However, with the support of at least six out of ten MPs of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – which recently decided to back former President Nasheed in the run-off election – the MDP would have enough votes in parliament to pass the no-confidence motion.


Statements by election observers “have not much weight”, JP running mate Hassan Saeed tells Supreme Court

Former Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, running mate of resort tycoon and presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, has told the Supreme Court that positive assessments of the September 7 presidential poll by local and international election observers “do not carry much weight”.

Dr Saeed – who is now leading the Jumhooree Party (JP)’s legal bid to annul the election results in the Supreme Court – made the remarks during the second hearing of the party’s case against the Election Commission (EC) held on Wednesday.

Dr Saeed told the Supreme Court that statements made by both local and international observers that the election had proceeded smoothly and freely did not reflect the reality of the situation.

“Yes, I even agree that the voting process went very smoothly. But those foreign observers don’t know the depth of the issues. Their words do not carry much weight. Some of the elections which have been observed by the international observers, some people have died, but yet they have reported the election went smoothly,” Saeed told the court.

He also claimed the JP – which narrowly missed a place in the run-off with 24.07 percent of the vote – had sufficient evidence and witnesses who would testify in court that electoral discrepancies and irregularities had taken place.

Dr Saeed also declared that Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor’s acknowledgement of electoral discrepancies during the first round of presidential elections gives weight to the party’s allegations  of electoral fraud.

During the first hearing of the case, Attorney General Shukoor told the court the AG’s Office had also found discrepancies in the voter list, including underage people listed as eligible for voting, and the mixing up of voter information – including gender, address, and date of birth.

Addressing the seven-member Supreme Court bench, Saeed also alleged the EC was not following a High Court order issued Tuesday (September 17) to allow viewing of the original voter list at the commission. Saeed claimed that despite repeated requests – both verbal and written – the commission was yet to give any response.

The High Court ruled that it was a right of all presidential candidates and their affiliated political parties to view the original voter list and ordered the EC to allow this to take place at the commission in presence of its officials.

Instead, Saeed claimed, the EC lawyers had dismissed as baseless and unfounded JP’s evidence suggesting electoral fraud, without giving the party the chance to verify it evidences against the commission’s data. This action by the EC, the former Attorney General contested, disregarded the doctrine of ‘Clean Hand’.

The ‘Clean Hand’ doctrine is a rule of law that a person coming to court with a lawsuit or petition for a court order must be free from unfair conduct (have “clean hands” or not have done anything wrong) in regard to the subject matter of his/her claim.

During the hearing, Saeed also criticised the EC’s Ballot Progress Reporting System (BPRS) – a web based application that tallied the number of voters who had cast their vote or are in the queue to vote – contesting that it had several weaknesses and loopholes.

He claimed that the entire application was built without due consultation with the National Center for Information Technology (NCIT) – a government agency responsible for management of IT systems within government institutions. Instead, Saeed claimed the system had been built and designed by Indian IT specialists.

Saeed also noted that the EC members had previously acknowledged that the BPRS were having problems and yet, at the same time the EC had claimed that there was no possibility of double voting. This, Saeed contested, did not make any sense, and he alleged there was a difference between the number shown by the BPRS that had voted and the EC’s figures obtained through manual counting. He challenged why the commission had not shifted to the manual system when the electronic mechanism collapsed.

In response to the arguments raised by the EC lawyers during Tuesday’s hearing, Saeed said the country would not go into a constitutional void even if a new president failed to take the oath of the office on November 11 – the date on which the term of incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan expires.

Reflecting on the delay in electing the new parliament in 2009, Saeed claimed that no one had challenged the legitimacy of the parliament even when it had been elected months after the date mentioned in the constitution.

“We need to ensure that the person who is elected by the popular vote of the people takes the oath as the president. Not someone who has found their way to it by deception and cheating. Right now, we are no longer sure whether it is the person who the people voted is taking the office,” Saeed told the court.

Saeed also requested the court issue an order to the police to investigate the party’s allegations of electoral fraud.

EC’s counter argument

EC Lawyer and former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood responded to Saeed’s arguments claiming the Attorney General’s acknowledgment of issues during the voting process did not substantiate the JP’s baseless allegations.

He repeated his arguments claiming that the JP has till to this day, failed to produce any substantial evidence to support their claims, let alone annul the elections.

Suood also claimed that the General Elections Act – the parent legislation on general election procedures and issues – did not envision the annulment of an entire election, but rather only allows the annulment of the results of ballot boxes in which discrepancies were proven in court.

He claimed that factors that could lead to annulment of the results of a ballot box were criminal offences such as bribery and illegal influencing of voting, and therefore any claim of electoral discrepancies must be proved by the standard of proof required for criminal offences: beyond reasonable doubt.

Suood also reiterated that the JP’s claim that its evidence was based on information obtained from the party’s own hotline and private investigations lacked any value as evidence, and that it was not sufficient to annul elections.

He also criticised the request made by the Attorney General Azima Shukoor to order the Elections Commission to suspend holding the run-off elections until the issues had been resolved, describing it as a request for an indefinite order that could put the entire state in a state of limbo.

Suood also claimed that if the Supreme Court went on to issue such an order as requested by the Attorney General, it would lead to the suspension of the entire constitution.

“We are not aligned towards the JP” – Attorney General Azima Shukoor

Speaking during the hearing, Attorney General Azima Shukoor told the court that the State was not taking sides in the legal dispute between the JP and the EC, while maintaining that it had not admitted to any claims made by the JP.

However, the Attorney General repeated her claims that the AG’s Office had come across discrepancies in the voter registry published by the EC prior to the election.

“There were names of underage people in the list. There were names repeated in the list. Unless these issues are not resolved before holding the second round of the elections, rights of many voters will be undermined,” Shukoor told the court.

She also claimed that the State should and would be concerned when a group of 50,000 people came up to it seeking justice.

“What is happening here is that one party is claiming that there were discrepancies in the voting process while the other party is simply questioning the authenticity of the claim,” Shukoor said.

“How can those allegations be verified unless the Elections Commission allows access to the information of the voting? Here, we are speaking about one party who has the information but is refusing to share it in order to verify the claims,” Shukoor claimed.

She also questioned the panel of judges as to whether the EC should go on to hold the second round of elections with the allegations and claims unanswered.

However, the Attorney General claimed that she still had faith in the Elections Commission’s ability to resolve the issues, but said this could only be done if the commission gave up its “defensive approach” and showed openness to look into the claims.

Shukoor also said the Attorney General’s decision to intervene in the case was only to bring the issues it had found to the notice of the judges and to seek a remedy to them, and that the government did not wish to take a stand on whether the election should be annulled or not.

Meanwhile, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s lawyers told the court that the party had accepted the outcome of the results and had not come up with any discrepancies during the elections that would affect the outcome.

The party also echoed similar sentiments as that of the EC’s lawyer Suood, claiming that the JP’s evidence could not be considered as admissible evidence by the courts.

The next hearing will be held on Thursday morning (September 19) at 11:00am.


Police confirm no documents affecting election outcome found in EC’s trash

Chair of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek has rejected allegations from the Jumhooree Party that it had disposed of official documents relating to the presidential election, after police last night acted on the JP’s claim and barricaded the commission.

The JP came third in the September 7 election with 24 percent of the vote, narrowly missing out on a place in the run-off election.

Police barricaded the entrance to the EC secretariat in the early hours on Monday morning, after the JP alleged the commission was attempting to destroy documents “that would unveil discrepancies in the last elections”.

When Minivan News journalists arrived at the premises, police had barricaded the road which led to the EC’s office, and put up police lines around a couple of black plastic bags that had been intended to be thrown out as garbage.

EC officials – including the commission’s Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar – were standing outside. Police officers in both uniform and civilian dress were standing outside the premises.

An official of the commission who was inside the building confirmed to Minivan News the police had not entered the building.

When asked about the trash bags left outside the premises, the official said nothing important was inside.

“Like every office, we too have papers that need to be thrown away. Those bags had just shredded waste paper. I don’t understand why people are making such a big fuss out of it,” the official told Minivan News.

At about 10:45am, a police truck came to the premises and took away the garbage.

A police media official confirmed to Minivan News that the trash bags were currently under police guard, and said they were now “processing” the bags.

“The case was reported to police by the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the police were present at the premises from the time the matter was reported,” the official confirmed.

In a subsequent press statement, police confirmed no documents that would affect election results were found among those disposed of by the elections commission.

Meanwhile Ibrahim Khaleel, Spokesperson for JP’s Presidential Candidate and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, told Villa Television (VTV) – a station owned by Gasim – said the party had reported the matter to police around 3:00am in the morning.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru regarding the matter, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the commission used draft documents for administrative purposes, noting that such documents were unofficial documents that had no legal effect.

Thowfeek said the papers spotted in the trash bags were such draft documents and that this was not “something new”. Some of those papers, he said, would include empty envelopes.

“It is our legal duty to protect official documents relating to the elections. Those that people are claiming to have seen are just draft documents. Those were not used for any election purpose. We are very certain about that. We regularly throw away used papers and rough documents,” Thowfeek told Haveeru.

Thowfeek said he had learned that the trash bag may have included a slip issued after voter re-registration, and said this may have been thrown away.

The EC Chair also said the commission had given permission to police to check the contents of the trash bags in the presence of EC officials.

“We have informed the police that they can check the trash bags to assure themselves as to whether they contain any official documents relating to the election. We are looking after the documents regarding the presidential elections round the clock. We have not thrown away any official documents and the allegations levied against us are outright lies,” Thowfeek explained.

Thowfeek went onto claim that such allegations levied against the commission at such a critical time were made with the intent to undermine  public trust and confidence in the institution. Such baseless allegations would not deter the commission members from executing their legal duties, Thowfeek added.

“We assure you that we have not done and will not do anything to manipulate the outcome of any election. We will fully protect all documents relating to the elections and the voting process,” Thowfeek claimed.

The conduct of the election has been broadly praised by local and international election observers from Transparency Maldives, India and the Commonwealth, as well as observers from other nation states.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives – which ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – also announced prior to the release of the provisional results that none of the incidents reported on election day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.

The UK and the EU have both issued statements praising the conduct of Saturday’s presidential election, describing them as “transparent and competitive”.


High Court rejects JP request for order to stop announcement of official results

The High Court has rejected the Jumhoree Party (JP)’s request for an injunction seeking the halting of the Elections Commission (EC)’s announcing of the official results for last Saturday’s presidential election.

The High Court ruling (Dhivehi) stated that there were no grounds to grant the stay order based both on the reasons argued in the case filed by the JP as well as the regulations and guidelines for issuing injunctions. The three judges who made the ruling were Judge Abdul Gani Mohamed, Judge Ali Sameer and Judge Abdul Raoof Ibrahim.

The JP request was made in a case filed by the party seeking a court order to compel the EC to release the voters list from Saturday’s election. Election regulations require a court order before the registry can be released.

The provisional results of the election showed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finishing the race on top with 45.45 percent of the popular vote or 95,224 votes. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate MP Abdulla Yameen came second with 53,099 votes – 42,125 votes less than the MDP – while the JP led by resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim secured 50,422 votes to finish the race in third position. Incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan finished the race at the bottom with 10,750 votes – 5.13 percent of the popular vote.

As former President Nasheed fell short of the 50 percent plus one vote required for a first round victory, the MDP candidate will face the runner up Abdulla Yameen in a second round run-off on September 28.

JP complaints

Shortly before the provisional results were announced in the early hours of September 8, the JP challenged the results, later contending that the vote had been rigged in favour of both the PPM and MDP.

The party filed a case at the High Court on Tuesday (September 10) requesting an order for the EC to hand over copies of voter lists and result sheet of all ballot boxes.

The High Court however initially refused to accept the case citing incomplete documentation. The JP subsequently refiled the case with completed paperwork yesterday (September 11).

A member of the JP’s legal team, Mohamed Haleem, said the party had acquired ample evidence to prove the alleged discrepancies and irregularities, which included expatriates and dead people appearing on the voters list, use of multiple designs of ballot papers and double voting.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News on Tuesday that the JP’s claims were “baseless and unfounded”.

“The allegations by the Jumhoree Party are wasting our time actually. They don’t understand democracy or how to accept defeat, it’s a very unfortunate thing,” Thowfeek told Minivan News. “People who cannot accept defeat should not face an election,”

“Gasim wants to tell people that he has more than 50,000 supporters, but the 50,422 [who voted for him] are his real support, he should be grateful to the people who voted for him. There is no way he’s going to find any more, even if a recount is conducted,” Thowfeek said.

Speaking at the party’s main meeting hall in Maafanu Kunooz last night, Gasim said the JP has written to the EC requesting a recount of all 470 ballot boxes in the presence of observers as provided for in the election laws.
“We have doubts to a very high degree. Vote [ballot papers] were printed. Dead people were doubled [on the voters registry],” he said.
Gasim also expressed confidence of obtaining a favourable ruling from the High Court or upon appeal at the Supreme Court and praised the judiciary as “the life of the country.”

“We know judges will bring justice for us,” he said.

Despite the allegations of wrongdoing, international observers, including those from the EU, Commonwealth, UK, US and India, praised the conduct of Saturday’s presidential election, describing them as “transparent and competitive”.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) – who ran the most comprehensive observation operation on election day – announced that none of the incidents reported on September 7 would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.

TM said in a statement that all candidates “were well-represented during the counting, making the process transparent and adding to its credibility.”

Gasim Ibrahim was represented at 73.7 percent of polling stations during the vote count. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was represented at 29.6 percent of polling stations during the vote count. Abdulla Yameen was represented at 74.2 percent of polling stations during the vote count. Mohamed Nasheed was represented at 91.5 percent of polling stations during the vote count,” the TM statement stated.

“While only 0.22 percent of ballot papers were disputed by the candidate/party observers during counting, in the vast majority of polling stations (85.5 percent), the counting concluded without any controversy.”

The EC has since invited applications for voter re-registration and revealed that 500 new voters will be eligible to cast their ballots on September 28.

Third parties

The opposition MDP meanwhile joined the JP’s High Court case today – which has been scheduled to begin on Sunday at 1:20pm – as a third party while the PPM has told local media that the party was also considering joining the case.

MDP’s Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy confirmed to Minivan News that the party had decided to join JP’s case as it involved the legitimate interests of the party and presidential candidate, former President Nasheed.

The PPM meanwhile said that its election observers had also noted irregularities during the vote.

Vice presidential candidate of PPM, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, told local newspaper Haveeru that the basis of JP’s case had been derived from a previous Supreme Court case lodged by member of PPM’s Appeal Committee Ahmed Zaneen Adam.

“[The case] involves issues first highlighted by the PPM [in the Supreme Court case]. It is very important to verify the authenticity of the allegations [made by JP]. We hope that the court would make a quick and prompt decision,” Jameel told Haveeru.

Among the inconsistencies observed by the PPM’s election observers, Jameel claimed, included double voting and the election officials at polling stations being biased and prejudiced towards a “certain candidate” while announcing the election results.

The former Home Minister also raised concern over the “aggressive responses” given in the media by the members of EC regarding the issues. Jameel argued that EC members should not be personal in responding to complaints filed by candidates and other stakeholders regarding the election.


High Court rejects Jumhoree Party’s case contesting election result

The High Court has rejected a case filed by the Jumhoree Party(JP) seeking the release of the voters list and result sheets in the first round of presidential elections held on Saturday, in which its candidate Gasim Ibrahim polled third by just over one percent.

In a short statement, the High Court said the case did not fit the situations stipulated in article 64 of the Elections Act of 2008. Under provision 17(f) election regulations, the Elections Commission (EC) cannot release this information without a court order.

While local and international election observers have broadly praised the conduct of Saturday’s presidential elections, Gasim has contested the results and called for a criminal investigation of the Chair and Vice Chair of the EC for allegedly tampering with the outcome.

Gasim Ibrahim declared at a press conference yesterday that he would not accept the results released by the EC, contesting that the vote had been rigged and that his party’s officials had come across several discrepancies during the ballot.

The presidential poll showed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finishing at the top of the race, securing 95,224 votes (45.45 percent while Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen securing 53,099 (25.35 percent) to finish second.

Gasim Ibrahim finished the race at third place securing 50,422 votes (24.07 percent) while incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan received 10,750 votes, finishing last with 5.13 percent of popular vote.

The EC has maintained that the commission did not consider the complaints credible while Vice Chair of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz described the accusations levied against the commission as “ridiculous” and “baseless”.

In a press conference on Tuesday – shortly after filing the case at the High Court – Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Ahmed Ilham said that the party will not let the Chair of the commission Fuwad Thowfeek “do whatever he wants with the votes” while everyone had been talking about the importance of “nationalism and Islam”.

“We have our dogs inside Elections Commission. By dogs, we mean informers who inform as about what is going on inside the Elections Commission. Don’t you dare touch a single ballot paper inside there, we will chop off the hands of those who do so,” said Ilham.

Gasim’s spokesperson Ibrahim Khaleel told the press that the party will not back down and would do everything it can to seek justice “even if the commission goes on to hold the run-off election.”

“The Head of State must call for a nation-wide investigation in order to maintain the credibility of the entire electoral process,” said Khaleel.

Khaleel also lambasted the Vice Chair of Elections Commission Fayaz Ahmed, whom Khaleel alleged was sharing confidential information with personal friends.

“Following a meeting with us and the Elections Commission, this Fayaz had told his friends that we talked to the members of the Elections Commission very rudely. Does he have to tell his friends that? What kind of professionalism is this?” Khaleel questioned.

“How come the meeting minutes of Elections Commission are being shared among his personal friends? You don’t take matters of work to home,” he added.

Khaleel also alleged that Elections Commission have “begun a special operation to cover up their wrong doings and fraud”. He also appealed the police to intervene and “help the people get justice”.

Khaleel also echoed similar sentiments as his party leader Gasim Ibrahim, who claimed that he should have finished the race in first place, had the election been “not rigged”.

“We have a team of highly trained campaign experts who consist of PhD holders and other intellectuals who have been trained by Gasim Ibrahim. We also had international experts on our team. The team had estimated that Gasim would gain at least 68,000 votes even in the worst case scenario. We know there is something wrong. We will uncover the whole plot,” Khaleel said.

JP MP Ilham called on the members of Election Commission to “honourably resign” and allow police to intervene and investigate the matter.

“I urge all commission members who did not partake in this scandal to come out to media and tell the public that they are ready to allow police to intervene and investigate. If you don’t do so, you will forever be labelled as traitors who betrayed our beloved nation,” Ilham said.

JP’s alleged discrepancies

The discrepancies which the JP alleges include: double voting, votes cast in the name of people who died prior to the election, inaccurate voter registry, lack of transparency during ballot counting, election officials being biased and aligning themselves towards MDP candidate Nasheed and PPM candidate Yameen.

Speaking during a rally held last Monday, Gasim claimed that 20,000 people had bypassed the rules and regulations and cast their votes “unlawfully”.

The resort tycoon also said that he had obtained more than 70,000 votes during Saturday’s election, but claimed the EC had reduced the number to 50,000.

If the EC had not done so, Gasim  claimed, he would have been leading the poll and MDP candidate former President Nasheed would have been trailing behind him. Gasim alleged that the EC robbed JP of 20,000 votes and gifted them to the MDP.

“I will never forgive this atrocity carried out by the Elections Commission. I will never forgive them ever,” Gasim said, during the rally.

Gasim also called on the members of the EC to “resign and go home” if they were unable to execute their duties.

Reflecting on the court case, Gasim said that he hoped that the High Court and the Supreme Court would not refuse to give him and his supporters the justice they were seeking.

“My plea to the court is to speed up cases filed regarding these critical issues. To look into it and give a just judgement. I don’t believe the courts will decide wrongly on this matter,” Gasim said.

The JP leader also noted that it was too early to talk about coalitions, but the party would decide of this after the matter of its defeat was decided in the courts.

“Currently, there are no candidates that I should endorse,” Gasim said. “By the will of Allah, Gasim Ibrahim will be sworn in as the next president on November 11.”

Meanwhile, during the same rally, former deputy leader of PPM Umar Naseer – who backed Gasim in the poll – accused the commission of giving MDP members 30,000 additional ballot papers to tamper with the outcome of the election.

EC was “well prepared” for poll, say international observers amidst accusations

Despite the allegations, international observers have broadly praised the conduct of Saturday’s election, notably the peaceful voting throughout the day and preparedness of the Elections Commission.

“It is clear that the Elections Commission was logistically well-prepared for this election. Election material was distributed in time to the atolls and overall the process was well-administered. It was positively noted that significant majority of polling officials were women,” read a statement given by the former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi who led the Commonwealth’s observer group.

Meanwhile J M Lyngdoh of the Indian team of election observers stated that the “polling was orderly and unblemished by any notable incident. It was also an enjoyable experience for the voter.”

“The voters’ lists were accurate and prominently displayed. The ballot boxes were opened and closed as per the scheduled time. The discipline, patience and dignity of the voter and the sheer competence, industry and cheerfulness of the election staff were quite admirable. The police were ubiquitous but discreetly non-intrusive,” Lyngdoh noted in his statement.

The US also congratulated the Maldives on the conduct of the first round of voting with US State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf noting that “The very high voter turnout showed the strong commitment of the people of Maldives to democratic government”.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives – who ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – had earlier announced that none of the incidents reported on election day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.

Transparency Maldives Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said in 14.5 percent of ballot boxes where controversy occurred during counting, these would not have impacted the overall outcome of the first placed candidate.

As neither of the four candidates who contested in Saturday’s election were able to obtained the required ’50 percent plus one vote’ to secure a first round election victory, the Elections Commission has announced that a run-off election will take place on September 28.


Development pointless without peace, freedom and happiness: PPM Yameen

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen has told the population of Kudahuvadhoo that development is “pointless if people can’t relax.”

“The end result of all this effort, of constructing harbours, and sending our children to school, should be to ensure that people can relax and live in peace, happiness and freedom. Otherwise there’s no point in doing all this,” Yameen was reported as saying during a campaign rally.

The PPM candidate is also said to have urged voters to say no to politicians who disturb the peace and make unrealistic promises.

Yameen’s comments echo his prior argument that the worst kind of extremism in the Maldives is the encroachment on other people’s rights.

The comments follow the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) pledge to implement 137 development projects worth MVR 30 billion (US$1.9 billion) over five years by the PPM’s primary opponent.

In the party’s detailed ‘Costed and Budgeted’ manifesto, former President – and current candidate – Mohamed Nasheed explained that the manifesto included 51,000 job opportunities, a savings scheme for higher education, a student loan scheme, a MVR2000 (US$129) allowance for every single parent and person with special needs, and an allowance of MVR2300 (US$149) for the elderly.

Nasheed also pointed out the importance of introducing a development bank in the Maldives.

“Take a look, this manifesto will not contain even a single policy which has not been accounted for. Even if we are asked to submit a budget to the parliament by tomorrow, we are ready to do so,” Nasheed told a crowd of 8,000 on Saturday (August 24).

The current government’s  – of which the PPM is a partner – decided to suspend development projects this year after the state was found to have exhausted its annual budget for recurrent expenditure (including salaries, allowances and administration costs) in the first quarter of 2013.

President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan has blamed the current economic situation on the excesses of the Nasheed government.

The decision was made in same month that currency reserves in the Maldives were found to have “dwindled to critical levels”, according to the World Bank’s biannual South Asia Economic Focus report.

Criticisms made by Yameen in Kudahuvadhoo were also addressed at the MDP rally earlier in the week, with Nasheed railing against politicians who campaign by promising gifts to certain individuals and communities.

Jumhoree Party (JP) candidate Ibrahim Gasim has come under fire from both the MDP and the PPM this week, with PPM spokesman Ahmed Nihan describing the JP’s campaign as effectively “dumping money” in certain parts of the country.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom also travelled to Kudahuvadhoo as the campaign entered its final ten days. The PPM leader told the island’s people that the “shattered” economy could only be mended by his half-brother Yameen.

“Our economy is seriously damaged and destroyed. This is not the way it should be, and this is not how it was before either,” said Gayoom.

After succeeding Gayoom, Nasheed was said to have inherited “the most challenging macroeconomic situation of all democratic transitions that have occurred since 1956”, according to the World Bank.


Maldives NGO Federation criticises political parties attacks on Elections Commission

Additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer

The Maldives NGO Federation has expressed concern that political parties are attempting to discredit the Elections Commission (EC) by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.

The Maldives NGO Federation, representing over 60 local civil society organisations, issued a press release Sunday (August 18) that declared their confidence in the EC and noted the essential role the commission has played in holding free and fair elections over the past five years.

The organisation also highlighted concerns that some political parties have been trying to discredit the EC “so close” to the scheduled September 7 election.

“We are concerned about attacks by political parties on the Elections Commission,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News today (August 19).

The organisation has called on all the political parties and government institutions not to do anything that will that will obstruct the EC from holding free and fair elections.

Furthermore, the NGO Federation appealed to everyone to cooperate with the EC to ensure the upcoming presidential election is free and fair.

Political party complaints, threats of legal action

The NGO Federation’s appeal follows a series of complaints about the EC issued by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhoree Party (JP).

The PPM has claimed their concerns with the EC have gone “unaddressed” and so are now seeking a legal resolution, PPM vice presidential candidate and former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told local media in Addu City yesterday (August 18).

While Jameel did not explain what the PPM’s specific course of action against the EC will be, he noted that the party was questioning the commission’s independence for three reasons.

“The first and the biggest problem is the questions surrounding the validity of the electoral register. In that regard, problems had been noted similar to what happened before. The reason is whether the IT system established in that place is secure enough to ensure that no one can alter the list. But they couldn’t give us that assurance,” Jameel said.

“On top of that, we hear that outsiders are active inside the elections commission. Such things create more apprehension. But so far it remains unclear what their purpose is,” he added.

Last week, PPM and JP filed a complaint against the EC’s Legal Director Haneefa Khalid, for alleged political tweeting ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

Mahloof singled out one he claimed had offended PPM President and former 30-year autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The EC is currently investigating the matter and said it will take administrative action should it find the need to do so.

PPM Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof told local media the party’s main concern was that Khalid was the wife of Dr Ahmed Ashraf, who contested the by-election of parliament’s Ungoofaaru constituency on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ticket following the murder of sitting MP Dr Afrashim Ali. The election was won by the PPM by a narrow margin of 81 votes.

On the same day, the Attorney General’s office began probing a disciplinary case concerning Khalid following a complaint filed against her by the Maldives Police Service (MPS). The MPS filed the complaint after Khalid “addressed the police disrespectfully” while she was inside a Male’ jail meeting a client whom she had been representing in court, according to local media.

In early August, PPM and JP lodged a complaint with the EC expressing their fears foreign nationals will have access to the Maldives’ voter database for upcoming polling, as it seeks assistance from Indian IT professionals to set up software to help oversee future council elections.

In response, the EC met with a “combined team” representing the JP and PPM to dismiss any fears, adding that only local EC staff had access to sensitive information and the commission’s security systems.

“We explained to them that the Indian team would not be working on systems being used for the upcoming presidential election. They will instead be providing assistance to help develop a program for future elections,” said EC President Fuwad Thowfeek.

The PPM and JP had challenged the possibility of holding free and fair elections scheduled for September 7 this year if foreigners could access the electoral database and other systems, local media reported previously.

Additionally, in late July the PPM requested the EC not reject voter registration forms missing details such as the name of a voter’s parents or a phone number, that could not be verified during random checks.

The EC rejected the request to make voter registration more “lenient” and noted at the time that no “official complaints” had been filed with the commission over its ability to capably oversee the upcoming presidential election, despite the PPM alleging in local media that it was incapable of ensuring a fair vote.

PPM Council member and Youth Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef was quoted in local media the same week calling for “major reforms” to the commission, which he alleged lacked the capacity to oversee fair voting.


JP, PPM file complaint against EC Legal Director for “political tweeting”

The Elections Commission (EC) has said it is investigating complaint filed by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhoree Party (JP) against its Legal Director Haneefa Khalid, for alleged political tweeting ahead of the upcoming Presidential Elections.

The JP and PPM filed multiple complaints at the Elections Complaint that included Khalid’s “politicised” tweets. Other complaints involved a group of Indian IT specialists working at the commission, and issues concerning voter registration.

Speaking to local media after filing the complaint, PPM Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof said the party’s main concern was that Khalid was the wife of Dr Ahmed Ashraf, who contested the by-election of parliament’s Ungoofaaru constituency on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ticket following the murder of sitting MP Dr Afrashim Ali. The election was won by the PPM by a narrow margin of 81 votes.

Other grounds for the complaint filed against Khalid, Mahloof said, included her allegedly “politicised” tweets, and singled out one he claimed had offended PPM President and 30 year autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“When Gayoom got the [country’s highest civilian honour] Haneefa tweeted that the award was ‘tainted with blood’,” Mahloof said. Gayoom was awarded the Nishaan Ghaazeege Izzaiytheri Veriyaa (NGIV) on the Maldives’ independence day this year.

Minivan News observed that Khalid did not make the remarks herself, but had instead shared a YouTube video of a report on Gayoom’s award aired by opposition-aligned TV station Raajje Television, titled “The Highest Honour tainted in blood”.

Mahloof told the media that it was completely “unacceptable” for a person in such a position to tweet such political remarks and claimed this would affect the credibility of the presidential elections.

Speaking during a press conference on Sunday, the Vice President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said  the commission would look into the matter and would take administrative action should it find the need to do so.

“We have received the complaint. We will take action after looking into it,” he said.

On the same day, local newspaper Haveeru reported that the Attorney General’s office had begun probing into a disciplinary case concerning Khalid following a complaint filed against her by the police.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham told the newspaper that no comment could be give to media as the case is still under investigation.

Haveeru claimed the police filed the complaint after Khalid “addressed the police disrespectfully” while she was inside Male’ jail meeting a client whom she had been representing in court.

It further alleged that Khalid had been acting as the defense counsel of a man accused of robbing US$122,000 from the Relax Inn Hotel, and had yelled “Money, money” at the officers present at the jail implying that police had robbed the hotel themselves and were attempting to frame her client.

A police media official told Minivan News the matter had been “brought to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office”.

“Yesterday, lawyer Haneefa Khalid while inside Male’ jail disrespectfully addressed the police officers and therefore we have brought this to the attention of the Attorney General’s office,” said the official.

Minivan News was unable to contact Haneefa Khalid at time of press.


Leaked photo allegedly depicts Deputy Transport Minister in Colombo casino

Local media outlet Channel News Maldives (CNM) has published a leaked photograph circulating on social media apparently showing Deputy Minister of Transport Ibrahim Nazim in a casino.

The report claimed that the photograph was taken in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The television behind the individual alleged to be Nazim in its bottom corner says “Welcome to Bellagio”, a Colombo casino.

CNM also reported that police were currently verifying the matter.

However, a police spokesperson disputed the claim stating that police had not formally “received any reports regarding such a case”.  He also refused to comment on CNM’s allegation that police were trying to verify the authenticity of the photograph.

The contentious photo believed to be of former PPM activist, Deputy Minister of Transport Ibrahim Nazim (far right)

MvYouth, an online newspaper affiliated with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – Nazim’s former party prior to his defection to Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party – reported that the photograph had been taken while Nazim was on a campaign trip to Colombo with the JP.

Nazim was considered a senior PPM activist who backed the party’s ousted Deputy Leader Umar Naseer during the party’s presidential primaries, but subsequently gave his full support to Abdulla Yameen after he defeated Naseer in the election.

Following Umar Naseer’s announcement of his support for Gasim, Nazim resigned from his position as PPM’s Youth Wing leader and signed up with the JP, backing Gasim’s candidacy.

The photograph was leaked less than a week after the JP launched its “Religion and Nationalism Policy”, pledging that a future government under Gasim Ibrahim would strengthen Islamic faith and nationalism, particularly among young people.

Minivan News was unable to get a comment from Nazim as his phone was switched off at time of press.

The Jumhoree Party has meanwhile dismissed the leaked photograph as a “fake” claiming that it was PPM “propaganda”.

Speaking to Minivan News, JP Spokesperson Moosa Rameez claimed that “in this technological world, editing a photo is very simple.”

“You will have seen a man wearing his underwear outside flying on TV who is called Superman. You will have seen a man releasing web from his wrists called Spiderman. See all these are made and they are videos. We are talking about a still photograph here. How simple would it be to edit one?” Rameez told Minivan News.

Rameez said he believed the PPM was behind the whole scandal and was attempting to take revenge after Nazim left the party to support the Jumhoree Alliance.

“When a man’s wife whom he loves gets a divorce and leaves him, he will start talking thinks bad about her. Likewise, that young boy Jameel (PPM presidential candidate Yameen’s running mate, Dr Mohamed Jameel) cannot digest the decision. Why else would they try to defame someone who worked with them before?” he said.

Rameez alleged the PPM had become “desperate” after realising that Gasim and former President Nasheed were the only two candidates who had any chance of winning the upcoming elections.

“I am sure Yameen and Jameel are behind this. This is part of their propaganda,” he alleged.