Second round of voting in council elections scheduled for February 15

A second round of voting in the local council elections will take place in four islands on February 15, the Elections Commission (EC) has announced.

Speaking at a press conference held yesterday to announce official results of the January 18 polls, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said a second round was needed in four island council races where candidates in fifth place were tied with the same number of votes.

Run-of elections will take place in Haa Alif Muraidhoo, Baa Fehendhoo, Raa Maakurath and Gaaf Alif Kodey.

Thowfeek also revealed that the EC has annulled the results of the Noonu Miladhoo island council election after it emerged that disappearing ink might have been used.

Following an investigation by the National Complaints Bureau, the EC decided that the issue could have affected the outcome of the vote, Thowfeek said.

In addition to Miladhoo, voting for the Gaaf Alif Villigili constituency atoll council seats has also been scheduled for February 15.

The Villigili poll was delayed by the EC to afford a candidate adequate time to campaign after his disqualification by the commission was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The candidate in question had however withdrawn his candidacy following the EC’s decision to delay the poll.

On the second round of voting, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik told the press that ballot boxes will be placed in the islands and Male’.

Manik added that the commission had not made a decision concerning voters in the constituencies registered to vote elsewhere in the country.

However, the EC cannot allow re-registration for the second round, Manik said.

Victory for MDP amidst low turnout

EC President Thowfeek also revealed that the turnout on January 18 was 64.5 percent, down from the 70 percent turnout in the first local council elections that took place in February 2011.

Of 240,220 eligible voters, 154,942 voters cast their ballots, Thowfeek noted.

While turnout in some islands exceeded 80 percent, participation in some constituencies of the capital was as low as 30 percent.

A total of 2,463 candidates contested in the January 18 polls for 1,100 seats – 951 island council seats, 132 atoll council seats, and 17 city council seats.

Thowfeek noted that 72 female councillors were elected in the second local council elections, which accounted for six percent of the winning candidates.

According to the official results, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won the most number of seats.

The main opposition party fielded 901 candidates and won 458 seats, including eight out of 11 seats in the Male’ City Council and all six seats of the Addu City Council. The two cities together account for 40 percent of the voting population.

The MDP also performed well in other population hubs such as Kulhudhufushi in the north and Fuvahmulah in the south.

The ruling ‘Progressive Coalition’ – composed of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – fielded 934 candidates and won 456 seats.

The PPM took 277 seats, followed by the JP with 123 seats and the MDA with 56 seats.

Of the 543 independent candidates, 133 were elected. The Adhaalath Party meanwhile fielded 83 candidates and secured 45 seats.

The religious conservative party campaigned independently of the government coalition as it was not an official coalition partner with a formal agreement.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party meanwhile fielded two candidates and won one council seat.


MDP councils must cooperate with government developments: President’s Office

The President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has called on the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) majority councils to cooperate with the government’s development plans.

Speaking to local media on Monday, Muaz said the MDP majority councils should focus on working with the government to bring development to the citizens.

According to a Minivan News analysis of the local council election results, the MDP has gained a majority in 79 councils and won 457 seats. The ruling coalition which include the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) control 57 councils and won a combined total of 465 seats.

Muaz specifically called on the MDP led Malé City and Addu City Councils to extend cooperation to the government at a time when President Abdulla Yameen’s administration is initiating major development projects.

“The government will of course always respect the decision of the citizens. However, those people who got elected to councils must bear in mind that today the people desire to overcome political turmoil and focus on bringing development to their cities and islands,” Muaz said.

The Elections Commission (EC) completed announcing the preliminary results of the local councils yesterday.

PPM’s view

PPM’s Local Council Election Coordinator Mohamed Ashmali expressed confidence that the local councils, regardless of party affiliation, would work together in the interests of developing their areas.

“I would like to believe that we will see cooperation from the councils. We saw that even in parliament, MDP provided cooperation in passing some bills key to the government and I believe we will see such cooperation even from the councils,” Ashmali stated.

“The councils must communicate with and work together with whichever government is in power in order to do what they must for their constituencies. There are people who are very close to us in other senses in various parties. Political affiliation is a completely different matter anyway,” he said.

“I think the Maldivian people are still a bit new to the party system, but we are seeing a gradual improvement.”

Ashmali said that as the coalition had worked together in the local council elections, it is important to compare results between the MDP and then the coalition as a single unit, instead of separate parties.

“According to our review of the tentative results, coalition partners mainly got the island and atoll councils. In Addu City, it is true we were not able to conduct sufficient work. The turnout there was also relatively quite low – approximately 60 percent. However, compared to previous years, I believe that having gotten three seats in the Malé City council is quite a good achievement,” he stated.

“I did even suggest to Fuwad Thowfeek [Elections Commission President] that the EC places a ballot box for residents of the island, and a single separate box for voters in an island who originate from other constituencies. This would have assisted in getting the preliminary results out much faster. By just counting the boxes specific to each constituency, citizens and parties would have learnt sooner which seats had been won or lost. This is the information which the parties would most pressingly need after an election,” he added.

No manifesto

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed that the party’s approach would be to focus on holding the government accountable and to remain a responsible opposition.

“The councils will display a healthy mix of being a responsible opposition and holding the government accountable,” Hamid said.

“The issue that may arise is that while government asks for cooperation, they don’t even have a manifesto to show. This will cause local councils to ask them what it is that they want cooperation for. That it is unclear what exactly the government plans to do,” he continued.

“The thing, however, is that the culture of the past system is still prevailing in the government’s approach. They tend to treat local councils in the manner they approached the former island chief systems, and tend to ignore the fact that councillors are elected and not appointed like island chiefs, and the fact that councillors have a legal mandate and rights,” Hamid said.


Nasheed threatens impeachment after MDP wins in Addu, Malé cities

Following the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) win in Malé and Addu cities, former President Mohamed Nasheed has predicted an MDP majority in parliamentary elections scheduled for March and threatened to impeach President Abdulla Yameen.

MDP appears to have won all six of the local government seats in Addu City and eight of the 11 Malé City seats. Results for the remaining 1083 island and atoll council seats are rolling in.

Speaking at a press conference tonight, Nasheed predicted the MDP will win approximately 700 of the 1100 local government seats and said he believed the Maldivian citizens continued to hope for an MDP administration.

“The Maldivian citizens still want an MDP government, and for Maldives to be ruled according to MDP’s philosophy. I would like to tell the Maldivian public, do not be disheartened. God willing, without much delay, we will take over the government,” he said.

Nasheed had lost November’s controversial presidential elections narrowly, winning 48.61 percent of the vote (105,181) to Yameen’s 51.39 percent (111,203) – a difference of just 6,022 votes.

The 2013 presidential elections were marred with repeated and controversial delays after the Supreme Court annulled a widely commended first round of polls.

The apex court then imposed a 16-point electoral guidelines on the Elections Commission (EC), which critics say limit the independent commission’s authority to administer elections and allow political parties and candidates to veto elections.

Nasheed’s threat of impeachment comes after allegations of electoral fraud involving fake national identity cards in the presidential polls.

Elaborating further tonight, Nasheed said: “There are many ways to legally change a government. One of them is through the People’s Majlis. I believe the local council elections indicate the direction the People’s Majlis will go. I believe Maldivians want an MDP majority in the country, and an MDP government in the country.”

“The laws state two methods for changing a government. That is through an election or through a no confidence vote followed by an election. If the Maldivian citizens give us a majority in parliament, then we will be forced to take that no confidence vote,” he continued.

Earlier today, Nasheed said the non-existent voters had been added to the voter registry as part of “efforts to rig the election through the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court’s guideline included a clause ordering the EC to discard its voter registry and compile a new list based on the Home Ministry’s Department of National Registration’s (DNR) database.

Speaking to the media this afternoon, Nasheed said the DNR’s list contained hundreds of eligible voters without photos.

“We suspect very strongly that those without photos are non-existent people. However, they voted in the presidential election,” Nasheed said.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee on Thursday (January 16) that the first list with ID card photos provided by the DNR was missing photos of more than 5,400 people.

However, the DNR provided photos of about 4,000 voters two weeks ago, Thowfeek told MPs, which left the final voter lists without the photos of 1,176 people.

Asked if photos could have been repeated in the DNR list, Thowfeek said the EC could not check and verify the information.


Council elections to continue as scheduled even without candidate signatures

Local council elections will be held as scheduled on 18 January for all councils – with the exception of Villingili constituency of Gaafu Alif Atoll Council – even without the signatures of all candidates voters lists, the Elections Commission (EC) has said today.

EC President Fuwad Towfeek said the elections would be held as planned on Saturday from 7:30am till 4:30pm. He said that the signing of voters lists have been completed for just 81 out of 464 ballot boxes.

“It will be meaningless to continue with just these boxes, so we have decided to continue voting at all boxes,” Thowfeek said.

“Even though it is required we have experienced that it is an impossible task, so holding the election within the legally mandated time frame instead of going on with this would be best for the country,” he said.

The EC noted that all political parties have signed the voters list with the exception of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) who have not signed 62 of the lists. Instead of each candidate signing the lists, the EC has allowed the political parties which the candidates represent to sign on their behalf.

However, independent candidates still have to sign each list on their own, and this, according to EC is the biggest challenge regarding the voters list. Only 147 out of 543 independent candidates competing in the elections have signed the lists so far.

Thowfeek said some candidates have complained about not being able to afford traveling to capital Malé just to sign the lists, and requested the EC to pay for their expenses for staying in the capital.

The EC said they had sought the Attorney General’s legal advice on the matter in order to find a resolution, though the office has twice ignored their request.

Court’s impact on polls

A Supreme Court ruling annulling the first round of presidential elections in 2013 requires that all candidates in an election should sign the voters list at every single box in the country. The EC criticized the guideline as a restriction to carrying out its mandate.

EC President Thowfeek noted that, in contrast to the presidential elections, this election would be much more complex, with 2463 candidates running for a total 1100 seats – 951 island council , 132 atoll council and 17 city council seats.

“In the presidential elections a single ballot paper was used at all boxes, however in this election we are using 268 different ballot papers. Officials and voters should also pay attention to this,” he said.

This, according to Thowfeek, would make it more difficult to get the signatures of all candidates even if the voters lists are sent to each one.

According to the EC, the only council for which the election will be delayed is Gaafu Alifu Atoll Council election – which was delayed following a Supreme Court verdict concerning a candidate rejected by the EC.

The candidacy of Masud Ahmed for the Villingili seat was invalidated based on a Criminal Court document indicating a prior offence. However, when Masud challenged this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the EC decision to reject his candidacy was itself invalid.

While Masud was sentenced for one year’s house arrest in 1995 for sexual misconduct with a then 18 year old, the Criminal Court said he had a record of “sexual abusing a child or ‘outraging modesty’ of a person”. The Supreme Court verdict pointed out that  Masud’s sentence does not fit into either of these categories.

EC member Ali Mohamed Manik said that, since the verdict came while the election was so near and the candidate will require time for his campaign, the Commission has decided to delay the constituency’s election.

Budget Shortage

EC members raised the issue of a budget shortage as a major challenge. Council elections were initially scheduled for December 2013 and so the funds were included in the 2013 budget. The funds were subsequently not included in the 2014 budget.

The total budget proposed by the EC for 2014 was MVR87 million – already cut down from required approximately MVR95 million to fit the ceiling set by the Finance Ministry – and was later reduced to MVR59 million.

The EC says this amount is sufficient for now, though the commission estimates that after the parliamentary elections this year there will not be any money left.

According to the Commission, there is a pending MVR30 million debt after the presidential elections and companies are refusing to issue services on a credit basis or to lend money to EC.

Commission members stated that they were fully prepared for the elections and that elections officials will start leaving for islands and abroad on Thursday.

While acknowledging that all institutions, including the Maldives Police Service, have assured their cooperation, EC President Thowfeek requested all state institutions, political parties, and members of the public to work with the commission to make the local elections a successful one.


PPM “obstructing” elections: MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has alleged that the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had stopped signing voter lists for the January 18 local council elections to “obstruct” the vote.

The PPM claims the party was not given sufficient time to crosscheck 16 voter lists. According to the Elections Commission (EC), 295 independent candidates had also declined to sign lists, claiming they did not have the funds to travel to and stay in Malé for the approval of the register.

Condemning the ruling party’s decision, MDP in a statement today said it believed PPM’s “sudden decision to stop signing voters lists on baseless allegations is part of the party’s continued agenda to obstruct free and fair elections.”

Candidate signatures on voter lists were stipulated by the Supreme Court in its 16 electoral guidelines issued following the annulment of the first round of presidential polls held on September 7, 2013. The EC has described the guidelines as restrictions.

The police stopped a re-vote on October 19, 2013 at the eleventh hour after the PPM and the Jumhooree Party refused to sign voter lists.

The EC has long argued candidates are not required to crosscheck lists, but the Supreme Court had required candidate signatures to ensure the lists present at the polling booths are prepared by the commission.

The Supreme Court’s guidelines effectively give veto over elections to candidates and “undermines the power of the institution and contaminates the electoral process,” the MDP said.

According to the MDP, the Commonwealth – in an unpublished report – has criticised the Supreme Court’s issuance of 16 guidelines as beyond the court’s mandate, arguing that only the People’s Majlis has the legal power to compile such a guideline.

“We do not believe a free and fair election can be held as long as the Supreme Court continues to influence the Elections Commission,” the statement said

The MDP has called on political parties to allow the EC to work independently, and to allow citizens to exercise their vote in a free and fair election without bribery and undue influence.

The Maldives Police Services has previously told local media it will seek legal advice on how to proceed should candidates refuse to sign the lists.

However, speaking to Minivan News today, a police media official said the police will seek advice once the EC reaches a decision. EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the EC is currently discussing the issue.

Fuwad has suggested the EC may hold elections in all the constituencies where lists have been signed.

Speaking to Minivan News on Sunday, Fuwad condemned the PPM’s decision suggesting that the party does not have “good intentions.”

PPM’s coalition partners – the JP, the Adhaalath Party, the Maldives Democratic Alliance (MDA) – and the MDP have completed signing all lists.

“If elections are delayed, it will increase expenditure and present a number of issues. We will not be able to hold elections within the constitutionally mandated deadline,” Fuwad said.

The EC has asked the Attorney General for advice on following Supreme Court guidelines, but has not received an answer yet, said Thowfeek.


PPM refuses to sign voter lists

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has refused to sign voter lists for the January 18 local council elections.

Speaking at a press conference today, campaign team member Mohamed Aslamee said the Elections Commission (EC) had revised 16 voter lists shortly before the deadline for voter registry approval ended at 10:00 pm last night.

The PPM has asked for more time to check the lists.

“For example, if there are problems in 16 lists, then we merge lists of all 462 boxes and check how citizens have been allocated for voting. Their permanent addresses and changed addresses. We have to do mapping on a large scale. This is a technical task. We do not just check the lists within two hours and say that’s alright and sign them,” Aslamee said.

The PPM and its coalition partner Jumhooree Party had refused to sign voter lists in October 2013, resulting in police obstruction of presidential polls at the eleventh hour.

Candidate signature on voter lists was mandated by the Supreme Court in its verdict annulling the first round of the presidential election held in September 2013.  The EC has described the Supreme Court’s guidelines as “restrictions.”

Aslamee said the PPM does not “obstruct” elections and was ready to sign lists given sufficient time.

Speaking to Minivan News, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the JP, the Maldives Democratic Alliance, the Adhaalath Party and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had signed all lists by the deadline.

“If PPM had good intentions, they can also complete signing all lists,” he said.

The EC has long argued candidates are not required to crosscheck lists, but their signatures on lists were to ensure the EC’s lists are present at ballot boxes on voting day, and limit the use of a fabricated list.

Fuwad also said that over 300 of the 440 independent candidates had also been unable to sign voter lists. Independent candidates are unable to incur the cost of travelling to Malé to sign lists or appoint representatives, he said.

The EC will decide on a way forward on Tuesday when the four commission members are present in Malé, he said. EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz is at present in the atolls to oversee a training for EC officials.

“If elections are delayed, it will increase expenditure and present a number of issues. We will not be able to hold elections within the constitutionally mandated deadline,” Fuwad said.

Repeated and controversial delays of the presidential election also resulted in the passing of the constitutionally required deadline for the presidential transition.

Pointing to the parliamentary elections coming up in March, Fuwad said the EC does not have the capacity to hold two “complex” elections at the same time.

The EC has asked the Attorney General for advice on following Supreme Court guidelines, but has not received an answer yet, Fuwad said.


Supreme Court election guidelines will constrain local council polls: EC

The Supreme Court’s guidelines dictating the electoral process will present “many challenges” in the local council elections scheduled for January 18, Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz has said.

The Supreme Court annulling the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 delineated 16 guidelines including obtaining candidate’s signatures on the voter registry, fingerprinted re-registration forms for voters who wish to vote in a location other than their home islands, and police support in transporting ballot boxes and papers.

The EC has previously criticized the guidelines for limiting the powers of the independent state institutions and said the clause stipulating candidate’s signatures on voter lists effectively gives veto power over elections to candidates.

The EC was forced to call off elections scheduled for October 19 when the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhoree Party (JP) refused to sign the voter registry and the police withdrew support in dispatching of ballot boxes and papers to polling stations and obstructed any EC staff from leaving the commission’s offices with any documents.

Fayaz said over 4000 candidates would contest in the local council elections and obtaining their signatures on the voter registry would be the biggest challenge.

However, the EC will continue to adhere to the guidelines as in the past, Fayaz said.

The EC has called for candidates to submit applications between November 25 and December 8.

Candidates must only hold Maldivian citizenship, and be of the Sunni Muslim faith. Full time students or any individual convicted of child abuse or rape or decreed debt cannot stand for local councils.

Local government in the Maldives is a two-tier system, comprising island councils and city councils, which are all accountable to an atoll council.

Every inhabited island in the Maldives – except islands where city councils are established – is governed by an elected island council. City councils are established on islands that have a population over 25,000 people

Island with a population less than 3000 elect five members, those with populations from 3000- 10000 elect seven members and those with populations over 10,000 elect nine members for the councils.

Elections will be held for two city councils in Malé and Addu cities, 20 atoll councils and 66 island councils. There are 17 city council seats for Malé and Addu, 132 atoll council seats and 942 island council seats.

Each island council also has a women’s development committee to advise the island on key women’s issues.

The 2014 polls will be the country’s second attempt at local council elections. The first polls were held in February 2011 and saw a turnout of 70 percent.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) won a majority of the atoll and island councils while the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) took the majority of seats for every major population center.

The councils have the power to charge fees or rents for the services they provide and are allocated funds from the state reserves for office administration, provision or services and development projects.

City and island councils’ responsibilities include providing roads, waste disposal, pest control, water, electricity and sewage systems, primary health care, pre school education, and educational and vocational programs for adults.