EC announces 17 resorts will host ballot boxes

The Elections Commission have announced 17 tourist resorts that will host ballot boxes during the local council elections on February 5.

The Commission said the resorts would be: Hilton Maldives Irufushi Resort and Spa, Kuredhoo Island Resort, Palm Beach Island Resort, Bandos Island Resort and Spa, Taj Exotic Resort and Spa, Paradise Island Resort and Spa, Sharaton Maldives Full Moon Beach Resort and Spa, Baros Maldives, One and Only Reethi Rah, Huvafenfushi Maldives, Olhuveli Beach and Spa, Soneva Gili By Six Senses, Ananthara Dhigu Resort and Spa, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, Kuramathi Island Resort, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and Sun Island Resort and Spa.

The Elections Commission said that these resorts that had registered voters numbering above the minimum of 100 required to host a ballot box.


President Nasheed discharges councillors ahead of local elections

President Mohamed Nasheed has today terminated the positions of appointed councillors ahead of local elections set to take place in February.

Nasheed claimed that the decision to discharge the councillors reflected an attempt to ensure February’s local council elections will be contested in an as “free and fair” manner as possible. The decision was first announced by the president back in September, according to a statement released from his office.

“The people will place one of the biggest responsibilities in national development on the local councils to be elected in February 2011,” read the statement.

“Accordingly, with respect to the powers vested on him under Article 115 of the Constitution, the President has decided to discharge all councillors appointed by him, effective from 26 December 2010.”


Parliament rejects first amendment to constitution

A bill to amend the constitution proposed by Independent MP Ahmed Amir to extend the term of local councils from three years to five was rejected at yesterday’s sitting of parliament.

The first amendment proposed to the constitution did not win the required three quarters majority – 58 votes – to pass.

Of the 55 MPs who participated in the vote, 40 voted in favour and 15 against while two abstained. Three other MPs in attendance did not participate in the vote.

Historic local council elections, which will replace the centuries-old system of island and atoll chiefs appointed by the central government with elected councils, are due to place on February 5, 2011.


EC publishes voter registry for council elections

The Elections Commission (EC) has published the list of eligible voters for the upcoming local council elections on February 5, 2011.

The commission announced yesterday that complaint forms regarding registry issues will now be available from its website and office as well as island and atoll offices.

Following a verification process, an updated list will be published in the government gazette at a later date.

Meanwhile, candidates have been invited to lodge applications starting 9am tomorrow to 4pm on December 8.


DRP proposes bringing council elections forward

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Mohamed Mujthaz proposed an amendment to the Decentralisation Act yesterday to set December 31, 2010 as the deadline for local council elections.

On Sunday, the Elections Commission (EC) announced that local council elections will take place on February 5, 2010 after taking the upcoming school holidays as well as the Hajj Eid festivities into consideration.

The deadline in the Decentralisation Act had elapsed on October 13 while the complementary Local Council Elections Act, ratified on July 29, gave a 122 period for the elections.

Presenting the bill, Mujthaz said that as administrative constituencies were listed by the government after the amendment was proposed, he was willing to withdraw it at a latter stage.

The amendment bill also proposes considering administrative constituencies as listed in the appendix of the Decentralisation Act.

Meanwhile, an amendment to the Act proposed by the government to set the criteria for city status for populations with 10,000 was narrowly rejected at yesterday’s sitting.

While 34 MPs voted in favour of the proposal, 35 voted against and one abstained.


Local council elections scheduled for February 5, 2011

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced that the local council elections will take place on February 5, 2011, two months after the period stipulated in the Local Council Election Act.

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that the commission took into consideration the number of public holidays, including the end of the year school holidays, as well as the rights of candidates.

“If we ignored these holidays and conducted the local council elections, many people will experience difficulties,’’ he said.

He added that the courts and government offices would face difficulties if the EC did not take public holidays into account.

“If the commission decided if a candidate was not eligible, the person would have to file the case at the High Court and the court will determine whether he is eligible,” Fuad explained. “But if that sort of issue was raised when the courts are closed, that would be a much bigger problem. So we decided to hold the elections in February next year.’’

While the constitutional deadline for council elections elapsed in July 2009, enabling legislation for the elections was ratified by President Mohamed Nasheed on July 29, 2010.

The Local Council Elections Act stipulates that elections must take within a 122-day period after ratification.

”Dates are not applied, all the due dates have been passed,” said Fuad. “If we have to conduct it according to the deadlines we cannot do this at all.”

In accordance with the Decentralisation Act, the list of 184 administrative constituencies was published in the government gazette on Thursday.

Following the public referendum on October 9 on the government’s proposal for administrative consolidation, Addu Atoll is listed as a single island.


Legal confusion over local council elections

The government claims to be seeking legal advice concerning issues relating to the local council elections scheduled for October.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said there were contradictory definitions mentioned in the decentralisation and local council acts.

For instance, Hulhudhoo and Meedhu in Addu Atoll are considered two different islands and have their own island offices, but both are located on the same land mass.  Under the decentralisation act,  two islands on the same land or in the same lagoon would be considered one island, Zuhair explained.

“But in the local council elections act island offices are [allocated] for every island. As a result, it is now difficult to determine on which islands councils should be established,’’ he said.

Zuhair said the Elections Commission [EC] would try to hold elections on time, regardless to the issues raised.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom said DRP has already presented a bill to the parliament to resolve the issue.

”We will amend the law to provide power to the citizens, and we might as well amend the constitution if necessary,” said Mausoom. ”In the bill it will determine how the local councils should be established in the controversial islands of Addu Atoll and Fuvamulah.”

In May, the parliament passed legislation on local council elections. The bill was initially passed in such a way that any person who lived out of their birthplace was required to travel to their home island.

Article 4 of the first legislation passed said voters would have to be present in their island of birth or registered constituency in order to cast their ballots.

President Mohamed Nasheed vetoed the bill, claiming a large number of people from the atolls living in Male’ or “40 per cent of the population”, would be deprived of the right to vote if he ratified the bill.

President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


DRP celebrates “beginning of the end” for government

The main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) hosted a rally last night to celebrate its victory in parliament on the decentralisation bill, which was passed yesterday without the model of provinces proposed by the government.

The rally at artificial beach was attended by Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, leader of the Republican Party, as well as MPs of the People’s Alliance.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the passage of the bill with 42 votes in favour was “a very good and important signal” as 39 votes would be needed to override a possible presidential veto.

If the bill becomes law, said Thasmeen, elected island and atoll councils will have decision-making powers on resource allocation and development projects.

“The way the bill has been drafted gives no room for provinces,” he said, claiming there was no public support for the model.

The bill on decentralised administration proposed by the government early last year had been delayed due to an intractable dispute over creating seven provincial councils instead of 20 atoll councils.

Thasmeen denied claims by MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that the wholesale changes made to the bill by the opposition would hinder the development of the atolls.

The leader of the opposition called on DRP supporters to “roll their sleeves” to defeat the government’s candidates for the upcoming local councils.

The Republican Benefactor

Speaking at the rally, Gasim addressed speculation that he was disbanding the Republican Party, declaring that he was there to express gratitude for DRP MPs and celebrate “a victory for the Maldivian people”.

Gasim said he believed the support for creating seven provinces was driven by “self-interest” as it was intended to “shape things to the advantage of one party”.

He added the bill passed yesterday would pave the way for “unimaginable levels of development” for the atolls.

Grinding henna

Ali Waheed, DRP vice-president, said it takes “a lot of effort and grinding to bring out colour from henna leaves”.

Although the party “made a blunder” on the motion of no-confidence against Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed last year, said Ali Waheed, “yesterday we brought out colour from henna leaves”.

The MP for Thohdhoo went through the list of MPs who voted in favour of the bill, praising each individually.

“Today what we played was a national team match,” he said. “It wasn’t a New Radiant match today. It wasn’t a Victory match today. We have seen that if you play for the national team in the political arena, Gasim Ibrahim will be there. We have seen that today that when the national team plays, Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed will be there as well.”

Ali Waheed invited the former legal reform minister to come back to the DRP and relayed a message of congratulations from Nasheed.

The real “mid-term election” would be the upcoming local council elections, said Ali Waheed, calling on all opposition parties to band together to defeat the MDP.

He concluded the speech by praising DRP’s honorary leader: “I would say our Zaeem, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is with us here tonight. The reason is that there’s a full moon tonight and Maumoon is this party’s full moon.”

“Beginning of the end”

Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam said the behaviour of the party that claimed to have ushered in democracy “whenever there’s a democratic vote” had become “a big joke”.

MDP MPs walked out of yesterday’s sitting in protest when none of the party’s amendments won bipartisan support.

Rozaina joined other DRP MPs to thank Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed “in the name of democracy” for staying behind “even if he just kept pressing red”.

If the DRP win the local council elections, said Rozaina, the government would be left with “a hollow shell”.

Umar Naseer, DRP vice-president, said the victory in parliament would mark “the beginning of the end for the government” as it was now “on life support”.

He added the law would also spell the end for “the ganja smoking councillors” and state ministers appointed by the president who have been “terrorising” the islands.

“Today we saw the MDP walk out of Majlis,” he said. “Before too late now, we will see the president walk out of the government.”