EU Election Observation Mission reveals monitoring plans

In preparation for the upcoming People’s Majlis elections, the European Union has implemented a full EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) in order to deter malpractice and support the democratic process.

The mission is led by Chief Observer Eduard Kukan – a member of the European Parliament from Slovakia and former Minister for Foreign affairs. Mr Kukan introduced the EU EOM at a press conference held in Malé today (March 9).

“The mission comprises of five election experts who are being joined by four long-term observers on 9th March. Some 20 short-term observers will be deployed closer to election day,” the statement read.

“This will be the first full EU Election Observation Mission to take place in the Maldives, and I hope that our presence will contribute to a peaceful and inclusive democratic environment for the benefit of the Maldivian people,” Mr Kukan added.

Prior to and during the elections, the observers will meet with everyone involved, and will look at the entire electoral process.

“The findings of the EU elections missions are based on verifying facts following an analysis of all technical aspects,” Mr Kukan noted.

The EOM is to work independently to give an “impartial, balanced and informed analyses of the elections”. In doing so, the mission hopes to monitor the extent to which the election complies with the country’s international democratic commitments and to domestic law.

Their findings will be published in a report intended to strengthen human rights and the rule of law, to deter malpractice, and to improve the electoral environment. The report will also make concrete recommendations to help improve the electoral framework.

The EU was invited to conduct the mission by the Maldives Election Commission (EC). This invitation was independent from any other government organisation, though the EOM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When Mr Kukan was asked if the Supreme Court charges against the EC will affect the forthcoming elections he stated, “we have to be very cautious.”

However, the mission head added that it would be inappropriate to give an assessment or any statement.

This will be the Maldives’ first full EOM, following the EU’s monitoring of the 2013 presidential election which the organisation – along with all monitors, domestic and international – described as “transparent and competitive”.

After the Supreme Court had begun investigating allegations of fraudulent voting, former Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, told the court that positive assessments of the September 7 presidential poll by local and international election observers “do not carry much weight”.

“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.

The Supreme Court subsequently annulled the first round of the election, imposing a set of 16 guidelines upon the future activities of the EC.

A preliminary statement of the current mission’s findings will be announced at a press conference to be held within two days of the elections, which take place on March 22.

Following this, a final report will be published two months after the elections.

The mission will operate in line with the “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation”, which was adopted in 2005 by a number of international organisations at the United Nations in New York.


EC receives complaints of damage to campaign banners and posters

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The Elections Commission (EC) has said that it is receiving complaints of damage being done to campaign material – such as posters and banners – from most candidates contesting in the parliamentary elections.

The commission requested people not do anything that could violate the electoral rights of candidates, and called upon both candidates and supporters to work according to the code of conduct given in Article 23 of the “People’s Majlis Election Regulation 2013”.

EC president Fuwad Thowfeek said that the commission was receiving a number of such complaints everyday, particularly from Malé City.

“Such acts could disrupt social harmony, and we request everyone refrain from doing any such thing. Parliamentary candidates want to serve the public, and involvement in such things is not a very good start, said Thowfeek.

“While it is not our first preference, we will have to take legal action too. We will seek police assistance in controlling such things.”

He requested that campaigners paste posters only where it is permitted according to the regulations. During the presidential elections in 2013, the EC received a number of complaints regarding anti-campaigning, though Thowfeek noted that no such issues had come up this time.

“But we urge candidates and supporter to refrain from anti-campaigning. We will take action against them,” Fuwad said.

Last week, the Adhaalath Party issued a statement condemning acts violating their Hulhuhenveiru candidate Dr Mohamed Iyaz’s electoral rights. The party claimed that posters of some Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates were pasted over Iyaz’s posters and that his campaign banners were cut down.

The MDP candidate for Henveiru North, MP Abdulla Shahid, has also filed a similar complaint with the EC. Shahid’s campaign office said that his campaign posters and banners in the Henveiru North area were ripped and replaced with Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidates’ campaign material.

Campaign activities for the parliamentary elections are escalating as the election scheduled for 22 March draws near.  A total of 316 candidates are competing for 85 seats this election, more than sixty percent of candidates representing political parties.

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency requested that all contestants ensure that campaign material does not litter the streets of the country, as was often the case during the presidential poll.

Th opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is running for all 85 seats, while the ruling PPM has divided the seats among their coalition members, with the party retaining just 50 seats.

The remaining seats were divided between Jumhooree Party and the Maldives Development Alliance. The Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party are also competing in the election, while 125 independent candidates will also contest.

EC yesterday opened for voters re-registration for those intending to vote at a polling station other than that listed with the commission. The deadline for re-registration is 28 February.


PPM concludes primaries, announces seven more candidates

The Progressive Party of Maldives had concluded its primaries for the upcoming Majlis elections, scheduled for March 22.

After having been allocated 49 seats after negotiations with its coalition allies, the party assigned places on the ticket to 13 party members without a vote. A further five were subsequently uncontested for their places on the party roster.

Following primaries for a further 25 seats last Saturday (February 8), the party held six additional races on Sunday, the results for which have been announced today.

Incumbents MPs Ahmed Rasheed and Yoosuf Abdul Ghafoor took the Isdhoo and Gan constituencies, respectively. Ali Shah will contest for the North Fuvahmulah constituency, Azhan Fahmy for the Maavashu seat, Mohamed Ameeth for the Maduvvari constituency, and Ibrahim Didi for the Feydhoo constituency.

After a disagreement with coalition partner, the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), over the Gahdhoo seat, the PPM eventually ran a primary for the constituency, with Ahmed Rasheed returning as the winner.


PPM sets primaries in 27 constituencies for February 8

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has set primaries for 27 constituencies to determine candidates for the People’s Majlis elections.

Polls will proceed between 4:00pm and 11:00pm on Saturday (February 8). Party members are required to register to vote by 12:00am on Saturday.

The PPM has not yet publicised the list of eligible candidates. The party’s Secretary General Mohamed Zuhair said the list will be revealed this evening.

Parties in the ruling coalition allocated 49 seats to the PPM, 28 seats to the Jumhooree Party (JP) and nine seats to the Maldives Democratic Alliance (MDA).

Of the 49 seats, 13 candidates received the party ticket by default – including eight incumbent MPs.

Regarding the nine remaining constituencies, the party has not yet decided whether to hold a primary or award the party ticket to the nine incumbent MPs.

Local media has reported the PPM leadership to be split over the issue.

An estimated 150 candidates applied for the PPM ticket in 36 constituencies. The party said it will grade applicants on a six point criteria, and that only candidates receiving over 75 points would be allowed to compete.

The criteria includes the extent to which candidates have upheld the party ideology, the length and amount of service to the party, their experience in parliament, and participation in the presidential campaign. Candidates in unspecified special categories designated by the party will also receive extra points.

In the instance only one candidate in a constituency meets the 75 percent threshold, he or she will be awarded the party ticket, and if all applicants fail then a primary will be held among all candidates.

The procedure for selecting candidates have come under fire with supports in Laamu Atoll Kunahandhoo holding a protest over the allegations that the PPM may not hold a primary for the Maavah constituency.

Meanwhile, the JP has assigned candidates for all 28 seats without a primary. All eight incumbent MPs as well as former Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz have received the party ticket.

The MDA held primaries last week for two of the nine constituencies reserved for the party. The party ticket was awarded to two incumbent MPs and a further two candidates won the ticket by default.

Although the Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Gahdhoo constituency was reserved for the MDA, the party will not be field a candidate in order to allow incumbent MP Zahir Adam to run as an independent.

Zahir at present belongs to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but did not apply to contest in the MDP primaries. The Gahdhoo MP violated a three-line whip in December and has been suspended from the party until after the Majlis elections.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also announced it will field five candidates in constituencies reserved for the JP.

The AP has condemned the coalition’s decision to exclude the party from the constituency allocation.

The deadline for submitting applications to the Elections Commission is February 11.