EU elections observers recommend legislation to improve future polls

The European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EOM) has recommended the Maldives take steps to clarify jurisdictional overlaps and to ensure the transparency of campaign finance.

“Our recommendations are focused on improving the environment for the next elections here in the Maldives,” said Chief Observer Edward Kukan.

“They are potential solutions, cornerstones for debate,” he added.

Presenting the final report of the mission conducted during the Majlis elections in march, the observers also advised further efforts to reduce vote buying and to guarantee secrecy of the vote.

As well as highlighting Supreme Court “interference” in the electoral process, the EU mission suggested that the dismissal of senior elections commissioners less than two weeks prior to polling violated both the constitution and the Elections Commission Act.

“Legislation should clearly define the division of the competencies of the courts, the Election Commission, the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission during the electoral process,” read the report.

The EOM also noted the lack of clarity surrounding the legal validity of the 16-point guidelines introduced by the Supreme Court during last year’s presidential elections.

“These guidelines did not appear to improve the elections process and they were not always practical or implementable.”

The mission – which also conducted media monitoring – called for an amendment to Article 27 of the constitution, which relates to freedom of expression that is not deemed contrary to the tenets of Islam.

The report recommended changing the article to bring it into alignment with the Maldives commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Article 19 of the ICCPR calls for everyone to have the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print.”

Additional recommendations made by the group included greater efforts to promote the participation of women, whom the report described as being “acutely under-represented in public life”.

The decrease in the percentage of female MPs elected in March was viewed in the report of growing conservatism and de facto discrimination across society.

Securing votes

Following suggestions of local civil society that the fairness of the poll had been threatened by ‘money politics’, today’s report called for the overhaul of campaign finance rules.

“The area of campaign finance is insufficiently regulated and there were widespread allegations that over-spending as well as vote-buying were common practice.”

Regulations regarding “third party spending and in-kind” contributions” ought to be implemented, said the mission, while there should be an effort to minimise the use of state resources and a moratorium on candidates’ opening public works during campaigning.

Mission members noted that road construction projects were inaugurated in Addu atoll in the presence of President Abdulla Yameen and Progressive Party of Maldives candidates – a task normally reserved for the city council.

“Numerous reports of excessive campaign expenditure, as well as abuse of state resources, suggest the playing field was not level.”

Observers noted receiving reports of widespread vote-buying, threats, and bribery – these included the distribution of TVs and washing machines, scholarships, loans, and medical treatments.

Representatives of all parties aired allegations of endemic corruption following the March 22 vote, which saw pro-government parties win a handsome majority

It was also noted that the deadline for the declaration of campaign spending by candidates currently comes 14 days after period for legally challenging results expires.

Further recommendations made today included measures to protect the secrecy of small numbers of voters casting their ballots outside of their constituency.

The report argued that people should be allowed to register as voters in the constituencies in which they permanently reside in order to be effectively represented by their MP. Currently, Maldivian citizens are permanently registered on the island on which they were born.

With regards to the media environment, the mission suggested a merger between the Media Council and the Broadcasting Commission in order to provide a “clear delineation of responsibilities” for oversight during future elections.

The EU’s mission involved 30 observers from 16 EU member states, observing the entire electoral process including the legal framework, campaigning, media conduct, voting, ballot counting, and the general electoral environment.


Week in review: March 22 – 29

The week began with 302 candidates and 189,000 voters taking part in the Maldives’ second multiparty Majlis elections.

After polling proceeded without notable incident, preliminary results quickly showed that the governing Progressive Coalition had secured a clear victory – later confirmed as a 53 seat majority in the 85 seat legislature.

President Abdulla Yameen – whose Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took 33 seats – interpreted the result as a ‘yes’ to peace and stability and a chance to pick up where his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘golden 30 years’ had left off.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of former President Gayoom – saw the result as a rejection of “foreign interference” and a show of support for her father and uncle’s leadership.

Coalition ally the Maldives Development Alliance noted that the result – in which it took five seats – as a sign of public confidence in the relatively young party. Despite being upbeat about his party’s 15-seat haul, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim accused his coalition allies of fielding independent candidates in violation of pre-election agreements.

While Yameen acknowledged that vote splitting may have detracted from the size of the coalition win, the immediate effects appeared to have benefited his party, with two of the five successful ‘independent’ candidates switching to the PPM before the official results had been announced.

A further source of discord within the coalition loomed large after Gasim threw his hat into the ring for the Majlis speaker’s position this week. Though Gasim told local media he had the coalition’s full backing, the PPM subsequently announced its intention to field its own candidate.

The impact of the defeat on the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who won just 26 of the 85 seats for which it fielded candidates – looks likely to be a period of restructuring, with former President Mohamed Nasheed calling for new leaders to step forward.

All observers of the elections – partisans and neutrals alike – expressed concern at the ‘money politics’ involved, with both the MDP and Adhaalath parties blaming such practices for their own poor performances.

Despite the foreign minister’s prior comments, both the EU and the Commonwealth observer missions focused on the negative impact the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Elections Commissioners had upon the electoral environment.

Government business

Amendments to the Decentralisation Act, which would resurrect previous previously thwarted plans for streamlined local governance, were this week introduced on behalf of the government.

The resuscitation of the Nasheed administration’s attempts to transform the country’s energy sector also continued with the outlining of the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investments in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) programme.

The government’s transformation of the island of Meedhoo appeared not have gone to plan, however, after a recently initiated reclamation project was halted due to its potential environmental and health impacts.

The Immigration Department revealed the success of a recent repatriation programme for illegal migrant workers, while employees on the Vilu Reef resort were also given their marching orders after having taken part in strikes.

In the courts, the decision to uphold a prior ruling saw the return of a five-month-old child to it’s German mother, while the Criminal Court heard the final disturbing details in the 2010 murder of Mariyam Sheereen.

The Tiny Hearts of Maldives NGO this week held their annual camp in Malé’s IGMH, providing expert care for children with congenital heart defects. Meanwhile, in Addu, investigations have begun in the events that led to a death during childbirth at Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.


Majlis elections: JP Gasim satisfied with results, but says vote-splitting cost greater gains

Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim has stated that, while he is satisfied with the results of the parliamentary elections, independent candidates affiliated with the governing Progressive Coalition cost the group seats.

Speaking at a press conference held on Sunday (March 23) at the party’s campaign headquarters, Gasim revealed that out of the 28 constituencies in which the JP had contested, leading figures of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had independently contested in eight.

He stated that the provisional results being announced by various media outlets displayed the losses that this decision has caused the coalition due to vote-splitting between the coalition aligned candidates which led the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to win those seats.

Gasim admitted, however, that members of the JP had also contested in three constituencies in which the PPM was allocated, thereby causing the same loss.

He added that, although both parties had previously announced that they will penalise members who contested independently, neither has taken any such action as yet.

“We saw PPM challenge slots that the coalition had granted to us. And then right after that, Adhaalath Party – who used to work very closely with us – also went out and contested. They said that they will contest in the 28 constituencies that were given to us,” Gasim stated.

The JP leader went on to express hope that the independent candidates who have gotten elected to the parliament would work together with the coalition, stating that they are people “who have had ties with the JP and PPM from before their decision to contest”.

He added that with this alliance he is confident that the government coalition will get a three quarter majority in parliament.

He further said that the results of the parliamentary elections are “proof of the public’s acceptance of the current administration”, and of the rising sense of awareness among the public.

“We must make good use of the opportunity before us. If we try to abuse it, then whether we be government or someone else, no good will come of it,” he continued, stating that upon receiving majority in parliament, the focus should be on serving the citizens.

Gasim further stated that he is “not too keen” on acquiring the position of parliament speaker in the newly elected 18th Parliament.

“I will know for sure only when the time comes. I am not keen on it. I have been given that opportunity even previously,” Gasim stated on the matter.

Criticism against Adhaalath Party

At the press conference, Gasim levied heavy criticism against the religious conservative Adhaalath Party which had backed the JP in the early rounds of the 2013 presidential election.

The Adhaalath Party (AP) contested in 13 constituencies in the parliamentary elections, but managed to win only one seat.

Gasim stated that if the AP had accepted the four slots that the JP had offered them and run from within the coalition, they would have had a better chance at winning seats.

“It would have been better for the Adhaalath Party if they had accepted the four seats we offered them. But then, it’s only when a person dies that the living realise his true value. Some people are only able to appreciate how kind their parents were only after they pass away,” Gasim said.

He added that the decision of the AP’s leadership had caused them “irreparable damage” in this election.

“Imran came at me and demanded we give them 15 percent of seats, and said that if we don’t do so, they will contest in 50 constituencies. He said then we will see how that turns out, that we will see which party is able to win more seats.”

I found his words very unpleasant, it is not the kind of words that a person who maintains such Islamic principles would utter,” Gasim said.

“I responded immediately to his words. I said ‘so this is what it all comes down to. Now we are getting to see the truth. Out of impatience, you are struggling to come out of the womb in whichever way possible’,” he stated.

While the Elections Commission’s official provisional results are pending, local media reports that the JP has won 16 seats and the AP has won one seat out of the total of 85 seats in the 18th parliament.


Majlis elections: “Maldivians have said yes to President Yameen’s strong leadership” – Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has described the Progressive Coalition’s victory in the Majlis elections as vote of confidence in President Abdulla Yameen as well as a signal to foreign powers to stay out of the country’s affairs.

“Maldivians have said yes to President Yameen’s strong leadership,” said Dunya.

She also interpreted the coalition victory as a sign of voters’ faith in the leadership of her father, former President and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – President Yameen’s half-brother.

Fellow cabinet member, Tourism Minsiter Ahmed Adeeb, reiterated Dunya’s comments during a press conference held today, adding that opposition MPs would now be unable to further “obstruct” the government’s efforts.

“This shows that the ideology of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the policies of President Abdulla Yameen has the full support of the people as well as the extent of support for [Progressive Coalition partners] Honourable Gasim Ibrahim and Honourable Ahmed Siyam Mohamed,” said Adeeb.

Dunya’s press statement came as the results of the elections to the 18th People’s Majlis are being finalised. Preliminary reports suggest a clear victory for the PPM and its allies – the Elections Commission is expected to announce the preliminary results in the coming hours.

“I wish to congratulate the people of Maldives for their belief in the value of democracy. The world should not underestimate the perseverance of Maldivians. I also wish to congratulate the Elections Commission for holding the elections in an efficient, free, fair, and transparent manner,” she stated.

Dunya served as the State Minister for Foreign Affairs under former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, and was a key figure in defending the legitimacy of Dr Waheed’s cabinet in the international community following former President Nasheed’s allegations of coup d’état following his February 2012 exit from power.

Dunya further said “yes to the Government’s foreign policy that is aimed at building national resilience of the Maldives; and yes to the Government’s firm stand of helping Maldivians to shape their own destiny.”

“The Elections also shows that Maldivians have said a resounding ‘NO’ to the efforts of some to invite foreign interference in domestic politics through a number of statements issued telling Maldivians how to organise our own affairs”.

“I wish to congratulate the people of Maldives for their belief in the value of democracy. The world should not underestimate the perseverance of Maldivians. I also wish to congratulate the Elections Commission for holding the elections in an efficient, free, fair, and transparent manner”.

The foreign minister’s praise of the Maldivian people – whom she stated have shown  “tremendous determination” to resist attempts to cause “internal disharmony by inviting international pressure” – echoed statements issued earlier this month.

On March 3 – after the European Union and civil society groups had voiced concern over the actions of the Supreme Court – Dunya requested that international communities refrain from comment which “undermine” the Maldivian judicial system.

International concern at that time had come in response to court’s pursuit of contempt of court charges against the Elections Commission (EC) over comments made  in a privileged parliamentary committee regarding the annulment of last year’s presidential election first round.

The Supreme Court accused the EC of contempt, claiming it had criticised the verdict which had annulled the first round of presidential elections held in September 2013, as well as disobeying a Supreme Court order by dissolving eight political parties last month.

The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed the senior members of the Elections Commission just weeks before the parliamentary elections – a decision roundly condemned by the international community.

“We request our international partners to support us. We request you to contribute constructively in overcoming our challenges. We urge you not to undermine our judicial system,” said Dunya during the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“We call on all to respect our institutions, young though they may be. And we urge you to base your partnership with us on dialogue and cooperation, not on judgment and retribution,” she added.


People’s Majlis elections 2014

Over 300 candidates will today contest for 85 seats in the 18th People’s Majlis as the Maldives holds its second multiparty parliamentary polls.

Representatives of the governing Progressive Coalition have been divided among constituencies, with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) competing for 50 seats, the Jumhooree Party for 28 seats, and the Maldives Development Alliance vying for 7 places in the recently expanded parliament.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will field candidates in all 85 constituencies, while its recent ally the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party will contest for 6 seats.

The religious Adhaalath Party will stand in 12 constituencies after disagreements within the governing coalition – with whom it had allied itself during last year’s presidential vote. 114 candidates will stand independently for today’s vote.

After last minute concerns about a potential delay of polls, the Elections Commission (EC) has confirmed that voting will proceed at 8am before closing at 4pm today.

Repeated delays and the heavy involvement of the Supreme Court in last year’s presidential poll eventually contributed to the dismissal of the EC’s senior members earlier this month and the subsequent filing of a case on Thursday (March 20) which suggested today’s polls could not legally proceed.

“So far we have not heard anything from the Supreme Court, so we are going ahead,” EC Media Officer Aishath Shifana Ahmed told Minivan News this morning.

The significance of today’s polls has been underlined by the MDP’s Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who has described the elections as “do or die”. Among the party’s prominent pledges are judicial reform, the empowerment of local councils, and potentially the impeachment of President Abdulla Yameen.

“What we would like to do is to get the democratic process back on track, which means whatever is necessary for that we will do. If that requires impeachment, impeachment it shall be, but if there are other avenues for getting the process back on track, that is our main target.”

The PPM has meanwhile repeatedly asserted that the public should grant the Progressive Coalition a majority in the Majlis in order to allow it to fulfil its legislative agenda, as well as reiterating previous pledges to defend Islam.

“The government has made many important electoral pledges. However those pledges can be fulfilled if only the people elect members of the Progressive Coalition government,” JP leader Gasim Ibrahim told Miadhu this week.

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11:30pm – As local media reports continue to show strong evidence of a resounding coalition victory, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has called upon all elected MPs to “formulate and implement all that’s necessary for the development of our people and nation”.

Meanwhile, the MDP’s International Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor described the result as “not the best”, expressing long term fears over the direction in which he sees the country heading.

“The legitimisation of the 7/2/12 coup d’etat has reversed extensive democratic gains Maldives made post-2008, ” said Hamid. “A cold winter has set on democracy in tropical Maldives.”

11:00pm – The EC expect to be able to announce their provisional results between 8am and midday tomorrow.

10:45pm – The EC have just concluded their press conference, noting that polling generally went smoothly.

The only major incident was reported in Rakeedhoo, Vaavu atoll after a group of people came to vote after polls had closed.  After the controversy, with the exception of official in charge of the box and the person’s assistant, officials refused to count the votes.

According to the law, noted the EC, the box has to be counted at the station and so the EC will have to send some people there. The police have been asked for their assistance.

One other issue was related to ballot papers in Alifushi in Raa atoll, and in Mahibadhoo in Alify Dhaalu atoll. Two people are still waiting to vote after the EC sent the wrong ballot papers to the station.

By 9:30pm, the EC reported receiving 115 complaints in writing, 18 of which were about the voters registry. Other complaints – were received by phone – included anti-campaign and complaints against elections officers – some of whom have had action taken against them.

Celebrations tonight will be considered as a campaign activity, noted the EC, and will have to wait until after 6am tomorrow.

10:25pm –

10.20pm – With most races too close to call, state broadcaster TVM has confirmed 19 seats where candidates have an unassailable lead. These include ten seats for the ruling PPM, four seats and one seat respectively for its coalition partners JP and MDA, one seat for the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, and four seats for the opposition MDP.

The results for the other 66 constituencies are subject to change with a smaller margin between candidates. In addition to the main ballot boxes for each constituency, several constituents are re-registered to vote in other locations such as industrial islands and resorts.

With 140,182 votes counted, newspaper Haveeru has 33 seats for the PPM, 12 for JP, 5 for MDA, 5 for independent candidates, one for the Adhaalath Party and 28 for the MDP.

10:15pm – Former TVM Presenter Aishath Leeza has conceded defeat to the MDP’s Ali Azim in Malé’s Medhu Henveiru constituency.

10:00pm – With no official results as yet from the EC, despite differing results from local media outlets, a picture is emerging of a clear coalition victory in the polls.

A combination of local and social media shows victories for prominent MDP MPs Mariya Didi, Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid, Rozaina Adam, and Imthiyaz Fahmy. These sources also reveal losses for recent MDP convert Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and MP Ali Waheed.

The Progressive Coalition’s lead in the polls included an entry into the Majlis for former Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz with the JP, and a return to the Majlis for Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem, Ahmed Mahlouf, and Ahmed Nihan – all for the PPM.

7:15pm – With vote counting completed in most polling stations, local media has reported the results of roughly half of the 473 ballot boxes. Provisional results suggest that the ruling Progressive Coalition is on course to secure a majority of the 85 parliamentary seats.

Some candidates have meanwhile conceded defeat and declared victory on social media. MDP MP Ali Waheed has conceded defeat to the JP candidate in the Alif Alif Thohdoo constituency while MDP candidate for Thimarafushi, Mohamed Musthafa, has declared victory.

Several incumbent MPs, including PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof and JP MP Gasim Ibrahim as well as MDP MPs Imthiyaz Fahmy and Eva Abdulla, have also established strong leads in their constituency.

With 78,842 votes counted, newspaper Haveeru has the PPM with 30 seats, MDP with 30 seats, JP with 12 seats, MDA with two seats, Adhaalath Party with two seats and independent candidates with two seats.

The EC has said it expects to announce preliminary results tomorrow.

6:00pm – Sun reports that observers have been found in order for the count to begin in Thinadhoo.

4:35pm – Sun Online has reported that officials in Thinadhoo, in Ghaafu Dhaalu atoll, are unable to open the box for counting due to the absence of observers. Without observers, Sun reports that the EC has said three people who voted at that box must be present to begin counting, though none are reported to be in the area.

At around 2pm this afternoon, Sun had reported that turnout was only 24 percent in the island.

4:25pm – After closing each box, officials will take a half-hour break before counting begins.

4:10pm – Ballot boxes are now closing, with  no more people allowed to enter queues. Reports continue to confirm a low turnout, however.

3:40pm – Police have reported that there are not enough ballot papers in Alifushi, Raa atoll, and Kurendhoo in Lhaviyani atoll. Police are working on transporting additional papers.

3:30pm – A 38-year-old man has been taken into police custody in Fuvahmulah after allegedly assaulting his wife. Local media reports eyewitnesses as stating that the man struck his wife after she emerged from the polling place. He reportedly asked her who she voted for and became upset when she named the candidate.

3:15pm – The EC has received 75 complaints in total, including three complaints about names not being on voter lists, five about anti-campaigning and four relates to bribery.

Turnout is reported to be low, particularly in comparison to the presidential polls – the polls for which had an average turnout of over 88 percent.

3:10pm – EC currently holding second press conference of the day.

The EC did not put up photos in the public list due to the complaints it received about the matter during the local council elections in January. Although there are photos in the lists being used by officials.

3:00pm – Police have arrested two people, one for distributing and another for accepting money near a ballot box at around 2:30pm. Police have confirmed that there have been several reports of distributing money.

2:30pm – “I was unaware that ballot boxes were shuffled. So i had to spend over an hour trying to vote. I wish the SC had better raised awareness about these changes”: Adam Haleem, 34yrs.

2:25pm – “I was undecided about voting too. But am going to go cast a vote now. Despite SC interference, I cannot live with myself if I don’t exercise this right,” said Ahmed Irfan, 28yrs.

2:20pm – “I won’t vote. I can’t make myself participate in another Supreme Court run election. What’s the point? We all know which way the results will lean to regardless of real results,” said Aminath Yulia, 28yrs.

2:10pm – 4,343 election officials are involved in conducting the polls in addition to 1,647 observers, 1,858 monitors, and 1,363 representatives of candidates.

EC data reveals there are 240,663 voters eligible to take part in today’s polls – 117,028 female and 123,635 male.

1:45pm – Press release from Transparency Maldives: “Transparency Maldives thanks our observers deployed across the country for their dedication in observing the election processes. Transparency Maldives’ observer network has a wide national coverage spanning resorts, prisons, and abroad in Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.

The results we report are based on random sampling and are generalisable to the entire country. These results are based on the observation at the time of opening of polls.

The opening of the polls was smooth, and the administrative preparation went well. 79% of all polling stations opened by 8.10am, 20% of polling stations opened within the first hour of the required opening time, and 1% of polling stations opened between 9am and 10am.

Nearly all polling station officials were in place at all polling stations.

The materials required for voting were present and the ballot papers were counted at 100% of the polling stations. 100% of ballot boxes were verified as empty at the opening of the polls.

Candidates were well represented at polling stations. Only 10% of the polling stations did not have a party/candidate observer present at the opening of the polls. Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) observers were present at 78% of polling stations while 81% of polling stations had observers from the coalition parties, at the opening of the polls.

Transparency Maldives also notes that police presence was visible at 93% of the observed polling stations at the time of opening.

Observers concluded that the polling stations were set up to ensure a secret vote in 98% of polling stations. Transparency Maldives observers will be closely monitoring the 2% of the polling station where the secrecy of the ballot may be compromised due to the layout of the polling station.

We encourage all parties to maintain the climate of peace. Our observers are working hard at polling stations and will be present at the polling stations until the polls are closed and the results are announced.”

1:34pm – “I have faith in the system. This vote will change our lives for the better,” said Aishath Thaufeeqa, 22.

1:14pm – A voter who displayed a marked ballot paper in Thaa Vilifushi and another who took a photograph of a marked ballot paper in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo have been taken in for questioning by police.

An individual has meanwhile been arrested in Male’ near the polling station in Iskandhar School for allegedly obstructing police duty.

12:52pm – “It is important that the government gets majority in parliament. No other way we can have the development we deserve. That’s why I am voting,” said Mohamed Ikleel, 49.

“It’s my responsibility as a citizen to vote. Whether it makes a difference or not” said Ali Gasim, 38.

“We can’t let Adhaalath into policy making. So it’s important that MDP and PPM [supporters] both go out and vote” said Afiya Saeed, 36.

“I am hopeful that this is finally a fair election. Fuwad is no longer there to do fraud. Thank Allah,” said smail Wafir, 53.

12:30pm – A 33-year-old and a 35-year-old has been taken in for questioning by police in Seenu Feydhoo after displaying marked ballot papers.

12:25pm – Speaking to reporters after voting in CHSE this morning, President Abdulla Yameen said he hoped candidates from the Progressive Coalition as well as the Adhaalath Party would secure 65 seats. He added however that the coalition could lose some seats as a result of members of coalition parties contesting as independents, which could split the vote among pro-government candidates.

If the government coalition secures a majority, President Yameen said the highest priority on the legislative agenda would be passing bills related to economic policy as well as the revised penal code.

He expressed confidence that the coalition would not fall apart after the elections.

Yameen also reportedly criticised the current People’s Majlis for not approving two members to the five-member EC to replace its former chair and deputy chair, who were removed by the Supreme Court on charges of disobeying court orders as well as contempt of court.

According to online news outlet CNM, Yameen said there was no need to appoint two members to the EC if it could conduct polls with just three members and an acting chair. He however added that the coalition parties would not be contesting the outcome on the grounds of the missing EC members.

12:00pm – “I’ll vote free and fair. I doubt the counting will proceed in the same manner though” said Fathimath Areesha, 36, Seenu Maradhoo.

“PPM will win today. Not with support, but with undue power” said Abdul Matheen, 46, after voting in Iskandhar School.

11:40am – Former President Nasheed after voting at Malé City Hall.

11:35am – Police have taken two more persons into custody for displaying marked ballot papers. They were a 29-year-old from Gahdhoo and an individual from Gaaf Dhaal Madaveli. Police explained that persons who display marked ballot papers are released after questioning.

11:30am – The EC urged all voters to go out and cast their ballots as early as possible, and for all election observers and monitors to assure voting proceeds as per the law.

11:25am – Those stations which started late – Shaviyani maan’ugoodhoo and Gaafaru – will be given the full eight hours for voting, says the EC.

11:15am – 12 complaints have been received regarding today’s voting, concerning anti-campaigning, the use of illegal means to get support, regarding elections officials, and campaigning during prohibited hours.

While turnout is as yet unclear, unofficial observers suggest it is low.

The EC hopes to release provisional results by tomorrow morning.

11:10am – Voting began on time in all but two islands. The EC has received 13 complaints regarding the voter registry – the most serious being five voters who claimed to have been re-registered without their knowledge.

11:05am – EC  – now consisting of members Ismail Habeeb, Ali Mohamed Manik, and Mohamed Farooq – begins press conference.

10:55am – Voter turnout in Addu reportedly being affected by poor weather.

9:55am – Police have arrested three individuals for displaying marked ballot papers at polling stations. They were a 28-year-old man from the Feydhoo ward of Addu City, an 18-year-old in Faafu Nilandhoo, and an 18-year-old in Gaaf Dhaal Gahdhoo.

Voting was also briefly interrupted in a polling station in Malé for the Maafanu North constituency while police took down campaign banners in the customs area.

9:25am – EC announces first press conference for 11am. All ballot boxes are reported to be open for voting, with the exception of Gaafaru in Kaafu atoll which is due to open imminently.

9:15am – The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) issued a press statement yesterday urging all parties and voters to abide by rules and regulations on polling day and to respect the rights of others.

9:10am – In Shaviyani Maaugoodhoo, officials from the Elections Commission’s complaints bureau requested police assistance in taking down a banner in the vicinity of the polling station. Voting had not started in the island at the time.

Local media has reported that voting has temporarily stopped for one ballot box in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi after officials discovered that one token number was not printed.

In Shaviyani Maaugoodhoo, officials from the Elections Commission’s complaints bureau requested police assistance in taking down a banner in the vicinity of the polling station. Voting had not started in the island at the time.

Local media has reported that voting has temporarily stopped for one ballot box in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi after officials discovered that one token number was not printed.

9:00am – Transparency Maldives – running the largest observation mission during today’s polls – has noted that officials are not allowed to use phones in polling stations, and that a communication official will assist in communications between officials and the EC.

Point 10 of the Supreme Court guidelines introduced after the annulment of the September 7 presidential election first round, states that:

“The Elections Commission and relevant authorities should make it illegal for any person (including officials) who enters the polling station to carry phones, handbags, files or any item (excluding pens) that could be considered to infringe upon the rights of candidates and ensure that no such action takes place.”

8:15am – Police will today provide elections security throughout the country through ‘Operation Iruvaru’. Police announced last night that investigations were being carried out in different parts of the country into allegations of bribery and drug trading with relation to votes.

8am – Polls open


JP member files case seeking Majlis elections delay

Jumhooree Party (JP) Youth Wing President Moosa Anwar has filed a case at the Supreme Court seeking a court order to delay Saturday’s scheduled Majlis elections.

“It is a case saying that the Elections Commission must consist of at least five members including the president of the Elections Commission,” Anwar told Minivan News.

“It’s in article 168 of the constitution. Currently the Elections Commission is not complete. So I don’t believe that they can hold an election.”

The Elections Commission (EC) currently consists of three members – the mandatory quorum needed for the group to hold meetings and pass decisions –  following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of EC President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Mohamed Fayaz on charges of contempt of court and disobeying the court’s orders.

In the days following the court’s ruling, the Majlis approved Ismail Habeeb as the commission’s third member – joining existing commissioners Ali Mohamed Manik and Mohamed Farooq.

Anwar’s case also concerns the Majlis’ rejection of the Supreme Court’s ruling. A letter sent to senior government figures following the dismissals argued that the EC leadership was removed in contravention of the constitutional procedures governing their appointment and dismissal.

The letter was signed by both the Speaker of the Majlis Ahmed Shahid and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim – MP’s with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

“I have also requested the Supreme Court to disqualify their parliament membership and also their candidacy for this election,” said Anwar.

The case was file with the court at 1:30pm today, explained the JP member, although he had yet to receive confirmation that the court had accepted the case.

The Supreme Court earlier this week advised the EC that polls could proceed, despite the failure to gain the signatures of all candidates.

Approval of the voter registry was mandated in the Supreme Court’s 16-point guideline accompanying its annulment of last year’s presidential election first round.

Anwar explained that his decision was not a party one.

“None of the JP leaders have been informed. It was done on my own,” said Anwar.

“It has nothing to do with JP or any other party. This is not a politically motivated case. You will know that the vice president of the Majlis is also a government coalition member.”

Coalition unrest

News of Anwar’s case comes as an audio clip of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim has emerged on social media which appears to indicate unrest within the governing coalition.

In preparation for the upcoming Majlis polls, the three parties in the governing Progressive Coalition – PPM, JP, and Maldives Development Alliance – had agreed to allocate constituencies among the coalition partners, with the PPM contesting 50 seats, the JP contesting 28 seats, and the MDA contesting seven seats.

In the 2:49 clip, Gasim appears to criticise President Abdulla Yameen, former President and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and Home Minister Umar Naseer.

The audio appears to have been recorded after the revote of the presidential election, held on November 9 in which candidate Gasim finished third.

The court’s decision to annul the first round of the presidential poll came after Gasim had lodged a case alleging inconsistencies within the electoral register used on September 7.

In the recording, Gasim is heard saying that it would not be “easy on the heart” to endorse Yameen as he could not forget the “suffering” of his family under President Gayoom “even if I don’t say anything about it.”

“We couldn’t support Anni [MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed] because his principles are bad. We know how things are with Yameen. They are full of brutality,” he is heard saying.

The opposition MDP meanwhile put out a statement contending that the leaked audio shows that “Honourable Gasim joined the government coalition due to intimidation and political influence.”

As a result of the alleged mistrust among coalition leaders and their efforts to exert political influence over one another, the MDP contended that living standards have fallen and government services have deteriorated in the past four months.

“MDP has always been advocating that in a presidential system the public will not benefit from a coalition government. At such a critical juncture, this [leaked] phone calls has revealed the extent to which the coalition has unraveled,” the statement read.


Majlis sittings to resume after March 22 elections

Sittings of the first session of the People’s Majlis for 2014 will resume after the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22, Speaker Abdulla Shahid said today.

Concluding today’s sitting held to approve a nominee to the Elections Commission, Shahid said the decision was made after consulting political parties.

The first session of 2014 started on March 3 with the delivery of the presidential address, after which the speaker announced that normal sittings would resume after this month’s parliamentary polls.

The 17th parliament began its first session on May 28, 2009.


EU concern over Supreme Court’s action against Elections Commission

Read this article in Dhivehi

The EU has expressed “concern” over the Supreme Court’s decision to prosecute the Elections Commission for contempt of court

“The EU Delegation notes with concern the current action of the Supreme Court on its own initiative to bring before it members of the Elections Commission who have expressed concern over its judgments,” read a press release from the EU delegation based in Sri Lanka.

The court’s decision to bring the charges of contempt of court refer to criticism of the decision to annul last September’s presidential election first round.

The EC has also been accused of disobeying a Supreme Court order by dissolving eight political parties earlier this month.

September’s annulled vote had been universally praised as free and fair, while the evidence used to cancel the result has been criticised by the UN as well as EC President Fuwad Thowfeek.

“The EU Delegation recalls the importance of legal proceedings being fair and transparent in accordance with international standards, and call on the Government of the Maldives to ensure the independence of the Elections Commission in the run up to and during the Majlis Elections so that they can proceed as scheduled on 22 March 2014. “

In addition to utilising new ‘Sumoto’ (or ‘Suo motu’) regulations that allow the apex court to initiate hearings and act as both plaintiff and judge in a trial, the Supreme Court’s contempt charges are based on privileged testimony given to the People’s Majlis by EC members.

Article 90 of the constitution says no person will be subject to any inquiry, arrest, detention, or prosecution with respect to anything said in the People’s Majlis or any of its committees if such a statement is not contrary to tenet of Islam.

However, claiming the establishment of justice to be a tenet of Islam, Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Abdulla Didi has said the EC’s testimony at the independent commissions oversight committee obstructed justice and could therefore be used in court.

EC President Thowfeek has denied the charges against the commission, noting that “testimony provided at the People’s Majlis committee was not given to hold the court in contempt, but to be held accountable to the EC’s actions.”

The Supreme Court has said that no party has the authority to question or criticise its decisions as per Article 145 (c) of the constitution which states that the Supreme Court shall be the final authority on the interpretation of the constitution, the law, or any other matter dealt with by a court of law.

In today’s statement, the EU has expressed concern that the current proceedings “risk undermining the vital independence of the Elections Commission, respect for the separation of powers and free expression in the Maldives.”

The issue of separation of powers has been a regular theme this week as politicians continued to campaign for the March 22 poll, with leaders from both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives claiming that their parties can best ensure the three branches of government are kept apart.

Most recently, while campaigning in Malé for the governing coalition on Sunday (February 23), former President Dr Mohamed Waheed suggested that “we have separated the power so much that the country is suffering”.

“This country can’t go forward if we separate the powers any more,” said Waeheed.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday told representatives of the UN that he did not expect his MDP to take part in the elections should the EC members be arrested and replaced.


PPM pledges disciplinary action against members contesting Majlis elections as independents

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has pledged to take disciplinary action against party members who are contesting the March parliamentary election as independents.

In a statement issued yesterday, the PPM said independent candidates were “illegally” using the party’s logo in their campaigns.

The party has publicised a list of coalition approved candidates on the party website.

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom asked independents who are contesting Majlis elections to withdraw their names and support coalition candidates instead last night.

“A PPM member or any other party member must not run against a coalition candidate. If you do so, it will be very sad for us. That is because it will divide votes of those who hold the same ideology. If votes are divided, we will lose the seat,” he said.