Comment: Plan B

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

On 19 September 2003 Evan Naseem, an inmate in Maafushi jail was brutally beaten and murdered by police, sparking off pro-democracy protests which ultimately led to the end of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s authoritarian regime.

Now, a decade later, the Supreme Court is expected to reach a verdict on whether or not to annul the votes cast in the presidential election held on September 7, the second democratic election ever to be held in the Maldives. A Supreme Court ruling that orders a revote would amount to a court order for an authoritarian reversal – there would be no second round on September 28, or on any other day in the near future.

Tragic as it is, this seems to be the most likely outcome of the hearings, for this road to the Supreme Court is where this election was always going to lead – it was planned this way. No matter what the election results were — if they put Mohamed Nasheed in the lead, the ultimate decision of who wins would be made by the judiciary, the most corrupt and dysfunctional of the three separated powers.

The judiciary is the biggest blunder of the Maldivian democracy. Nowhere near enough effort was made to free it from authoritarian clutches during the two and a half years of democratic governance.

First came the dismissal of Article 285 as ‘symbolic’, leaving all corrupt and unqualified judges on the bench in direct violation of the new Constitution; then the silent coup in the Supreme Court, followed by continuous violations of the Constitution and rule of law by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), none of which were dealt with adequately.

It was the corruption in the judiciary that contributed most to the events of February 7. The decision taken by the executive and the security forces to arrest the most subversive of judges – Abdulla Mohamed – was the weapon which authoritarians used most effectively to incite agitation and anger against Nasheed’s government, sustaining nightly protests until the police joined the street protesters and, together with those pulling their strings, presented Nasheed with the choice: resign or die.

Of course, the post-coup government took absolutely no action to reform the judiciary. To even expect them to do so would be the height of delusion. In the turbulent aftermath of the coup, former JSC member Aishath Velezinee who had attempted to thwart every one of JSC’s violations of the law, put it all together in book form; and several international experts brought out report after report with recommendations on how to reform the judiciary – to no avail. Most disappointingly, MDP, despite the bitter lessons of the past, took no concrete action either.

By July this year, judicial corruption had got to the stage where a judge could continue to sit on the Supreme Court bench despite being caught on camera having sex with three prostitutes in a Colombo hotel room. This man, Ali Hameed, will be one of seven men who will today decide whether or not our votes count.

That this is where it will all come to was becoming clear in the lead up to the election when Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) began making noises about going to the courts if there were discrepancies in the vote count.

While MDP and Mohamed Nasheed never stopped campaigning since the CoNI report in August 2012, which – with the blessing of the international community – legitimised the coup, PPM candidate Yameen hardly ever left the comfort of his own house to meet with the people whose votes he supposedly needed to be elected as president.

Ever since the election in which the Maldivian people resoundingly endorsed Mohamed Nasheed and said an equally loud ‘No’ to Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik – the large façade that helped block from view the dirtiness of the coup – the entire country has been plunged into manufactured ‘uncertainty’ over the results.

First Gasim Ibrahim of Jumhooree Party went into hysterics, maintaining that he was the winner ‘if you minus the 90,000 votes’ that Nasheed received. Backing him are the same dark forces working in the name of religion that so cleverly contributed to the coup. Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Islamic MinisterShaheem Ali Saeed, Sheikh Ilyas Abdulla, and lately Salaf Jamiyya’s star preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem, have all come out to call for an uprising against ‘the Godless Nasheed’ in the name of Islam.

The idea is to provoke, provoke, and provoke MDP supporters and other democracy activists to come out on the streets in protest so that the security forces can crack down on them, creating an environment in which holding elections become ‘unsafe’. So far, the MDP has been able to keep calm and continue with their campaigning for the second round, deliberately ignoring the relentless smear campaign against Nasheed and the daily negative campaigning, even the ridiculous black magic and sorcery antics. But for how long?

In parallel with all this has been the forward march towards the courts. Gasim Ibrahim led it, but who is pushing him? In the beginning, it seemed to me almost certain that Gasim and Yameen were in on this together. They cooked up a plan to run for presidency so they can split the votes and then later form an ‘everyone but Nasheed’ coalition that would defeat him in the second round. But, information from a reliable source negated this theory. One individual who left Gasim’s JP shortly after the election to join the MDP relayed this story:

“Former military man Mohamed Fayaz [or F.A, as he is commonly known], one of the main coup-enablers who put his support behind Gasim, advised him to join Yameen following the election results. What else was there for Gasim to do?

Gasim responded with unbridled anger, swore at FA, and told him: ‘I would rather walk into the sea with my wives and children than join Yameen.’”

Gasim is absolutely convinced he should have won. It is clear from the speech he made on September 9 in which he kept talking of his belief that he should have got 70,000 votes, not 50,000. Many have pointed out that Gasim is looking at the election as a business transaction. He poured in enough money to buy 70,000 votes, so he expects to get them. Gasim is, after all, the biggest tycoon in town.

Helping Gasim remain committed to the delusion is running mate Dr Hassan Saeed, once Nasheed’s advisor, then Waheed’s. He respected neither. Shortly after the coup, he was secretly recorded describing Waheed as the weakest politician in the Maldives. Now he’s behind Gasim, advocating in court on his behalf to annul the first round of September 7, not because he believes in Gasim’s ability to be President, but because it will prevent Nasheed from returning to power – Hassan Saeed’s (and a fair few coup leaders’) reason for being.

Gayoom and Yameen, ever the political vultures, have swooped in on the carcass of Gasim’s dreams, seeing it as the opportunity they have been waiting for, if not working behind the scenes to create. They have brought out to advocate on their behalf one of their big guns – Attorney General Azima Shakoor, the woman of void ab initio fame who annulled the largest foreign investment agreement in the history of the Maldives with the stroke of a pen and absolutely zero respect for national or international law.

Without so much as asking the Elections Commission about the alleged discrepancies in the vote registry, she was busy all day Wednesday arguing against the institution. As is habitual for PPM and other coup-makers, she cited the Constitution to justify her presence – Article 133 allows the Attorney General to enter into any case if it involves the interests of the people and/or State.

Problem is, she is not advocating on behalf of the people or the state but for Gayoom, her master since childhood. PPM and JP are taking strength from each other. The courts (including the High Court) have asked for evidence of discrepancies to back their claims, which neither party have been able to provide so far. Yesterday Dr Saeed argued that such evidence is unnecessary; given that the Attorney General – the Attorney General! -has stated that there are discrepancies.

What evidence does the court need when it has the AG’s word? It matters not that she has been lying through her teeth, saying that the National Registration, too, has filed several complaints against the voter registry at the Elections Commission when the registry has done no such thing.

Elements of the police, most likely the very same ones that enabled the coup on February 7, are in on it, of course. As the court asks for evidence, they are busy manufacturing it. Operation Blue Wave – the ominous strategy of providing ‘special training’ to hundreds of policemen and women and stationing them across the country to prepare for ‘inevitable discrepancies’ – is now bearing fruit. Despite the confirmation from over a thousand domestic and foreign observers that it was a free and fair election with a bare minimum of errors and absolutely no room for vote stuffing, the police are finding fresh ‘rigging’ attempts on a daily basis.

Despite renewed appeals from both local and foreign actors to respect election results, circulating on the social media today is also a ‘leaked’, ‘secret’ report of eight pages that count thousands of instances of alleged vote fraud. What this forgery resembles most is the similarly constructed CoNI report of August 2012. But, of course, there will be many hundreds who will believe it. Just as there are thousands who still believe the CoNI report.

To spur on the radical elements within the security forces, leaders of the ‘Godless Nasheed’ anti-campaign, the ‘rent-a-sheikhs’, have been targeting the police and military in their hate-mongering. Not satisfied with mentioning them in every public lecture as custodians of Maldivian nationalism and Islam, Sheikh Adam Shameem addressed them in two special lectures intended especially for them yesterday and early this morning.

Shameem’s hate-filled public lecture – broadcast on state TV and repeated on the private channels owned by coup-makers – was frightening, arguing against democracy, especially multi-party democracy, as a Western evil imported to destroy Maldivian faith in Islam. If this is what he said publicly, one can only imagine what he told the security forces in their barracks.

What the plan seems to be right now is this: the Supreme Court is to rule today that there must be a revote, which means that there will be no second round on September 28, nor a President by November 11, as is stipulated in the Constitution. Already, Madam Void ab Initio has voided void itself, saying not having a president would not leave a power vacuum.

If this Plan B  is implemented, it is inevitable that the electorate, 88 percent of whom turned out to vote on September 7, will feel dejected, disheartened, and angry. Chief among them will be the 95,000 people who voted for Nasheed and against the coup and the authoritarian reversal. They will pour out onto the streets, just like the thousands who did on the streets of Male’ on February 8. If this happens, the final phase of Plan B will be implemented: rogue elements within the security forces led by coup-makers will crackdown on them brutally, violently, and without conscience. And with their batons and their bullets, they will try to kill all hopes of restoring democracy in the Maldives in any foreseeable future.

But, as Mohamed Nasheed said earlier this week, it is unlikely that Maldivians will let democracy die, having fought so long  and come this far.

“People might try to rig two or three elections. [They] might try to arrest some people. And there might even be three or four coup d’etats. But, overall, I don’t see this curve slumping too much.”

The fight in which most of the country joined in 10 years ago from today is set to continue, for as long as it takes.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in international relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


International opinion “firmly behind” second round as scheduled: Commonwealth Special Envoy

International opinion is “firmly behind” the need for a second round of elections to proceed as planned on September 28, Commonwealth Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon declared in a statement today.

“There are always losers in every election everywhere, but the winners here must be the people of Maldives. The results of their votes must be paramount to the process and the result,” McKinnon said.

Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate Gasim Ibrahim is seeking to annul the results of the first round in the Supreme Court, after narrowly missing the run off with 24.07 percent of the vote.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has sided with the JP in court, while Attorney General Azima Shukoor has intervened on behalf of the government and called for police to investigate the Elections Commission (EC).

The EC has so far disputed allegations of electoral impropriety, noting that allegations raised so far even if factual would have no material effect on the outcome of the first round.

The commission also pointed to unanimous positive assessments of the first round polls by local and international election observers.

However the JP’s lawyer and election running mate, Dr Hassan Saeed, declared yesterday in court that these election observations did “carry not much weight”, and sought a delay of the second round pending the court’s decision on whether to annul the polls.

“I was very pleased by the positive findings of the national and international observers, including those of the Commonwealth Observer Group,” said Sir McKinnon today.

“This election marks a renewal of the country’s democratic credentials, with an 88 percent voter turnout. This displays a determination to get the country back on to a sound democratic foundation,” he said.

“I sincerely call on all political leaders to respect the intentions and expectations laid out in the constitution. I look forward to remaining closely engaged with Maldives as the country affirms its commitment to Commonwealth democratic values in the coming days and weeks, in the lead up to the inauguration of a newly elected President on 11 November 2013,” he concluded.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma also issued a statement, declaring that the international body “looks forward to seeing a smooth and peaceful continuation of the electoral process already underway.”

“The Secretary-General emphasised that the expression of the will of the people through the ballot box is fundamental to Commonwealth values,” Sharma stated.

Commonwealth observers will be returning to Maldives for the run-off round of the presidential election, he added.

Don’t undermine elections without evidence: Transparency

Transparency Maldives has called on parties to the presidential election not to undermine the credibility of the results without evidence.

Transparency deployed the single largest team of election observers with 400 monitors across the country.

“In view of the cases submitted and allegations made at the High Court and Supreme Court of the Maldives regarding systematic vote rigging, Transparency Maldives notes that it did not find any evidence that support allegations of systematic election day fraud during the nationwide observation,” Transparency stated.

Transparency Maldives appeals to all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.

Parties must “respect the democratic process,” says US

The United States has also issued a statement calling for all political parties to “respect the democratic process and continue to allow for a free, fair and peaceful vote to take place.”

“The first round of the Maldivian presidential elections on September 7 was widely hailed as a success and represented a victory for the democratic process in Maldives. The Commonwealth, United Nations, and local Maldivian observers joined the United States in congratulating the Maldivian people and the Election Commission for this successful process,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Marie Harf.

“We encourage all parties and all presidential candidates to respect the results and work together for a peaceful transition for the benefit of the Maldivian people,” she added.


US encourages all parties to accept first round results

The US has hailed the results of the first round of the presidential election in the Maldives as a “victory for the democratic process”.

In a statement, Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Marie Harf noted that the results had been “widely hailed as a success” by the Commonwealth, United Nations, and local Maldivian observers.

The comment comes as Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third with 24.07 percent and narrowly missed a place in the run-off, contests a case in the Supreme Court seeking annulment of the results, alleging electoral irregularities.

The JP was supported in the ongoing court case by the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), while Attorney General Azima Shukoor also intervened and criticised the conduct of the Elections Commission.

“As the country prepares for the second round on September 28, the United States and the international community again stand ready to assist Maldivians as they exercise their fundamental right to choose their own government,” declared the US State Department.

“For this final round to be as successful as the previous round, all political parties must respect the democratic process and continue to allow for a free, fair and peaceful vote to take place. We encourage all parties and all presidential candidates to respect the results and work together for a peaceful transition for the benefit of the Maldivian people,” the statement concluded.


Maldives Decides 2013 – Provisional results declared

Polls opened early this morning across the Maldives to long queues of people, urged by their parties to vote early so as to avoid potential disruption later in the day.

Polling will close at 4:00pm this afternoon, and provisional results are expected to be available at 11:00pm this evening according to the Elections Commission.

The Maldives’ second democratic multi-party presidential election has 239,593 eligible to vote, a 15 percent increase on the first election in 2008.

Voting will take place at 459 ballot boxes stationed on local islands, resorts, and overseas Maldivian High Commissions and embassies in Singapore, London, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and both Trivandrum and New Delhi in India.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who controversially resigned from office on 7 February 2012 amid a police and military mutiny, is contesting the election against incumbent and former Vice President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

Also contesting the presidential election are Abdulla Yameen – half-brother of former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom Gasim Ibrahim, a wealthy businessman and resort tycoon backed by the Islamist Adhaalath Party and the party of Waheed’s former Special Advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed.

To win the first round of the election a candidate requires more than 50 percent of the total turnout. If no candidate receives this many votes, then a second round run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on September 28.

Read more about the candidates, their policies and support bases at our 2013 Election Hub

For additional updates and pictures, see our Facebook page

This blog is no longer live

5:33 am – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has confirmed that the commission will hold a run-off election on September 28, between Nasheed and Yameen. He said the Commission’s complaints bureau was looking into those complaints that had been submitted, and would take necessary action where required.

Provisional results are confirmed:

Gasim Ibrahim – 50,422 (24.07%)

Mohamed Waheed – 10,750 (5.13%)

Abdulla Yameen – 53,099 (25.35%)

Mohamed Nasheed – 95,224 (45.45%)

4:30 am – The Elections Commission (EC) has yet to formally announce the provisional results as of 4:30am on Sunday morning, delaying its 11:00pm press conference by more than five hours. Provisional results available on the EC’s website suggest Nasheed will face a run-off election on September 28, most likely against Yameen.

However a the narrow margin separating Gasim and Yameen suggests the position of runner-up may be hotly contested. A small group of Gasim supporters have gathered outside Dharubaruge early this morning in protest over what they claim are discrepancies between votes counted and eligible voters for several boxes. It was unclear if this data was taken directly from the elections commission, or from local media outlets – some of which have reported erroneous figures throughout the day.

Elections officials were not responding.

Latest results on the EC’s website:

Gasim Ibrahim – 50,422 (24.07%)

Mohamed Waheed – 10,750 (5.13%)

Abdulla Yameen – 53,099 (25.35%)

Mohamed Nasheed – 95,224 (45.45%)

1:41 am – The Elections Commission has said it is recounting three ballot boxes and expects to hold a press conference to give provisional results at 2:00am.

1:38 am – Transparency Maldives Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said in 14.5 percent of ballot boxes where controversy occurred during counting, these would not have impacted the overall outcome of the first placed candidate.

“The incidents that have happened on election day will not have a material impact on the outcome of the election,” he said.

1:13 am – Transparency Maldives praised its observer network, stating that 95 percent of its sample was reported within three hours of the polls closing. TM confidently called Nasheed’s progression to the second round, but could not call the runner up due to a margin of error larger than the difference between the vote counts of Yameen and Gasim.

According to Transparency’s statement:

  • 99.5 percent of polling stations had closed by 5:00pm
  • Only 0.2 percent of voters complained that their names were not on the voter registry, and 0.05% complained that they were unable to vote at polling stations
  • Voting was temporarily halted at 3.8 percent of polling stations, half of these interventions by the presiding officer. The remainder involved “an unruly voter or two, or an enthusiastic political party member”
  • 1.4% has instances of violence, but largely peaceful
  • Police entered 18.8 percent of polling stations, 80 percent of the time at the invitation of the presiding officer
  • Candidates well represented – Gasim 73.7 percent, Waheed 29.6 percent, Yameen 74.2%, Nasheed 91.5%
  • Counting concluded without controversy at 85 percent of all polling stations, and only 0.22% of ballot papers were disputed by observers/candidates
  • 82.6 percent of polling stations reported assisted votes

12:26 am – Transparency Maldives is due to give a press conference soon.

11:44 pm – The Elections Commission will announce provisional results some time between midnight and 1:00am, said EC President Thowfeek. The final results of the first round will be announced on 14 September.

11:40 pm – The EC has yet to calculate exact voter turnout, as a lack of internet connection and the inability of some officials to use the new web system had resulted in a lower than expected figure, stated EC VP Ahmed Fayaz. “We expect a minimum 82 percent voter turnout.”

11:39 pm – EC President Thowfeek said results are still coming in: “We have not yet received the complete results as of yet. Currently we have got 315 boxes. None of the candidates has so far got the required 50 percent +1 vote, but a lot of boxes still need to be verified. After that we can say whether a candidate can win from the first round,” he said.

11:37 pm – The initial exit poll suggests over 200,000 people have voted, said Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz, a turnout of over 83 percent.

11:34 pm – The Elections Commission is holding a press conference. Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has said there have been no major problems, although has acknowledged the commission is having trouble closing two ballot boxes.

“What happened with the ballot box at Majeediyya School was dissent arising between some election officials and representatives from a candidate. Some people questioned the check marks on ballot papers, and had disagreed over whether some marks are to be counted as valid votes,” Thowfeek stated.

The second ballot box kept in Galolhu [ward of Male] “has been opened and counting is underway. We just got the confirmation,” he stated.

11:18 pm – Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef has advised Minivan News that police did not remove a ballot box from Majeedhiya School. Haneef said EC officials at Majeedhiya requested police presence at the polling station, but did not remove the ballot box. “The EC removed the box in a vehicle, not police,” stated Haneef.

11:02 pm – Jumhoree Party (JP) Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz has said that any possible decision on how the party contests the second round would be expected either late this evening or possibly tomorrow.

“We are still waiting at the moment,” he said, adding that discussions need to be held between JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim and the party’s council before finalising any possible alliance.

10:59 pm – Ballot boxes counted: Male – 93 out of 100; resorts – 38 out of 40; other areas – 7 of 9, reports state media MBCNews.

10:55 pm – The ballot box has been removed from Majeedhiya School in police vehicles. Police are now moving crowds away from the area.

10:54 pm – “We took so long because the EC wasn’t able to facilitate a meeting with the head EC official at this box,” Hassan Latheef has told media. “We have heard her side of the story.”

Latheef said the head official claimed that observers from all parties “may have moved away from their assigned places, and if this was the case, this might have been against the law.” He added that her report does not match those of observers, “and we will look into this detail.”

Latheef said that “if there are grounds for complaint we will do so with the EC at the earliest opportunity.”

10:44 pm – The Seenu Meedhoo ballot box, expected to have a large majority for MDP, has been sealed by police following observer objections to Elections Commission (EC) counting practices, Minivan News understands.

Observers and monitors raised procedural concerns with the head EC official Aishath Naseema when she allegedly miscounted votes, said one media monitor speaking on condition of anonymity. The source reports that the official refused to recount and continued to count, eventually ordering out all observers who were protesting her actions and announcing the results with police assistance.

Police have since sealed the ballot box without addressing the issues raised.

MDP lawyer and former youth minister Hassan Latheef is now meeting with Naseema at the ballot box. Approximately 150 individuals have gathered outside to observe proceedings.

10:36 pm – State television MBC News predicts a run-off election between MDP and PPM based on anticipated results from today’s polls: Nasheed 45%, Yameen 25%. Candidate Gasim Ibrahim is in a close third place with 24%.

At the time of the prediction, MBC News reported that there 26 boxes remain to be counted.

10:33 pm – Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan confirmed that senior officials from the party, including presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen and his running meet Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, are presently meeting in Male’ to discuss second round plans.

PPM will look to meet with potential allies in the second round, Nihan said, adding that every other candidate who stood in today’s election against Nasheed would be invited “to be on-board” in the run-off vote.
“It is quite clear we will be facing the MDP in the second round,” he said.

Nihan expects the PPM to make a statement on its support for the second round vote “sooner rather than later”, once talks were completed with other parties.

10:30 pm – The Elections Commission reports that all boxes in Male have been reported to its offices. Senior Administration Official Fathima Zuhuzhi said that boxes will arrive from the atolls with officials tomorrow, but the numbers are being reported through official software.

The Elections Commission does not count ballots. It’s primary task is to compile information, and only those with specific permits are allowed access to the compilation room.

10:25 pm – Ballot boxes in London – the latest-open polling site world-wide – are officially closed, Television Maldives has tweeted.

10:17 pm – The Elections Commission’s Ballot Progress Reporting System is updated for the final time, recording 170,686 voters out of a possible 239,593 eligible voters–reflecting a 71.28 percent turnout.

Figures from local media, however, put the number of votes given for all four candidates at over 184,000 with more than 35 ballot boxes still to count.

10:00 pm – President Waheed’s Senior Advisor Teresa Wells said the incumbent would not be releasing a statement tonight, but that a comment on his plans ahead of a run-off vote would be released tomorrow.

9: 58 pm – Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom hsa said that the party would be “considering its options” ahead of the second round after the “forward with the nation coalition” it was backing received a decidedly low percent of the popular vote.

Dr. Mausoom has told Minivan News that he does not wish to comment if the party’s stance would force its hand at lending support to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in a run-off election.

“I think the DRP as a party has very clear values and ideologies, we would look for the coalition that best represented these” he said, adding that the Elections Commission (EC) had executed a “beautiful” election.

“Although there were some reservations Maldivians have held a free and fair election, with Dr. Waheed also expressing his confidence for the EC. This was great to see,” he said.

9:56 pm – Ballot boxes are being delivered and checked in to the Elections Commission, where approximately 50 people have gathered.

9:02 pm – Former Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam has told Minivan News that the MDP are “preparing for a second round”.

“We didn’t get what we wanted from Male’,” he said outside Dharubaaruge.

Aslam anticipates that the MDP would face the PPM in the second round, saying that the party was not concerned about Gasim.

“Yameen is not an idiot, Gasim is an idiot.”

He noted that he had not seen a turnout this low, and anticipated lower figures for the second round.

8:56 pm – Initial results from Male’ ballot boxes show strong support for Nasheed in Galolhu and Henveiru wards.

8:52 pm – Preliminary ballot counting is now finishing at polling stations across Male’, with police remaining on duty at all stations. Residents remain indoors and clustered around radios to get the latest results.

8:28 pm – Male’ streets remain quiet while residents watch television indoors, anticipating the results of the final 100 ballot boxes.

8:04 pm – Ten police crowded into a Ahmadiyya School in Galolhu after a dispute between polling officials and an election observer over inaccurately marked ballots. The agitated observer had left by the time the police arrive, themselves leaving shortly after.

“Somebody called us, but I don’t know why – I don’t know why it’s necessary to come,” one officer said,

7:58 pm – Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that he was surprised by the way voting has been going in his Henveiru-south.

“We are not performing as expected – the race is very close,” he said, before comparing the Maldivian Democratic Party’s voting pattern to pro-Gayoom voting in this stage of the 2008 election.

6:45 pm – Nasheed is also proving popular among resort workers with strong majorities in most resort ballot boxes.

In Bandos Island Resort, owned by Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, provisional results show Nasheed leading with 136 votes, Yameen in second place with 81 votes, Gasim third with 39 votes and President Waheed in fourth place with 8 votes.

In Irufushi Resort, owned by MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel Shiyam, whose Maldivian Development Alliance party is in coalition with the PPM, Nasheed has 59 votes to Yameen’s 38 votes and Gasim at third place with 6 votes and Waheed at fourth with 1 vote.

In Kuredhu Island Resort owned by the government-aligned Champa family, Nasheed leads with 50 votes, Yameen in second place with 33 votes, Gasim third with 14 votes and Waheed fourth with 1 vote.

6:30 pm – Provisional results show former President Nasheed leading in overseas ballot boxes, suggesting strong support among the diaspora and students. Nasheed has 504 votes in Malaysia with Yameen in second place with 190, Gasim at 154, Waheed at 84 and 9 invalid votes. In Singapore, Nasheed secured the most votes with 67, and Yameen at second place with 28 votes, Gasim third with 19 votes and Waheed fourth with 14 votes.

5:42 pm – State broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) is tweeting live results at #MvElection13. So far:

Gasim 1608 (27%)
Waheed 203 (3%)
Yameen 1489 (25%)
Nasheed 2601 (44%)
Void 54 (1%)

5:33 pm – Latest from the EC’s site. Of 1574 votes counted (including 8 void), so far:

Gasim 19.35%
Waheed 16.28%
Yaeen 20.05%
Nasheed 44.32%

5:31 pm – The streets of Male are remarkably silent as people are glued to television sets watching the counting. Of the online sources of counting data the Elections Commission’s count site is the slowest to update, but the most official source of information. Haveeru News has a live infographic that is somewhat quicker.

5:09 pm – Counting is underway.

4:55 pm – Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom voted this morning at the CHSE.

4:52 pm – Voting on Inguraidhoo in Raa Atoll has been “calm” throughout the day, an island council source told Minivan News. Although the polls closed at 4:00pm, there is still a queue of people waiting to cast their vote. However, of 985 registered voters, 114 were “no shows”.

On Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll has also been “very calm”, according to an island source.

“Everything has gone pretty fine here, there have been no [negative] events,” a Kaafu Atoll, Himmafushi Island source told Minivan News.

4:35 pm – If it scores a win, the MDP in Addu Atoll will celebrate even at the risk of disturbances from opposing parties, reports Shahid.

“This is one and a half years of waiting, waiting, waiting and hard work,” he said, comparing the excitement around this election to the country’s first democratic election in 2008. “The people have got the taste of freedom, and of being proud to be a human being. They lost it, and now they want to regain it. That wasn’t there in 2008.”

4:25 pm – The majority of voters in Addu City have cast their ballot prior to the poll closing time of 4:00pm, and “in most cases it is almost done,” said former Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid, stationed in the southern-most atoll.

The community is now gathering near the polls for the ballot counting to see that the process is smoothly executed. As people – primarily party leaders and young men – gather near Addu polling stations for the ballot count, Shahid observed that they are “pretty cooked up – they are excited and anxious to see how things go.”

He added that police are noticeably present across the atoll, and have erected blockades on the causeway linking Gan and Feydhoo “to keep an eye out.” The military presence is minimal present, but soldiers have been spotted driving around to survey activities.

4:22 pm – Social media is on fire this elections. Passionate voters are posting pictures of inked fingers and long queues with messages of support for their candidates. While many are proud of voting, and not holding back in showing their excitement over social media,a considerable number of people are tweeting their resentment towards the political polarisation of the country and their justifications for boycotting the vote. Follow the elections buzz online #mvelection.

4:17 pm – Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek has said that there are no regulations prohibiting parties conducting exit polls outside polling areas.

Volunteers for the MDP have been carrying out such polls across the country today, leading to concerns from rival parties that they were campaigning in defiance of voting regulations.

4:15 pm – MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said the opposition was “comfortable” with the day’s voting.

“I voted first thing this morning and I must say the whole thing looked quite organised. I’m quite happy with how it has gone, there has been an amazing turnout,” he said.

Earlier today, a group of JP supporters outside Majeediyaa School raised concerns to Minivan News about a number of people wearing yellow t-shirts outside polling stations carrying clipboards, questioning whether such “campaigning” is allowed on voting day.

Ghafoor confirmed that the party had employed a ‘voter protection program’ that utilised volunteers as observers, while other people were conducting exit polls outside polling stations around the country to help draw up data on the day’s voting.

He rejected claims the party’s ‘voter protection program’ was campaigning for the MDP.

“They are not in branded [MDP] t-shirts, they may be wearing yellow, but we have been working on getting people out to vote. We also have a minimum of two people per vote box outside polling areas [conducting exit polls],” he said, adding that data was then being uploaded to a central system online. “The problem is the opposition do not have a thorough understanding of democracy. I do not wish to be disrespectful, but this is standard election practice.”

4:00 pm – The deadline for polls to close has passed. Voting on many islands has already finished, however queues remain at many polling stations in Male’.

3:59 pm – A group of 10-15 people waiting a few feet away from a polling station in Male’ told Minivan News they were waiting for a party to show up and pay them to vote. “If a party wants us to vote for their candidate, they will come and pay. Otherwise, we are not voting.” said one of the group members.

3:56 pm – According to Haveeru, a young man who went to vote at a ballot box for the mid-Hithadhoo constituency in Male’ and allegedly photographed his ballot paper with his mobile phone has been taken into police custody.

The local daily is also reporting that 1,915 out of 2,099 voters registered to vote in Sri Lanka has cast their ballots. Most voters in Fuvahmulah have meanwhile cast their ballots and there are queues only at a few ballot boxes.

3:48 pm – The Election Commission has confirmed that its online ballot counter does not account for many boxes on resorts or local islands with poor internet access. 70 percent turnout has already been recorded, say officials.

3:46 pm – A person who attempted to vote twice in a ballot box at the Kangaroo Kids School in Addu City was taken away from the area by police upon request of the head EC official, according to police media.

3:45 pm – 33 year-old Faithimath Irene told Minivan News near Male’ City Hall that she had “nearly missed my chance to vote, but am delighted I got here before 4:00pm. I hope this election paves our way out of this damned good democracy.”

3:44 pm – “Voting is going fine. It’s actually calm, we haven’t seen any issues and the situation is the same in the other wards,” an island council official from Fuvahmulah’s Dhiguvaadu ward told Minivan News.

However he said there have been some issues regarding the placement of campaign banners near to the Dhiguvaadu ward polling station. Allegedly PPM members posted five campaign banners just outside the polling station – within the 100 foot boundary – at midnight last night, after the 6pm campaigning deadline, alleged the island council official. The MDP has issued complaints with the Elections Commission (EC) district complaints bureau over the matter.

Meanwhile, EC officials who arrived on the island this morning took issue with an MDP campaign banner that the island council official claims was put up outside the 100 foot boundary on Thursday September 5.

3:35 pm – “Technical issues” with the EC website are being resolved, the EC said at the press briefing.

3:34 pm – With less than 30 minutes to go before polls close at 4:00pm, queues are still strong at Male’s polling stations.

3:23 pm – Some 136,236 people have cast their ballots so far, the Elections Commission (EC) has revealed at an ongoing press briefing.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek said there have been no serious issues with voting apart from delays caused by long queues at some polling stations. He added that arrangements have been made for inmates to vote.

Fuwad also said that the EC was aware that some campaign activities, such as phone calls, are still going on and that measures would be taken against those responsible.

The Deputy Chair of the EC revealed that turnout has reached 70 percent including those currently queued at polling stations.

3:16 pm – “I don’t think there have been any disturbances on Kulhudhuffushi [in Haa Dhaal Atoll], we haven’t received any complaints [of that nature],” said Rishan Nasheed, an Elections Commission Complaints Bureau official from the told Minivan News.

However there have been many complaints regarding voters names not included on the registry lists. “When we’ve re-checked, these voters are actually on lists for other polling stations on Kulhudhuffushi,” said Rishan. “This year voting boxes were placed in different locations and many people did not check to verify their polling station location.” She explained that this issue has not prevented anyone from voting.

3:13 pm – “The opening of the polls was smooth, and the administrative preparation and execution went well,” Transparency Maldives announced at its 1:00 pm press conference.

“99.5 percent of all polling stations [were] open by 8:30 am and 83 percent of polling stations [were] open within the first 10 minutes of the required opening time.”

Transparency Maldives has deployed over 400 observers over 20 atolls. It is one of four observer groups observing today’s presidential election.

Among indicators gathered, Transparency reported that queue controllers were absent from 4.1 percent of polling stations, and station controllers were absent from 7.2 percent of observed stations. 98.2 percent of polling stations met standards to ensure voter privacy.

Two or more candidate/party observers were present at 82.4 percent of all observed stations; one observer was present at 13.6 percent of polling stations. 4.1 percent of stations had not candidate/party observer. Police were present at 95 percent of the observed polling stations.

3:09 pm – Reports coming in from the islands:

On Thinadhoo in the country’s south, one of the islands flagged as a potential hotspot should voting go awry, a resident said “Everything is going very smoothly and voting is about 45 percent complete.”

“It is very peaceful [on the island] and voting is almost completed, we’re at about 90 percent,” Mox Fahumee, MDP Campaign Manager from Kanditheemu Island in Shaviyani Atoll.

“The voting process is going very quickly [this election] because people actually want to vote this time,” he said.

Voting has nearly been completed on most islands in the Kanditheemu constituency – Bilefahi, Noomera, Goidhoo, and Feydhoo – and the process has been peaceful on those islands as well.

Elderly voters have had some issues voting on Gan in Laamu Atoll, as many want help casting their ballot, however Elections Commission officials are not allowing any outside party to provide assistance
unless the voters are “blind or armless”, an Island Council official told Minivan News.

3:04 pm – Speaking to Minivan News while waiting to vote at Iskandhar School in Male’ this morning, an 18 year-old male voter employed in the Maldives Police Service (MPS) in a non-uniformed role said he anticipated voting would continue peacefully.

However, the first time voter did not rule out potential clashes between rivals once results were known: “Whichever party wins, it will be the other ones who will be causing trouble. This is politics after all,” he said.

3:02 pm – Mohamed Didi, a 54 year-old man from Addu Atoll who has lived in Male’ the last 20 years, said he did not anticipate violence on the strength of the large number of people peacefully casting their ballots across the capital.

“I do not think there will be violence, there are so many people out voting,” he said, while overlooking the line of voters outside Majeediyaa School, where he said a large number of re-registered voters originally from Addu Atoll would be casting their ballot.

2:39 pm – “Despite this unbearable heat I’ve been in this queue for at least three hours,” said 28 year-old Muhammed. “I will cast my vote and contribute to washing out baaghees.”

2:36 pm – 68 year old Mohamed Waheed told Minivan News in front of the Kalafaanu school polling station: “It is a good thing that we are having elections as due, despite the events of last year. But the EC should have better organised things, kept more counters at booths where more people vote. I share MDP’s ideology and have voted accordingly. However I am now giving away umbrella for shade for all citizens queued here to vote since the early hours.”

2:28 pm – A voter from the Machangoalhi North constituency who voted in CHSE told Minivan News that her aunt, who had voted before her, had her name on the EC list with a red dot next to it instead of being crossed out. Asked why, the EC official said a person with a face veil had attempted to vote under the name. According to the voter, her aunt does not wear the burqa. She said the EC official claimed not to recall the first voter, apart from stating that she wore the burqa, and said she and her aunt planned to lodge a complaint with the EC.

2:10 pm – Police have arrested four people in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo on suspicion of selling stolen ID cards, according to police media. The case is under investigation by the Thinadhoo Police Station.

1:48 pm – Ashraf Ibrahim, 30, from Gaaf Dhaal Madaveli: “As I see it this vote will end in the first round. The democratic party will have a sweeping win.”

Mohamed, 28, says, “Despite this unbearable heat, I’ve been in this queue for at least three hours. I will cast my vote and contribute to washing out the baaghees (traitors).”

1:43 pm – Jumhoree Party Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi has told Minivan News that presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim had cast his ballot around 7:45 am this morning at the Maafannu Madharusaa in Male’.

Dr Didi added that the party had been encouraged by what it believed had been a “high turnout” among the public – perhaps higher than in 2008’s election.

“We believe that some 80 to 90 percent of registered votes already cast on islands here,” he said. “In general, I think we have seen and fair election. The only thing [the party] has noticed is a few names are not appearing on the voter’s list.”

Dr Didi said the party was not presently certain if the difficulties had arisen due to an error on the voter’s part by re-registering to vote on a specific island, or whether it was an error by the Election’s Commission (EC).

Despite some concerns previously raised over the requirements of the re-registration process by political parties ahead of polling, the EC last month confirmed that more than 50,000 voters had successfully re-registered to cast their ballots today.

1:35 pm – Maldivian Absolute Security Advanced Pvt Ltd security firm officials dressed in black ties, dress shirts, and trousers have been seen by Minivan News outside polling places and driving around Male’ on motorcycles. One of the security guards told Minivan News they were hired by the government to provide general election security.

The situation at most polling places in Male’ is the same – very long lines and primarily Maldivian observers from various institutions assessing the situation. Minivan News has observed police stationed outside polling places in groups ranging from two to four officers, however none were observed within 100 feet of ballot boxes – unless they were casting their votes.

Some MDP volunteers at Jamaludeen School are concerned because only one Elections Commission team was present and as a result individuals are waiting for at least 45 minutes before casting their ballots. A polling station official at Thaajuddeen School told Minivan News that the queue to vote has been “nonstop since polls opened” at 7:30am.

“This is the most people I’ve ever seen [come to vote].” He noted that despite the large crowds there have been no disturbances and there are “no issues yet” with police, “they’ve been coordinating well.”

1:32 pm – “The police Quick Rescue Team has resolved a dispute between two families in Faafu Feeali and returned an ID card to its owner,” according to police media.

1:05 pm – MDP running mate Dr Mustafa Lutfi declared: “I have cast my vote. I’m happy with how the EC has organised matters regarding this election. My hope is that things proceed peacefully like this and are concluded in a fair and transparent manner.”

12:59 pm – Almost half of all eligible voters have either cast their vote or are queued to do so, according to Elections Commission statistics.

12:52 pm – An Australian surf instructor living on the island of Thulusdhoo, Tim Southall, told Minivan News polling day had so far been among the most peaceful 24 hours on the island this year.

Amber Coontz, a US teacher and surfing enthusiast also living and working on the island, said she had been given a similar impression. “No problems, drama or cursed coconuts to speak of,” she said, referring to recent international media coverage of the election build up.

12:48 pm – “Problems that occurred in the voting queue” that caused a disruption to voting in Gaaf Dhaal Nadella has been resolved and voting has resumed peacefully, according to police media.

12:43 pm – Hussan Shahid, a 33 year-old guest house operator on the island of Thulusdhoo in North Male’ Atoll has said that as opposed to the country’s first multi-party democratic vote in 2008, polling was being held peacefully this afternoon.

Shahid said that the island, which he described as being a very close community with an estimated population of 1,500 people, had been holding peaceful campaigning in the build up to today’s vote – claiming rival parties had even assisted each other in recent months.

“The island is very quiet and I think everyone is waiting for the result. We are a very close population, but there seem to be a lot of resort [workers] voting here too,” he said. “I hope nothing goes bad here, we are a quiet island. There are only two parties here – the yellow party (MDP) and the blue party (President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s) ‘forward with the nation coalition’.”

Shahid claimed that the island was believed to be largely in support of President Waheed.

12:41 pm – Voting has resumed in Gaaf Alif Maamendhoo following a minor disruption caused by a voter attempting to get to the top of the queue half an hour ago, according to police media.

12:37 pm – 24 year-old Mohamed Azmeel voted at Jamaluddeen School: “After two years of authoritarian rule this is the first time we get to have our say.”

12:34 pm – Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen called today’s election a “watershed” after voting near the National University in Male, the Times of India reports.

“Things have gone so wrong the last four-five years. It is absolutely imperative that we change for the better this time,” he said.

12:20 pm – Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek has told Minivan News that all polling is going to plan at present.

“As of now a total of 96, 318 have voted,” he said.

12:15 pm – The Human Rights Commission of Maldives has said in a press statement that 57 officials are observing voting at 25 ballot boxes in Male’ and the atolls.

11:50 am – The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has said on its website that voting has been “generally peaceful” in atolls across the country with no conflicts identified so far by division commanders.

Police have confirmed that voting was however delayed on the island on the island of Dhiggaru in Meemu Atoll and did not commence until 9:12am over allegations of individuals trying to break the queue.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef asked for any specific inquiries to be forwarded to the Elections Commission (EC).

11:53 am – Shaarih, 33, in line near the customs area: “Impossible to sum up so shortly this mix of sentiments I have. To put it best, what’s in my mind is: ‘Let’s do this! Let’s win back our country.'”

11:50 am – 19 year old Rauha Ahmed said: “I hate politics. I hate standing in queues. I’m only here because my mom was throwing a fit.”

11:43 am – Abdul Raheem, 67, is waiting in line: “I am voting who I have always voted for. We need to elect a man with experience in running the country. Youngsters took over for the past few years and look at how our social fabric has been torn to bits. If children as young as 18 are not allowed to vote, as they don’t have mature thinking yet, we’d have a better chance of maintaining a peaceful regime.”

11:38 am – Aisthath Sharafnaz, 35, is also in the queue outside the Customs Building: “I’m standing here a little worried, but hoping I’ll get to vote. It’s been over a year since we last had an elected government.”

11:35 am – 57 year old Abdulla Ali, waiting in line outside the Customs Building, said “I am very happy today as citizens are getting to exercise their right to elect a leader of their choice. I’ll accept the outcome regardless of who wins.”

11:33 am – Former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed has voted in Male.

11:23 am –49 year old Gasim supporter, Fathimath Zoona, said she is “feeling very anxious. I am heading to vote now, in the hope of being able to live in a peaceful society again after recent years.”

11:20 am – Sun Online has reported an incident between two families in between two families in Faafu Feeali after a man allegedly hid his wife’s national ID card.

11:16 am – Consular officials in Thiruvananthapuram, India, have expressed surprise at the high number of Maldivians who have registered to vote there, reports Rejith Balakrishnan for the Times of India.

“Consulate authorities said that citizens have started giving importance to politics since the peculiar political scenario is directly affecting their lives here. Most Maldivians come to Kerala for educational and medical purposes,”

Ibrahim Azeem, an attache at the consulate, told the Times that many people that voters had become less apathetic, becoming more keen to exercise their rights.

10:51 am – Observing voters outside Majeediyaa School in Male’ this morning, Jumhoree Party (JP) supporter Adam Naseer said he had not seen or heard any trouble in the capital today.

Naseer added that he did not expect a first round victory for any candidate n today’s polls, expressing hope JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim would then secure a second round victory in a run off election.

“We see this as a semi-final,” he explained.

A group of his fellow party supporters also raise concerns to Minivan News about a number of people wearing yellow t-shirts – the colour of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – outside polling stations carrying clipboards, questioning whether such “campaigning” is allowed on voting day.

10:30 am – The Elections Commission (EC) has said that voter turnout exceeds expectations, and projects that 80 percent of eligible voters will cast their ballots before the close of polls at 4:00 pm, reports Haveeru.

10:47 am – Progressive Party of Maldives vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed tolds Minivan News he was the first person to cast his vote at Arabiyya School in Male’ at 7:30am this morning

“I am very upbeat and hopeful that our ticket will go ahead and win this election.  The nation deserves a fresh pair to lead it for the next five years and fulfill the aspiration of our people” he said.  “I am sure that this nation will survive the challenges it faces both economic and social to take the country to the glory of development and economic success.”

10:46 am – Former Immigration Controller Abdullah Shahid voted at 7:30am this morning in Addu Atoll, where he reports that polls are functioning smoothly; “Almost 45 percent of voters have voted in some areas [of Addu]”, he said. “We are hearing that approximately 70 percent of Feydhoo constituency on Male has voted.”

After voting, men and youth are reportedly gathering in party camps and cafes in Addu.

10:45 am – “I don’t think any of these candidates are suitable, however I cast a valid vote for one of them. Let’s see if this brings any change for the better,” said 22 year-old Rooya Hussain, after voting at the Centre for Higher Secondary Education (CHSE).

10:41 am – Three hours after polling opened, and more than 27 percent of eligible voters have cast their votes.

10:40 am – PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen has voted in Male.

10:25 am – Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan has spoke of a “harmonious” atmosphere between rival in his constituency of Villimale’, where six ballot boxes have been stationed today.

“We held a coffee session with members of the MDP and JP, I can say there is much more harmony that in 2008,” he added.

However, Nihan said he had raised a complaint with monitors over allegations that voters queing to cast their ballot have continuing to receive recorded messages urging them to vote for Jumhoree Party (JP) candfidate MP Gasim Ibrahim – despite a deadline for campaigning having passed.

10:18 am – MDP supporters on Guraidhoo Island in Kaafu Atoll reportedly began lining up to vote at 2:00pm yesterday, after rumours began circulating of a buried fanditha (black magic) coconut buried at the front of the queue.

It is thought the candiate chosen by the first person standing over the coconut and then voting would have their chosen candidate picked by all remaining voters.

“We don’t believe in these things, but some MDP supporters waited just in case,” said a 25 year old Guraidhoo resident. “We will never let PPM [use black magic].”

10:18 am – Queues of up to one hour reported at polling booths as one fifth of the electorate have cast their ballot.

10:10 am – Rasal Taxis, a cab firm based in the ‘raalhugandu’ area of Male’ said all its drivers were working for the company today, and not any particular party.

One driver told Minivan News that the MDP had hired him for the entire day for MVR5000 (US$324) – saying he was paid MVR2000 (US$129) for the same service in 2008 during the last election.

9:55 am – Taking respite between polling stations at the Republic Monument in Male’, 33 year-old taxi driver Asif tells Minivan News that the election has meant good business for the capital’s cabbies.

“Today, parties are booking taxis to get their voters to the poll. They are making lots of money,” he said.

Asif, who started his shift at 7:15am – shortly before polling commenced – said he had not personally taken any money from a party today. He added that he would be driving up until 4:30pm once the days polling has finished.

Asif added that after a seemingly peaceful start to voting in the capital, he hoped the calm would continue into the night: “I don’t like to think there might be violence afterwards,” he adds.

9:45 am – “It’s my first time voting and I’m excited about it,” said a 20 year-old voter, waiting in line. “I think it’s a important I do my part for my country.”

9:40 am – Over 18 percent of registered voters have already cast their votes according to the Election Commission’s Ballot Progress Reporting System.

9:35 am – “I’ve been waiting for 19 f***ing months for this day, so I got here as early as I could. It’s my way of standing up to the coup,” said 39 year-old Ismail Shiyaz, ahead of casting his vote at a polling station in Male.

8:45 am – Two men in their mid-40s were proud of their right to vote in this election.

“[This election] is very important for our future,” said one man after voting at Ameeniya School. He observed that “2008 was a bit hectic, but this year is really calm.”

Another man who was waiting to vote said, “I need to follow my duties. I have to vote…this is important for the future of our country.” While he was wary of disruptions, he said that, “we think about the vote peacefully.”

8:30 am – President Waheed, Gasim and Defence Minister Nazim have voted. Nasheed is confirmed to be voting at 11:00am.

8:25 am – “I am excited about this election because it is quite challenging, and what we are expecting is support for MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party). We’re excited to see who is going to win,” said one 54-year-old male voter. He expects proceedings to be peaceful.

8:25 am – A 33-year-old woman who voted in the 2008 election said she hopes for a strong turnout at the polls. “I think more people will come out for this election because people were new to the concept of democracy [in 2008]. People are more aware this time,” she said, adding that she had her “fingers crossed” for a peaceful election.

8:20 am – The line to vote outside of Centre for Higher Secondary Education in Male’ stretched two blocks by 8:00 am this morning. Two 21-year-old first-time voters said they were “totally excited” to be voting in this election. Although they were not sure what to expect inside the voting area, they were “confident” that the proceedings would go as planned.

7:50 am – Queues of people snaked through Kalaafaanu School in Male as hundreds of people lined up to vote. Dozens of police were present – many voting themselves – and crowds were quiet and peaceful

7:30 am – Polls opened in Male’ to quiet streets, but long queues of voters.


Comment: Election 2013 – where to, people?

This article first appeared on DhivehiSitee’s Election 2013 hub. Republished with permission.

It has been 569 days since the coup of 7 February 2012. We have walked a long way back in those five hundred odd days.

State-sponsored violence has returned with a vengeance, along with arbitrary arrests and detentions. Precious civil liberties – freedom of expression and freedom of assembly among others, have been scaled back to alarming levels. Basic human rights—freedom from arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and other state-sponsored violence – have been taken away.

Xenophobic nationalism coupled with radical religious ideologies has damaged not just our relations with each other but our relations with the rest of the globalised and inter-connected world of today. From a respected actor punching far above our weight in international relations, we have become a nation viewed as a ‘terrorist hotbed’ dominated by radical Islamist thought with little respect for universal human rights.

Foreign investors have been scared away, international financial agreements reneged on and international treaties cut up and thrown out. Corrupt oligarchs and self-interested government officials have negotiated our sovereignty to appease the national interest of big powers while petty crooks posing as cabinet ministers have sold or rented out our precious natural resources to international gangsters and unethical international business partners for hefty sums that line only their own pockets.

We as a people, once united by a shared belief in our own moderate Muslim identity, are now more divided than ever before, torn apart by the political abuse of religion as a form of absolute control over our hearts, minds and lives. Facts have been sacrificed in the construction of a particular truth, reality itself has become what the rulers tell us what it should be. It seems like we have lived five hundred years in the last five hundred days, all roads leading back to the past, further and further away from the world at present and what it looks set to become in the days to come.

It can all change in the next week. On 7 September 2012 we will decide whether to stay on this road to the past, or return to the present and back to the future. On the other side of this inter-connected world, in the Middle East especially, we have watched the ‘Arab Spring’ unfold. We were ahead of other countries in the ‘Islamic world’ in making a peaceful democratic transition. And we were ahead of others, like Egypt, in having the heady joy of a revolution killed by an authoritarian reversal that took the form of a coup.

Analysts have identified an emerging trend among such countries of an ‘authoritarian push-back‘. Judging from the number of people who have failed to see the events of 7 February 2012 in the Maldives as a coup, both home and abroad, we may well fall within this new trend. Or, we can prove the analysts wrong like we did those who believed peaceful democratic transition is impossible in an Islamic country. We can say no to the authoritarian push-back, preempt the forecasted trend before it can even begin. The choice is ours to make on 7 September.

Let us make it an informed one.

Candidate 1: Gasim Ibrahim

Gasim Ibrahim (61) [or Qasim Ibrahim after re-branding for the campaign] is the candidate for Jumhooree Party. Gasim’s main ally isthe Adhaalath Party, the most politically active ‘Islamic organisation’ in the country.

Candidate Gasim’s defining characteristic, as put forward by him and his campaign team, is that he is the richest man in the country. Gasim is the owner of Villa Group, the largest company in the Maldives with 6000 employees. According to Gasim’s Wikipedia page, although ‘his net worth has not been made public’, it is ‘believed to be in access of 500 million dollars’. Gasim’s properties include several luxury tourist resorts, uninhabited islands, and shipping, fisheries, fuel, construction and manufacturing as well as import/export companies. Gasim also runs Villa High School and Villa College, which, although money-making businesses, he also aggressively promotes as evidence of his philanthropy along with a large number of study loans he has provided for many Maldivian students to study abroad.

Gasim’s chief selling point is his ‘rags to riches’ biographical narrative. Born to a blind father on the island of Dhiddhoo in the neighbouring Alif Atoll, his mother died when he was 39 days old. Gasim was brought up on Maamigili island by his grandmother and other relatives until he came to Male’ at a young age, ending up as a servant boy in Endherimaage, the unofficial residence of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gasim’s chief patron in the house was Ilyas Ibrahim, Maumoon’s brother-in-law. That Ilyas, a powerful political figure throughout Gayoom’s reign, is now working under Gasim to promote his presidency, is another glorified strand in Gasim’s poor boy made millionaire narrative. Another celebrated one is that Gasim, who did not receive any formal education, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Open University of Malaysia in December last year.

Gasim’s chief pledges are in line with his multimillionaire identity. In addition to laptops and iPads for all children and more materialistic goods to all voters and various constituencies, the Jumhooree Coalition has also pledged that a win for them would ensure everyone in the country will have the opportunity to ‘be a Qasim’. Last Friday Gasim donated a large number of equipment — computers, air-conditions and LCD TVs to schools in Addu City, but has denied it is a bribe intended to influence the elections.

What Gasim’s campaign carefully omits from all discussions about his wealth is his enormous debt. While Gasim was the Minister of Finance (2005-2008), the state-owned Bank of Maldives approved loans to Gasim’s Villa Group worth almost US$ 40 million (US$37,601,520) — 32.4 per cent of the bank’s entire capital. The Finance Ministry, which Gasim headed at the time, held a 51 per cent veto over any decision of the Bank of Maldives board, of which he was also a non-executive member.

Gasim is also presenting himself to voters as a champion of Islam and has formed an alliance with the ‘Islamic party’, Adhaalath, to ‘defend Islam’. This part of his campaign appears geared towards the not insubstantial segment of the voter population that prefers a manifesto for the afterlife to one for here and now. Given Adhaalath’s goal of making Sharia the only source of law in the Maldives, Gasim’s alliance with the party means that a win for him is likely to bring the country closer to Adhaalath’s dream of the Maldives as an ‘Islamic state’ belonging to a revived global Caliphate.

Personal Tidbits

Gasim has four wives, the maximum allowed for a Muslim man, and 12 children, seven boys and five girls. His oldest is studying for a Master’s and the youngest is less than two years old. He also has six grandchildren. Gasim is reputed to have a hot temper and a reputation for not being the politest man in politics. One of his wives has said he is a very ‘caring and sharing’ husband who answers the phone no matter where in the world he is. Another says he is ‘very kindly’, and that he has never spoken to her in anger. Gasim has said that he married four women to increase his chances of having a daughter.

Why should you vote Gasim?

In his own words:

Maldivians would know very well that there is no other reason for me to contest these elections except to bring them the development and progress they want. If I were driven only by personal interest or my own business interests, I wouldn’t need to be running for this position. Anybody who gives it serious thought will know that what I am doing is making their development certain.  In the same breath, every Maldivian who gives it serious thought will also be certain that I will not touch even a penny from our treasury; that I will not allow room for hatred to spread in this country; that I will get the economy back up and running; that with God’s help I will establish justice to their satisfaction; I will not let our independence and sovereignty be disturbed even the slightest; and that I am ready to spill my blood on this ground in protecting our glorious and sacred religion and independence. Every person who gives this some thought will know that they must vote for me as President of the Maldives.

-RiyaaC Programme, MNBC One

Candidate 2: Mohamed Waheed

Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik (60), is the incumbent President, running as an independent candidate. Waheed took oath on 7 February 2012, a few hours after Mohamed Nasheed resigned under duress. Until then Waheed was Nasheed’s Vice President. Waheed insists his presidency is legal, a claim legitimised by the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) ruling a year ago that the events of 7 February 2012 did not amount to a coup d’état.

Waheed’s chief selling point to voters has been a claim to calmness, an ability to remain undisturbed in extreme turbulence. As evidence of this, Waheed has pointed to his two inaugural speeches at the Majlis, delivered amid riotous heckling by MDP MPs and large protests outside. According to his brother Ali Waheed, it is down to Waheed’s infinite patience and unflappability that the streets of Male’ are not completely chaotic as they were in the immediate aftermath of the coup. With a long and illustrious career in the United Nations behind him, Waheed’s campaign also projects him as a man of the world with the kind of international experience that all his rivals lack.

Waheed has been described by Hassan Saeed, then his chief political advisor as ‘politically the weakest person in the Maldives‘, and his 18 months as acting president has been disastrous for both him and the country. He has presided over a shocking decrease in freedom of expression and other civil liberties as well as the biggestincrease in state-sponsored violence since democratic rule began. Waheed’s government has entirely failed to take any steps towards crucial judicial reform, has been dogged by massive economic problems, and has damaged foreign investor confidence with a range of bad decisions, especially the decision to void GMR’s airport development contract. Waheed insists none of this has anything to do with him and maintains that he has support of ‘the silent majority’ which he estimates to be about 90 percent of the population.

Personal Tidbits

Waheed makes a mean lamb/beef curry, shares domestic chores with his wife Ilham Hussein, loves cycling and listens to Ghazals. He has three grown-up children, two of whom are as involved in his political life as his wife. Until recently, his youngest, a son, was known as Jeffrey but is now referred to as Salim, perhaps to appease the radical Islamists who insist on Arabic names for children as proof of the parents’ Islamic beliefs. His wife Ilham, who is also his first girlfriend, has said what she admires most about him is his morals and good manners.

Why should people vote for Waheed?

In his own words:

I believe that today the Maldivian people want a leader who will take the nation forward calm and steady. People who can bring the necessary development and reforms as smoothly as possible. I have shown this to the best of my ability in recent days. This is a difficult time. This is an unusual time in Maldivian history. It is a time of exceptional change, a time which requires that we go forward with some amount of maturity, calm and steadiness. It requires development of the whole country without personalising the difficulties, by looking at the big picture. We have to find a way to continue with the democratic work that has already been started. I believe that our brothers and sisters will carefully look at all candidates. When they do, I believe that I will receive a lot of support.

-RiyaaC Programme, MNBC One

Candidate 3: Abdulla Yameen

Yameen Abdul Gayoom (54) [also known as Abdulla Yameen] is PPM’s [Progressive Party of Maldives] candidate and brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled Maldives from 1978-2008. The defining characteristic of Yameen’s candidacy is, in fact, this family relationship—a vote for Yameen, the electorate is told on a daily basis, is a vote for Gayoom; electing Yameen would be a re-election of Gayoom by proxy.

Yameen’s chief selling point is that he is an economist and as such someone who can manage the country’s bankrupted finances better than any other candidate. Giant billboards appeared all over Male’ in the early days of the PPM campaign, some with quotations from famous world economists, as evidence of Yameen’s economic competency. Yameen has also promised to concentrate on making things better for the country’s youth, the most troubled and troublesome segment of the Maldivian population.

Several accusations of corruption, including alleged involvement in an international money laundering racketworth  US$800 million with ties to the Burmese junta have been levelled against Yameen. He denies the allegation and all others, describing them as ‘baseless and unfounded‘. Yameen is known for his tendency to sue for libelagainst anyone who makes or repeats such accusations, sometimes claiming millions in damages purportedly for no other reason than to ‘vindicate his good name.’ Apart from the promise to bring back the policies and characteristics of brother Thuththonbe’s [Gayoom’s] rule, one of Yameen’s main pledges to voters has been his promise the plan to restart his earlier attempts to explore for oil in the Maldives. Most of Yameen and PPM’s campaign has otherwise concentrated on criticising rival Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldivian Democratic Party candidate and others.

Personal Tidbits

Yameen has a hard time smiling, a fact which his campaign has sought hard to remedy with several friends appearing on MNBC One’s RiyaaC programme with Yameen to insist on how much fun he reallyreally is. He is, the PPM campaign has insisted, ‘a seriously funny man’, and it is a mistake to view his normal ‘reserve’ as arrogance. Yameen has three children, oa six-year-old boy and two grown-up children. His wife Fathimath Ibrahim is an active member of his campaign, although both his older children he says, absolutely hates the fact that he is in politics. When he appeared on the RiyaaC programme, he was shown relaxing at home with a book which, on close inspection, appears to be Heart Work by Chan Chin Bock [Publisher: Singapore: Economic Development Board] – more evidence of his competency as an economist.

Why should you vote Yameen?

In his own words:

The only viable option for any Maldivian who wants to make their lives better is to vote for me. [Why?] Because the biggest challenges we currently face are in the economic sector—problems in this area are permeating all others. Why is the health sector not developing as it should? Why cannot we add a new classroom to a school? Why aren’t there more doctors, more foreign doctors? Why are we short of IV fluid? These are all budget, money, dollars and sense, Rufiyaa, Laari, aren’t they? So, to find out how to earn Rufiyaa Laari, to understand how to spend Rufiyaa Laari with the least amount of waste and knowing how to draw the political map is the only way to draw the map and get there. Is it not? That’s why I have said a person who comes to the leadership will come with the aim to do something, not to continue business as usual. That’s why I want to say to all Maldivians: if you want to seriously change things for the better, there’s no need to look at any other candidate in my opinion, okay?

– RiyaaC Programme, MNBC One

Candidate 4: Mohamed Nasheed

Mohamed Nasheed (46) is the candidate for Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the only democratically elected president in Maldivian history. He was ousted on 7 February in the coup that was ruled ‘not a coup’ by the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI).

Nasheed’s chief selling point is his long history of fighting for democracy in the Maldives and his pledge to restore it if elected again. Nasheed’s two and half years in government (November 2008- February 2012) was controversial — people either loved him or hated him. Few were indifferent. The Nasheed administration introduced free healthcare, a basic pensions scheme for the elderly, and a desperately needed transport system that made travel between the islands scattered across 90,000 square kilometres of Indian Ocean easier than ever before. Freedom of expression and other civil libertiesflourished to unprecedented levels during his presidency.

A large share of Nasheed’s time in government, however, was spent fighting the always present threat of an authoritarian reversal, the ‘dregs of dictatorship’ that remained within every branch of government. The opposition majority in parliament blocked several key plans of the administration and opposed judicial reformat every turn, vehemently obstructed Nasheed’s push for taxing the rich, making the executive’s job as difficult as possible in the new democracy.

Throughout his years in power, his administration was also dogged by accusations of nepotism, over-indulgence, and most damagingly, of being ‘irreligious’ [Laa Dheene] and anti-Islamic. Despite the latter, it was also during Nasheed’s presidency that Maldivian religious radicals, liberated by Nasheed’s commitment to freedom of expression, most widely disseminated their hate-filled ideologies ultimately contributing to his downfall.

As a presidential candidate, Nasheed still rouses strong emotions. Tens of thousands—men and women of all ages—clearly adore him. Detractors hate him, refusing to believe he resigned under duress and accusing him of concocting a tall tale about being forced to resign. In their version of the truth, he left the position unable to govern or in a moment of weakness. Despite the allegations, all his opponents acknowledge that he is their strongest rival. In fact, all of them have said he is their only rival.

Personal Tidbits

Nasheed is a history enthusiast who has authored two books. A former journalist and an avid reader, he has said his true passion is writing. He loves animals and kept a whole cage full of birds until he was jailed himself. On returning from prison, he freed them all. He loves spending time with his two daughters and, as a committed weekend-cleaner at home, has said if he loses the election his teenage daughter has suggested they start a domestic cleaning company together. His wife of nineteen years, Laila, has said what she loves most about Nasheed is his great sense of humour.

Why should you vote for Nasheed?

In his own words:

I believe the Maldivian people really wanted to ask ‘why’, and to do something by themselves to find an answer to the ‘why’. They wanted to vote, and to establish a leadership from the results of that vote. They wanted to have more than one person to vote for and to have a competitive political environment . People are realising that it is we who have tried to establish competitive politics in this country and I think they accept what we have done in this regard. People also appreciate what we were able to do in our two years. Our track record in government is good. We did not arrest and torture a single person. We did not seize anyone’s property unlawfully. People really wanted to be free from torture, to be safe from inhumane violence. Our track record on that is impeccable. I also feel that people accept the policies we propose for the future. I believe this year’s election results has almost been decided already. The re-registration of voters casting their ballot paper in places other than their home islands has shown clearly that we will win in one round. God willing, we will win in one round.

– RiyaaC Programme, MNBC One

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in international relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Maldives Decides 2013

Click to visit Maldives Decides 2013

Minivan News has launched ‘Maldives Decides 2013’, a hub of content concerning the four candidates competing in the 2013 presidential election.

Each candidate’s entry includes an overview of their recent political history with extensive links to relevant articles published by Minivan News, an overview of their policy positions, and a brief analysis of their support base.

The hub also includes an unofficial poll, links to Minivan News’ ongoing election coverage, and resources provided by the Maldives Elections Commission.

Additionally, all candidates have been sent and invited to respond to the following 10 questions, which will be published unedited as received:

  1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
  2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
  3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
  4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
  5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
  6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
  7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
  8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
  9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
  10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?

Minivan News hopes ‘Maldives Decides 2013’ is of value to its readers, and looks forward to a free, fair and inclusive election on September 7.

Visit Maldives Decides 2013

Feel free to discuss this project below, or send enquiries directly to [email protected]