Coalition parties’ Majlis selections continue amid internal criticism

The Jumhooree Party has assigned tickets for all 28 constituencies in which it will contest the upcoming People’s Majlis elections.

After giving tickets for eight sitting MPs and the former Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz last week, the party yesterday announced the candidates selected for the remaining 19 seats.

The JP’s procedure in selecting candidates involves applicants being reviewed by a special committee formed by the party council, which grades them through a set of publicly announced criteria. Applicants with most points receive the ticket – in the case of a draw, the party will reach an agreement through dialogue, with a primary race only becoming necessary should these methods fail to find an acceptable candidate.

The selection of sitting MPs and Riyaz, however, came without a public call for candidates, and were subsequently criticised by party council member Fuad Gasim – particularly as most of these members joined the party very recently.

“I believe a lot of people worked very hard for the country, democracy, and the party during the recent presidential elections. Even if they are MPs I cannot accept them – not being part of that work and now coming to us for tickets when the government changed,” said Fuad.

Meanwhile, the PPM primaries scheduled for tomorrow have been delayed indefinitely. A party official stated that the delay was due to certain decisions that have to be made by the party council.

The party council will screen all 150 candidates applying for the party’s 49 allocated constituencies through a set of criteria before primaries are held.

PPM Secretary General Mohamed Zuhair told local media that these deliberations include making a decision on handing over party tickets to sitting MPs without a primary.

The party’s procedure for selecting candidates have also been subjected to criticism from party members, with supporters in Laamu atoll demonstrating in support of a primary. The protesters accused PPM leadership of planning to give the Maavah constituency to the incumbent MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abu Bakr without a primary.

PPM member Simad Adam said that an estimated 240 people were protesting against handing over the ticket to Jamal “on a tray” because of his close ties with President Abdullah Yameen: “The party’s constitution says primaries must be held. There are others who want to contest the seat. We are just asking for a primary.”

Through a deal made within the governing coalition, the PPM will be contesting for 49 seats, the JP for 28 seats, and 8 seats have been reserved for the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA).

Among the eight, the MDA reserved two for sitting MP s – party leader and Dhaalu Meedhoo MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, and Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo MP Ahmed Amir. Tickets for two seats were won without a primary as only single candidates applied.

Primaries for a further two seats were held on 30 January, though after discovering issues with voter lists, the party will be repeat the primary for Manadhoo constituency tomorrow.

The MDA decided not to contest for Gahdhoo seat, for which the incumbent MP Zahir Adam will contest independently.


MP ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam faces trial over alcohol possession

MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam Mohamed has been charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol after a liquor bottle was found in his luggage in March 2012.

According to local media reports, the Criminal Court has scheduled the first hearing of the case for 9:00am on Thursday (November 7).

A bottle of alcohol was allegedly discovered in the tourism tycoon’s bag when it was screened at the airport upon his return from a trip overseas.

While police concluded the investigation and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office last year, it was initially sent back in August 2012 to clarify further information.

The case was filed at court by the PG office over a year and a half after the incident.

The penalty for alcohol possession in the penal code is either a fine of between MVR1,000 to MVR3,000 or imprisonment, banishment or house arrest for up to three years.

MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party are also currently facing charges of alcohol possession following their arrest on an uninhabited picnic island in November 2012.

Under article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

The MP for Dhaal Meedhoo is the leader of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – which has 7,537 registered members and three MPs – and founder of the Sun Travel and Tours company.

Shiyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August to back PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

In March 2012, an audio clip of a conversation between Shiyam and Yameen was leaked on social media, in which the pair aired grievances against PPM figurehead and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In the leaked audio, Shiyam expressed disappointment with the former president for refusing to issue him a diplomatic passport and grant land for a boat yard in the industrial island of Thilafushi.

“These are the only two favours I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.

“Once [Gayoom] took me to Singapore on some trip. All the vice presidents [of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] went. All of them had red passports [diplomatic passports]. We went and I was given a very average room. Even when I travel on my personal business, I don’t stay in anything but a suite. So I went and said it is a very small room, I cannot stay there. They told me that was how it had been booked. So I told them to give me the presidential suite. I stayed in a suite bigger than Maumoon’s. Dr Shaheed [foreign minister under both Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed] and others ridiculed me quite a bit,” Shiyam said.

After Shiyam returned, he met with Gayoom and told him, “I am this party’s [DRP’s] vice-president. You have given red passports to many businessmen, and ordinary people as well. I would like one as well. And he told me he could not do so under the law.”

Yameen replied saying that arranging for a diplomatic passport was a small matter and that “it’s no issue at all.”


PPM council member refuses to withdraw case against Nasheed’s candidacy

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed has refused to withdraw a case filed at the Supreme Court challenging the candidacy of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate and former President Nasheed, local media has reported.

The Supreme Court petition filed on October 10 states as grounds for stripping Nasheed’s candidacy his “outright criticism towards Islam and imposing Islamic Sharia’ in the Maldives” and his criticism of the judiciary.

The lawyer’s determination to proceed with the attempt to bar Nasheed from all future elections comes in spite of condemnation, including from within Wadde’s own party.

Shortly after the case was filed last week by Wadde and President of the ‘Madhanee Iththihaadh’ (Civil Alliance), Sheikh Mohamed Didi, President Dr Mohamed Waheed strongly criticised the litigation.

“[President Waheed] believes this is not the time to engage in efforts to obstruct or bar candidates from going through the electoral process. It will not help resolve the already volatile political situation in Maldives,” read a President’s Office statement.

Senior leadership from within Wadde’s PPM were also critical of the move, with State Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon saying the party was negotiating with Wadde to have the case withdrawn, arguing that he had not consulted with the party leadership.

The UK’s Bar Human Rights Committee has also expressed concern regarding this specific case, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the first round of presidential election on October 8.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy has previously described the petition as a “very dirty” attempt by their rivals to invalidate a candidate who had the demonstrable support of at least 45 percent of the people.

Inthi told Minivan News today that he believed the case alleging criminal wrongdoing did not belong in the Supreme Court.

“But the SC has been acting like some freak of nature, so anything is possible,” he added.

“Cynical attempt”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to hold a repeat first round – scheduled for October 19 –  an additional ruling was made insisting that the EC’s re-registration process be started anew with fingerprinted forms.

An MDP press release following this decision, claimed that the new ruling had come as a response to a complaint filed by the PPM.

“The MDP fears that the PPM is seeking to delay the elections and also disenfranchise overseas and  resort-based voters, who will now likely have to re-register and who tend to vote overwhelmingly in favour of President Nasheed,” read the statement.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor also described the move as a “cynical attempt by the PPM and the Supreme Court to prevent elections from taking place next week.”

During a PPM press conference held with its ally, the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), yesterday (October 16) the PPM accused the EC of violating the electoral guidelines stated in the Supreme Court’s verdict, therefore jeopardising the ability to hold the presidential election Saturday.

“We believe that the security forces need to step in and take action against this,” MDA Deputy Leader MP Ahmed Amir was quoted as saying.

The hurried re-registration drive was further hindered on Sunday (October 13) as supporters of the PPM and MDA accused the EC of foul play after a system crash.

The EC subsequently accused the parties’ supporters of “threatening officials, inciting discord, and obstructing EC officials’ ability to work”.

The Supreme Court issued yet another ruling on October 14 that ordered the EC to address the complaints of any individual who has the right to stand for election, “including the verification of fingerprints on re-registration forms through the Department of National Registration.”

PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen this week told local Haveeru that it “would be hard” for him to approve the voter registry – another recent requirement from the Supreme Court – should the EC not verify fingerprints.

The commission accepted complaints submissions until 6pm today and, as of this afternoon had processed over 52,000 of the estimated 65,000 re-registration forms for individuals voting outside of their permanent residences.


Elections Commission slams PPM, MDA protesters and police for obstructing election re-registration

The Elections Commission (EC) has “strongly condemned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) supporters for threatening officials, inciting discord, and obstructing EC officials’ ability to work”, and has notified the government that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) failed to remove the protesters from the registration section’s premises for five hours “despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance”.

A midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10 ordered the commission to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

The 65,000 people previously registered to vote in locations other than their permanent addresses have to re-register because there was no thumb print on their registration forms, EC Chairperson Fuad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News earlier this week.

Speaking to the press tonight, Thowfeek said the PPM and MDA ruckus had caused a six hour delay in reregistration. The EC has accepted all reregistration forms, and will finish processing all forms by 8:00 am tomorrow (October 15). The EC has urged all eligible voters to check their reregistration status and submit complaints by 6:00 pm tomorrow.

A system crash around 2:30pm Sunday afternoon due to the large volume of data saw the EC begin manually entering data to continue processing while the system was restarted. An official told Minivan News yesterday the problem was fixed two hours later at 4:30pm, however some people reportedly became upset as the manual process meant they were unable to be immediately issued with a confirmation slip. 2500 tickets remained at the time of the crash, the official noted.

Boisterous PPM and its allied MDA supporters in the queue quickly accused the EC of attempting to rig the election.

After the EC began to manually process the registration forms “a group of people representing the MDA and PPM protested against the move, threatened the officials at the premises, incited discord in the premises and obstructed the work of the Elections Commission officials in an uncivilised manner,” the Elections Commission stated in a press release issued last night (October 13).

“Despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance the EC had to suspend its work of processing the re-registration forms due to the PPM/MDA led actions, which made it extremely difficult for the EC to provide its services to the public and caused a lot of people to endure great difficulties,” said the EC.

“An environment that allowed the Elections Officials to work without fear and threats was only created five hours later, after police removed supporters and activists of both the MDA and the PPM from the Elections Commission’s registration department,” the EC continued.

“In this regard, the incident was brought to the attention of President’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense and National Security, the Chief Justice, Speaker of the Parliament and the Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee,” the EC said.

“We disappointingly note that the events that took place [on October 13] caused huge derailment of the efforts being made by the Elections Commission to hold the presidential election as per the deadline given by the Supreme Court, and we strongly condemn these actions,” the EC added.

“We also call upon the political parties and political parties to not cause such hindrances to the commission in the future, and act in a responsible manner.”

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News on Friday evening that the EC had received threats that the voter registration section would be attacked, and that “people would throw stones at the windows and burn things there.”

“When we received that information we wrote to the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) requesting protection of our office. It’s very sad. There are a group of people who want to block this [vote], those who know they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult. But I hope these things can be handled by the police and MNDF. The whole world is watching and wants this election,” he told Minivan News.

Re-registration process

“The Elections Commission is tirelessly working to ensure that the Presidential Election is to be held before the deadline of October 20, given by the Supreme Court in its judgement (No. 2013/SC-C/42), amidst getting just 10 days to facilitate all the necessary arrangements,” stated the commission. “With regard to this, the opportunity to apply for voter re-registration was opened until 4:30pm October 12.”

Over 12,000 individuals were issued token numbers to submit their voter re-registration forms and as of 9:00am today the last person was served, EC Secretary General Sattar told local media today. As of midnight 23,000 forms had been processed and the EC is “continuously working” to process the remainder.

The EC will be able to present the final voters list to presidential candidates on Wednesday or Thursday this week, Sattar added.

The commission estimates that 65,000 individuals will re-register to vote outside of their home island, the same the number of people who re-registered on the ‘dhaftharu’ for the now annulled first round of the presidential election.

Prior to PPM and MDA supporters disrupting re-registration yesterday, the EC was accepting re-registration forms based on tokens issued until 4:30pm on October 12.

“Re-registration forms submitted by political parties were accepted in bundles, with each set containing 100 forms. In that regard, the Election Commission collected all re-registration forms submitted by political parties by 7:00am on October 13,” stated the EC.

“Individuals who personally wanted to re-register themselves at the commission were issued two different types of token numbers. A different range of token numbers were issued for individuals submitting less than five forms and individuals submitting more than five forms, but less than ten forms,” the commission continued.

“The secretariat of the Elections Commission had continuously given the service of accepting the forms to these token numbers without any interruptions… [until] approximately around midday, when the officials at the service counters of the Elections Commission secretariat had to process the forms manually [due to failure of its network],” the commission noted.

Disruptive protests by PPM and MDA supporters began shortly thereafter.

Fingerprint verification

The Supreme Court issued another midnight ruling October 14 that ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to address the complaints of any individual who has the right to stand for election, “including the verification of fingerprints on re-registration forms through the Department of National Registration.”

PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen recently told local newspaper Haveeru that it “would be hard” for him to approve the voter registry – another recent requirement from the Supreme Court – should the EC not verify fingerprints.

However, the Elections Commission has not received any official complaints regarding the re-registration process and any questions regarding the validity of voter registration forms will be addressed in conjunction with the Department of National Registration (DNR), as ordered by the Supreme Court, EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told local media.

Complaints about the voter registry should be issued “sensibly before the election” scheduled to take place October 19, Sattar told Minivan News today.

Based on the Supreme Court order, “any form” could be subject to verification, including the entire voter registry, Sattar explained.

While the Department of National Registration (DNR) and Maldives Police Service (MPS) both have the capability to verify fingerprints on voter registration forms, neither institution can verify all the data, he added.

Despite the Supreme Court order requiring fingerprinted voter registration forms, the Elections Commission has said it does not have the technical capacity to verify if the forms have the correct fingerprints.

“There is no way for the EC to verify the authenticity of their thumbprints,” EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News earlier this week.

“The Supreme Court verdict does not say we have to verify [fingerprints]. We don’t have the capacity to do that. No institution does. But if we notice a problem, we can take those particular forms to the police for investigation,” Elections Commission member Ali Mohamed Manik previously noted.

Meanwhile, police would require approximately five minutes per form to cross-check information on the voter registration form with the DNR database and then verify the validity of fingerprints. With over 60,000 re-registration forms to process, it would take a minimum of six months to complete, the MPS told local media today.


Attorney General files case requesting Supreme Court prevent dissolution of smaller political parties

The Attorney General has filed a case at the Supreme Court requesting it declare that existing smaller political parties would not be dissolved following the ratification of the new Political Parties Act.

On March 2013, a similar case was filed by the attorney general requesting a writ of mandamus against the Elections Commission to prevent dissolution of those political parties which failed to maintain the required 10,000 members as stipulated in the Political Parties Act.

Following the case, Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction against the Elections Commission ordering it to withhold the dissolution of political parties that did not have the required membership.

During the hearing of the new case filed as an ex parte case on Wednesday, state attorney Ahmed Usham contended that there were legal issues with the Political Parties Act.

Usham argued that although the constitution states that a fundamental right could be limited only through legislation, the state was not of the view that the right to association and form political parties be limited as strictly as stipulated by the act.

He added that political parties were also separate legal entities under both the political parties’ regulation that was in place prior to the enactment of the new act, and therefore would have conducted commercial transactions and hired employees.

Therefore, dissolution of political parties Usham argued, would compromise the rights of several groups of people.

He also contended that requirement of specific number of members in a political party varied from country to country, but countries with larger populations than the Maldives had a lower minimum requirement for party membership.

Though the case is being heard as an ex parte case, tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) also intervened in the case.

Speaking during the hearing, MDA’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed contended that following the enactment of the Political Parties Act, several rights of the political party had been compromised.

He also said that the requirement of 10,000 members was too large compared to the population of the country.

Hameed contended that the bill’s stipulation that newly formed political parties would have a three month period to gain membership, while existing parties did not have the same opportunity, was unfair.

The MDA also requested the Supreme Court declare that existing smaller political parties would not be dissolved according to the law.

Today’s hearing was heard by the full seven member bench of the Supreme Court, and concluded without mention of a further hearing on the matter.

Passage of the bill

The Political Parties bill was passed on December 2012 however, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik – whose own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) is among those set to be dissolved – refused to ratify the bill and sent it back to parliament for reconsideration in January.

On March 5, with unanimous support from both parliament’s minority leader and majority leader, the bill was forced into law, overruling the presidential veto. Out of the 67 members present during the vote, 60 voted in favour of the passage of the bill while six voted against the bill and one MP abstained.

Article 11 of the law states that at least 10,000 signatures are needed to register a party with the Elections Commission (EC), which would be mandated to monitor that membership does not fall below the figure.

Parties unable to sign 10,000 members would be dissolved.

Immediate dissolution of smaller political parties

Following ratification, President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq stated that the commission’s interpretation of the act suggested that political parties that did not have a minimum of 10,000 members could be abolished immediately.

He stated that once the act was gazetted, the commission was of the view that smaller political parties would immediately be dissolved. However, he said the EC’s legal team was currently reviewing the act and would make a decision based on its report.

“Our legal team is currently reviewing the law before it actually is enacted. That the bill has passed with such a strong majority means that the commission will make all the necessary arrangements to begin enforcing the law,” he said.

He added that the law gives the Elections Commission additional powers to regulate and discipline political parties, and powers to take action against parties violating the law.

Despite several parties facing being dissolved, Thaufeeg said that he hoped to see several parties registered under the new law.

Following the enactment of the act, several smaller political parties including President Waheed’s GIP, his Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed’s Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), MDA and religious conservative Adhaalath Party criticised the Act, stating that they would take the matter to the Supreme Court and seek invalidation of the bill.