MDP primary candidate considers legal action over “unfair polls”

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) primary candidate in the Kendhoo constituency, Mauroof Zakir, has said he is considering seeking legal action over what he has deemed “unfair polls.”

Zakir competed against former Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Thasmeen Ali, with the party on Saturday awarding the party ticket to Thasmeen after he won 391 votes to Zakir’s 199.

However, Zakir has called for a re-vote, alleging MDP members in Baa Atoll Kendhoo Island were not given the chance to vote.

The Kendhoo constituency consists of six islands – Kudarikil, Kamadhoo, Kendhoo, Kihadhoo, Dhonfanu,and Dharavandhoo. Polls were held for members in all six islands and constituency members residing in Malé on January 24.

However, polls in Malé were called off due to poor organisation and voter registry issues. Although polls were completed for the constituency in the six islands, the Kendhoo results were later invalidated after members asked for independent officials at the ballot box.

The MDP said that Zakir – who is also the head of MDP’s Kendhoo branch – had designated all officials at the ballot box.

The MDP sent independent officials to Kendhoo in an attempt to hold a re-vote, but members refused to allow the vote to proceed claiming the reason for invalidating the first polls was unacceptable. According to the MDP, Zakir’s supporters called for a re-vote in the entire constituency.

In the first poll held on Kendhoo, Zakir had received 204 votes and Thasmeen 15 votes .

Unable to proceed with voting on Kendhoo, the MDP decided to tally the results without the Kendhoo members’ votes.

“I am asking for a re-vote. It will be more fair and better for the party,” Zakir told Minivan News.

“I am considering seeking legal action through the court. But I also have to consider the fact that the MDP may lose the seat with an internal fight like this.”

MDP election committee member Ali Niyaz defended the party’s decision, claiming that even if polls are held on Kendhoo the vote will not affect the outcome.

Of the 260 members who are eligible to vote in Kendhoo, an estimated 100 had voted in Malé on January 31 when the MDP cancelled the Kendhoo vote, he said.

Even if all the remaining 160 members voted for Zakir, the overall result will not change, as there is currently a difference of 192 votes between Thasmeen and Zakir, Niyaz said.

“Also, we are on an extremely tight deadline. We have to submit all documents to the Elections Commission before February 11.”

Zakir has questioned the figures given by Niyaz, suggesting that a re-vote could indeed affect the outcome of the poll.

The MDP is, however, considering a re-vote in Addu Atoll Feydhoo constituency after it emerged voting had proceeded on an outdated eligible voters list.

Incumbent MP Alhan Fahmy lost the party ticket to Mohamed Nihad, who won 36 percent of the vote (316 votes). Alhan came third and with 18 percent of the vote (154 votes), and had said he would not accept the results, calling for a fresh vote.

Niyaz confirmed the list for the Feydhoo constituency did not list 67 new members. The MDP has not yet come to a decision on holding a re-vote, he said.

Alhan was stabbed on Saturday and is currently undergoing treatment in Sri Lanka.

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MDP schedules Kaashidhoo primary for February 5

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced the party will hold a primary for the Kaashidhoo constituency on Wednesday (February 5).

The MDP had initially awarded the party ticket to incumbent MP Abdulla Jabir without a primary due to a lack of contestants. However, the party retracted the ticket after Jabir voted for President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet against a three whip line.

The MDP ordered Jabir to issue a public apology and called for new applicants for the Kaashidhoo primary. Jabir apologised to the party on Wednesday (January 29).

Aishath Mamdhooha will now be contesting against Jabir for the chance to stand in March’s parliamentary poll.

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Nasheed lays out MDP legislative agenda

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will work through the People’s Majlis to strengthen the local government system, reform the judiciary and eliminate barriers to development, former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

“The People’s Majlis’ aim must be to hold the government accountable and strengthen the government,” Nasheed said at a ceremony for candidates who gained the MDP ticket for the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

The MDP released official results of the primaries on Saturday. Polls were held to determine candidates for 56 constituencies, while 28 candidates were granted the party ticket without a primary due to a lack of contestants.

Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir had initially gained the MDP ticket uncontested, but the party has called for new applicants after Jabir voted for President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet on December 30 against a three-whip line.

“When primaries are contsted, it strengthens the party. I hope those who lost the primaries will now back the winning candidates and that the entire party works together to win a majority in the People’s Majlis,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed narrowly lost November’s presidential elections with 48.61 percent of the vote.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) Abdulla Yameen won 51.39 percent with the backing of the Jumhooree Party (JP), Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), and the Adhaalath Party (AP).

The MDP will check the government’s administration of public finances to ensure the economy benefits all citizens, and will monitor the government’s respect for individual rights, he said.

MDP primaries

Incumbent MPs made a strong showing in the MDP’s parliamentary primaries between January 24 and 31. The list of winners can be found here (Dhivehi).

Only Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy and Henveiru Dhekunu MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor lost the party tickets.

Alhan has alleged irregularities in the voter registry and declared he will contest the results after losing the seat to Mohamed Nihad- who received 316 votes to the incumbent’s 154. The party has said it found no grounds to call for a revote.

Alhan is currently undergoing surgery in Sri Lanka after he was severely injured in a stab attack last night. His family alleges the attack was premeditated and politically motivated.

Hamid has said he will support winning candidate ‘Rukuma’ Mohamed Abdul Kareem.

The MDP’s primaries have been marred by suggestions of irregularities. The party was forced to call off its first attempt at polls on January 24 due to poor organisation and voter registry issues.

The MDP election committee chair Ibrahim Waheed said the party had received several complaints regarding additions and reductions to the list of eligible voters. But none of the complaints affect the results, he said.

“The MDP’s membership committee assures me the list was publicised. It is not a secret list.”

Elections Commission figures show 43,000 members registered with the MDP, but 57,000 members were eligible to vote in the party’s primaries.

Waheed said the MDP had received over 12,000 new membership forms in December and had decided to proceed with a list of members who had registered with the party by January 10.

Meanwhile, the governing coalition reached a deal last week on reserving a set number of seats for each party. Of the 85 seats, PPM will contest 49, JP will contest 28 and MDA will contest 8 seats.

The PPM has said it will hold primaries on February 7. PPM members in Laamu Atoll Maavah constituency held protests on Friday claiming the party had handed the party ticket to incumbent Abdul Azeez Jamal Abu Bakr without a primary.

Meanwhile, the JP and MDA have also granted party tickets to incumbents without a primary. JP council members have subsequentlyspoken out against the selection process to determine candidates.

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Incumbents prevail in MDP primary

Eight of nine incumbent MPs who contested opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Majlis primaries on Saturday have won the party ticket.

Sitting MP for Henveiru Dhekunu Hamid Abdul Ghafoor only gained 47 votes and lost the party ticket to Malé City Council member Mohamed ‘Rukuma’ Abdul Kareem who won 328 votes.

Of the 85 People’s Majlis constituencies, 27 MDP candidates won the party ticket uncontested. The MDP had initially scheduled voting for the remaining 58 constituencies on Friday, but cancelled polls for 56 after administrative and voter registry issues. Polling was completed in only two constituencies on Friday.

The MDP rescheduled polling for 18 constituencies – including 10 of the 13 Malé city constituencies – and is to hold voting for the remaining 38 constituencies this week.

In Malé City, MP and party Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik competed against former Minister of Youth, Human Resources and Sports Hassan Latheef, and won the ticket for the Hulhuhenveiru constituency.

MP Mariya Ahmed Didi won against former Judicial Services Commission member Aisthath Velezinee with 249 votes. Velezinee gained 75 votes.

People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid who currently represents Vaavu Atoll Keyodhoo constituency won the MDP’s ticket for Malé City’s Henveiru Uthuru constituency.

Malé MPs Eva Abdulla, Ali Azim, and Imthiyaz Fahmy won the MDP ticket without a primary.

In the atolls, MPs Rugiyya Ahmed, Mohamed Aslam, Ilyas Labeeb and Ahmed Hamza retained the party tickets for Mahibadhoo, Hithadhoo Uthuru, Hulhudhoo, and Bilehdhoo constituencies, respectively.

MP for Kaafu Atoll Thulusdhoo constituency Rozaina Adam won the party ticket for Addu Atoll Meedhoo constituency.

Non-incumbents who won the MDP primary are:

  • Malé City Council member Ibrahim Shujau for Galholhu Dhekunu in Malé
  • Former Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam for Maafannu Dhekunu in Malé
  • Malé City Council member Mohamed Falah for Maafannu Hulhangu in Malé
  • Former State Minister for Home Affairs Sheikh Hussein Rasheed for Vilimaafannu in Malé
  • Former MP Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail for Machangoalhi Dhekunu in Malé
  • Aishath Leena for Kulhudufushi Dhekunu in Haa Dhaal Atoll
  • Ibrahim Jihad for Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll

Leena is the wife of MP Ali Waheed and Jihad is MP Ahmed Hamza’s brother.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP’s election committee chair Ibrahim Waheed said polling had proceeded smoothly on Saturday.

He claimed members of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had attempted to hijack the MDP’s primary on Friday, by disrupting the vote claiming their names were not on the party register.

Waheed said the MDP received 12,000 new membership forms between December 10 and 19 – the deadline for registering new members to vote in the MDP Majlis primary.

Of the 12,000, over 4,000 forms were members of parties belonging to the ruling coalition. The MDP believes the new members were added to manipulate the vote and had decided not to accept forms of individuals who are registered with other parties, Waheed said.

The MDP received 50 complaints regarding the voter registry, and resolved 11 of them, he said. The complaints do not affect the results, he added.

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MDP primaries restart after cancellation of disorganised first poll

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has restarted voting in 18 parliamentary primaries after polls were cancelled yesterday following administrative and voter registry issues.

Minivan News observed large and orderly queues at Dharubaaruge today where voting for 12 constituencies is currently proceeding. Ballot boxes for the remaining 6 constituencies have been placed at Malé City Hall and party offices in Hulhumalé and Villingili islands.

Candidates and voters complained of  fluctuations in the voter register, but MDP Chairperson and primary candidate ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said he did not notice significant changes in his own constituency.

According to MDP media official and MP Ali ‘Alibe’ Mohamed, voting was cancelled yesterday due to “unmanageable” large crowds, with the MDP having scheduled voting for 58 constituencies at Dharubaaruge for all party members registered in Malé. Voters also took issue with their names not being present on the party registry, he said.

“The MDP has a very large membership. We were unable to accommodate such a large number of people at Dharubaaruge all at once yesterday. Many voters also complained over their names not being present on the voter list,” Alibe said.

The MDP is the largest political party in the Maldives with 43,277 members registered at the Elections Commission.

Eyewitnesses described the scene as a “bureaucratic nightmare” and accused ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) members of disrupting the vote.

A 10 member committee – which includes former President Mohamed Nasheed and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih – has been set up to oversee polling.

Candidates in 27 of the 85 constituencies have won the MDP ticket without a primary. They include Eva Abdulla for Galolhu Uthru, Ali Azim for Henveiru Medhu and Imthiyaz Fahmy for Maafannu Uthuru in Malé.

Voting was completed for Kulhudhufushi North and Dhuvaafaru constituencies yesterday. The party hopes to schedule polls for the remaining 38 constituencies in the upcoming week, Alibe said.

Nightmare

Candidate for Machangoalhi Uthuru Aishath Velezinee described the large crowds at Dharubaaruge yesterday as “suffocating.”

“There were too many people, too many ballot boxes. Even I left without voting. People were really cheerful yesterday. Quite a few are elderly and some of them were sick. So they got tired and left without voting. I’m hoping all of them return today,” she said.

Ahmed Hameed, 29, said his name was not present on the voter registry despite having submitted a membership form in February 2012. He also claimed he saw PPM members at Dharubaaruge to disrupt the vote.

“We know faces. Very well known PPM members were there. They were pushing and shoving people. MDP members are not like that. There was so much aggressiveness,” he said.

Polls had originally been scheduled from 2:30 pm to 8:00 pm, with ballot boxes set-up in every island and in Malé. At 4pm, however, the MDP announced it was cancelling the vote and rescheduling polls for 12 constituencies between 9:00 pm – 12:00 pm in Malé.  The party was subsequently unable to proceed with this vote, eventually rescheduling a new vote for 18 constituencies today.

These 18 constituencies include 10 Malé City seats and eight atoll constituencies – Addu Meedhoo, Addu Hulhudhoo, Nilandhoo Meedhoo, Mahibadhoo, Hithadhoo Uthuru, and Hoarafushi constituencies.

According to the MDP, voting had proceeded smoothly in only these eight constituencies yesterday, and today’s polls would allow constituency members residing in Malé to vote.

Despite the cancellation of polls yesterday, MDP members remain positive. Zubaidha Mohamed, 29, said the experience was a learning process for the MDP.

“We are the only party in the Maldives to hold primaries on such a large scale. This is a learning process. I think today’s voting will go well,” she said.

Ahmed Ikram, 22, said voting was proceeding smoothly, but expressed concern over the voter registry.

“Things are going well today. But there are still several complaints regarding names not being present on the voter registry. Some people who voted in the primaries for local councils say their names are not present on the list,” he said.

Double voting

The MDP had published an updated voter registry on January 10, which included all membership forms submitted to the party offices up until December 19.

A press release at the time said the party had received 10,518 new membership forms in the period between December 10 and 19. Of that number, 5,464 forms were received on December 19. The final list was published on the party’s website on January 10.

The party opened up a ten-day window from January 7 – 15 to allow voters to register. According to the MDP’s election committee member Ibrahim Waheed, members were required to register if they were voting in a location different to the one registered for the nationwide local council elections held on January 18.

After members complained of their names not being present on the voter registry, the MDP has now opened up voting for all MDP members without registration

Election committee member Ali Niyaz has expressed concern over room for double voting, but said he hoped candidate’s representatives at polling booths would monitor repeated votes.

The MDP will also crosscheck lists of those who voted in their constituencies and in Malé to ensure no double voting took place, Niyaz said.

Changing lists

Candidates and members alike have complained of frequent changes to the party registry.

“I have been carrying out a targeted campaign. I initially received a list with 588 members. Now there are 846 members on the list. There are entire households on the list who told me they are not MDP members when I visited them,” Velezinee said.

Meanwhile, MDP member Ahmed Hameed said he believed several candidates had submitted new membership forms to manipulate the vote in order to win the party ticket.

“Many MPs have submitted forms just to win the party primary. That is not good for the party. The party membership will not be genuine or healthy. I think the vote should be delayed until all issues are resolved. Otherwise people may question the validity of the vote,” he said.

However, MDP Chairperson and primary candidate ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said he did not notice significant differences in the voter registry.

Candidate for Machangoalhi Dhekunu Noorban Fahmy said she did not want to comment on the registry, but said she hoped voting would proceed smoothly today.

Minivan News was unable to reach MDP’s membership committee chair Ali Shiyam at the time of press.

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Nasheed launches campaign for MDP presidential primaries

Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed launched his campaign for the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) presidential primary, on the island of Magoodhoo in Faafu Atoll on Sunday.

Nasheed alleges he was deposed in a coup d’état on February 7 and has called for early elections within 2012. The Commonwealth and the EU have supported the call. However, new President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said the earliest constitutionally-permitted date for elections was July 2013.

The MDP presidential primary is to be held on June 15. Nasheed is presently the MDP’s sole candidate, but has to win 10 percent of votes in order to gain the MDP candidacy.

Speaking to Magoodhoo residents, Nasheed emphasised the importance of an elected government claiming the chances of a 2013 election were slim if an election could not be held in 2012.

“When a government is elected through a vote, it fosters a close relationship between the people and their leaders. Such a government will benefit the people, it will fulfill the needs of the people. Because the government originates from the people,” Nasheed said.

“No earthly power, not even that of the police or military, can equal the power of the people. When an individual finds courage in another, and the people come out to enforce their will, no one can challenge that will. Not even the police, the military or judges,” he added.

President Waheed’s administration was established by force, Nasheed claimed, and was prioritising the approval of the police and military over that of service delivery.

“The current administration will prioritise getting the approval of the police and military. The government treasury, the government’s expenditure, will not be spent on the people. They will have to end Aasandha, dismiss the utility companies, abolish the health corporations. They will have to stop the transport network,” he said.

President Waheed has repealed many of Nasheed’s policies, including the abolition of regional health and utility corporations, reviewing the free universal healthcare scheme Aasandha, ending the second chance program for rehabilitation of inmates, and halting all public-private-partnership development projects claiming the contracts’ legality needed to be reviewed.

The coalition of political parties backing Waheed have accused Nasheed of corruption in the awarding of development contracts.

Waheed had also decided to accept resort islands’ lease extension payments in installments rather than upfront at the end of the lease. The MDP has alleged the move will immediately take US$135 million out of state coffers.

“They did not make any promises, hence, they have no way to fulfill promises,” Nasheed said regarding Waheed’s policies.

Nasheed campaigned on a platform of development, pledging to continue installing water and sewerage systems, development of harbors and improving education, utility and health services at island level through public-private-partnerships.

The policy would “award an island for resort development to companies who develop water and sewerage system in an inhabited island,” Nasheed said.

“I cannot understand why we should hoard Maldives’ resources when Maldivian citizens do not get the services they need. Magoodhoo does not have a proper sewerage system or potable water. Magoodhoo does not have a harbor. But Magoodhoo has two to three islands in its lagoon. I do not understand why we let these islands be left untouched for Valla [sea bird] to lay eggs on in the belief they are invaluable natural resources,” he added.

The MDP administration had allocated 150 islands to lease out to companies on the condition of carrying out development work in the atolls of the Maldives.

Nasheed urged all MDP members to vote in the party’s primary.

“I assure you I will not take undue benefits from your vote. I pledge to fulfill the party’s promises to you. I assure you I will not steal a single laari of your money,” Nasheed said.

“We have a vision, a picture, a hope, a dream, a thought to change this island. MDP knows what must be done to gain development,” he added.

During his visit, Nasheed also visited the islands of Kudhahuvadhoo, Meedhoo, Bilehdhoo and Feeali. He lay foundations for MDP offices in Meedhoo and Biledhoo.

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MDP primary winner loses party ticket over incomplete documentation

The winner of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) primary for the upcoming by-election of the vacant mid-Fuvahmulah atoll council seat, Shaffaf Naseer, has lost the party ticket after failing to submit an ID card original before the 3pm deadline yesterday.

Shaffaf won the primary election that took place on October 9 with 112 votes followed by Mohamed Abdulla Didi with 97 votes. In lieu of not fielding a candidate, the runner-up was registered at the Elections Commission (EC) on Sunday as the MDP candidate.

MDP Secretary General Hassan Shah told Minivan News today that Shaffaf contacted him from Fuvahmulah on Thursday and requested assistance with completing the documentation.

After collecting a stamped document from the Department of Judicial Administration around 2pm yesterday, Shah said he discovered that Shaffaf’s ID card original was missing from the documents when he went to file them with the EC.

According to the application form (page 11, bullet point 3), the form should be submitted with the original ID card of the candidate.

Shaffaf had sent his ID card on a flight that landed “10 minutes before [the 3pm deadline].” Shah explained that he did not believe the person delivering the card could make it to the EC from the airport before the deadline elapsed.

The second-placed candidate was meanwhile “monitoring the situation very closely” and was prepared with the required documentation.

“My thinking was that the party should not lose the opportunity to compete in the election,” Shah said, adding that the application form was handed in “seconds before the EC closed.”

If the last minute decision had not been made, Shah argued that the party would not have had a candidate in the by-election scheduled for November 19.

“They [the EC] had already rejected one of our candidates for a by-election because he didn’t submit an ID card original,” he said.

The former mid-Fuvahmulah atoll councillor, Hassan Saeed, also a member of the MDP, lost his seat after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that he had a decreed debt.

The EC announced yesterday that three candidates have filed applications for the mid-Fuvahmulah by-election, including one MDP candidate, one opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) candidate and one Independent candidate.

Primary winner

Speaking to Minivan News today, Shaffaf Naseer criticised the party’s administrative staff and senior leaders for not providing adequate assistance with his application.

“It is not at the last minute that the party should know that the ID card original is missing,” he said.

Shaffaf however praised MDP Secretary General Shah for “working very hard” this week to complete the documentation.

“But when it came to him it was too late,” he added. “He was very helpful and cooperative. But I didn’t get any cooperation from the party officials before that.”

After winning the primary and returning to his home island, Shaffaf said he was assured by senior members of MDP that the party would handle the application process.

“So I was busy preparing my campaign and meeting family members, relatives and supporters,” he said. “Our forecasts show that I would have won easily.”

Shaffaf particularly objected to the party not providing him with a signed resolution confirming his candidacy: “They didn’t monitor the situation or check the documents to verify them,” he said. “There should be principles, rules and procedures to follow in everything.”

If the party had informed him of the requirement of the ID card original, said Shaffaf, he would have flown to Male’ during the weekend.

“If they submitted my forms with the Elections Commission and got rejected, I would have accepted it,” he continued. “But they could have waited 15 minutes [past the 3pm deadline] for the person delivering my ID card to get there.”

As a result of the incident, Shaffaf said, MDP members in Fuvahmulah were “divided, confused and fed up.”

Shaffaf called on senior leaders of the party to “investigate what happened and take action against those responsible.”

“I believe the party leadership has to come to Fuvahmulah now and explain how this happened,” he said, adding that the move would be necessary to unite members ahead of the by-election.

Shaffaf said he hoped that the party would strengthen its internal mechanisms and administrative functions as a result of the incident.

The ruling party has strong support in the mid-Fuvahmulah constituency, which is represented in parliament by MDP MP Shifaq Mufeed ‘Histo’.

While he was “disappointed” with the incident as “this should not happen in the largest and most exemplary democratic party in the country,” Shaffaf said he would back the MDP candidate and support the campaign.

However, he added, the voters in Fuvahmulah were independent-minded and he “could not influence how they vote.”

Shaffaf insisted that he did not wish to pursue the matter any further or cause internal disputes in the party.

“I was among the first people from Fuvahmulah to sign for MDP and I will remain a member of the party,” he said.

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