MDP gears up for Majlis primaries

Primaries to select candidates of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for the upcoming parliamentary elections are due to take place tomorrow in 133 islands across the country.

Some 176 candidates seeking the party ticket are contesting in 58 primary races.

According to the party, polls will open at 2.30pm and close at 8:00pm. Ballot boxes will be placed in the Dharubaaruge convention hall in Malé and MDP meeting halls (haruge) in other islands.

In addition to 10 ballot boxes for constituencies in the capital, 20 ballot boxes will be placed in Dharubaaruge for party members from the atolls residing in Male’.

As of September 15, 2013, the MDP had 43,277 registered members, making it the largest party in the country.

While the main opposition party is fielding candidates for all 85 parliamentary constituencies, 27 candidates have secured the MDP ticket without an election as they did not face a primary challenger. These include three constituencies in Malé and 24 in the atolls.

The party announced yesterday that the media will be allowed to monitor the voting process on Friday without prior registration. Reporters will be required to show press passes to observe voting.

Friday’s primaries feature high-profile MDP members facing off in competitive races, including Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik against former Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef in the Hulhuhenveiru constituency, and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi against former Judicial Service Commission member and outspoken whistleblower, Aishath Velezinee, for the Machangoalhi North constituency.

Appearing on MDP-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV last night, Ali Niyaz from the MDP’s elections committee appealed for cooperation from members to ensure peaceful and smooth conduct of the internal polls.

Niyaz urged members to refrain from negative campaigning as eventual candidates could be weakened ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

“It is the party’s sincere request that there are no personal attacks against each other. Although some people say that expressing reasons not to vote for a rival candidate is anti-campaigning, the reasons should be explained. But we urge that it be done in a way that would not harm the party,” he said.

Niyaz also revealed that efforts were made to register members of other parties in the MDP to influence the primaries. The party’s membership committee has however resolved the issue, he added.

MP Sameer withdraws candidacy

Meanwhile, MDP MP for Haa Alif Dhidhoo, Ahmed Sameer, announced yesterday that he was withdrawing his candidacy ahead of Friday’s primaries.

In a letter (Dhivehi) informing the party of his decision – subsequently shared on his personal website – Sameer stated that he contested the primary with the hope that all party members in the Dhidhoo constituency would unite behind the primary winner.

However, as a result of “premeditated efforts to cause divisions among MDP members in Dhidhoo” and “anti-campaigning,” Sameer wrote that the party’s supporters in the island were “divided with extreme differences of opinion”.

“Campaigning for the candidate one supports in the spirit of the election is not a problem at all. But publicly declaring that [members] would not work with a candidate even if he wins the primary is not at all in line with internal election ethics because the most likely [outcome] is the party’s member failing to win the election,” Sameer wrote on his website.

Despite having “no doubts” that he would win the primary, Sameer said he did not believe there was any reason to compete under such circumstances.

He added that he did not have “any problems with President [Mohamed] Nasheed or the MDP.”

Sameer’s challengers in the Dhidhoo primary were Adam Naseer, former deputy controller of immigration and emigration, and Mohamed Hashim.

The Dhidhoo MP noted that he had never voted against the party line or three-line whip in a parliamentary vote.

Sameer also declared his intention to contest the parliamentary elections for the Dhidhoo constituency, though he did not reveal whether he would be running as an independent or on another party’s ticket.

A founding member of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and a former Special Majlis MP, Sameer joined the MDP prior to the first multi-party parliamentary elections in May 2009.

Sameer previously served as deputy leader of the MDP’s parliamentary group and currently chairs the MDP-controlled independent institutions committee.


Police Commissioner denies obstructing election

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has denied obstructing the Elections Commission (EC) from conducting the presidential election scheduled for October 19, insisting that police only refused to provide security as the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court judgment were not followed by the EC.

Appearing before parliament’s Security Services ‘241’ Committee yesterday (October 20), Riyaz dismissed as “excuses” the allegations by EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek that police blocked the election, contending that the commission “was not properly prepared.”

“That is the truth. The list was not prepared,” he said, referring to the refusal of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim to sign the voter registry as required by the Supreme Court guidelines.

An hour before polls were due to open on Saturday, the EC issued a statement declaring that police had moved to prevent the election from taking place.

“As we continued with [preparation for] voting, the Maldives Police Services have said no document relating to the election can leave the commission’s offices, stopping the election,” the statement read.

Riyaz however insisted, in the face of repeated queries from MPs, that police did not block the election, conceding that a court order would be needed for police to take such an action.

“Police sent a letter to the Elections Commission on 19 October. In it I said that the Supreme Court ordered all state institutions to ensure that matters are proceeding according to the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said.

He added that “no further communication” – apart from the letter stating that police could not offer security or cooperation to the EC – was exchanged before the commission announced the cancellation of polls.

However, an internal inquiry has been launched by the police professional standards command following the allegations by EC Chair Thowfeek, Riyaz told MPs.

Non-cooperation rather than obstruction: Riyaz

Riyaz argued that the election could not take place because the EC was not “well prepared”, as he believed the time period offered for candidates to approve the voter registry was not sufficient.

Riyaz stressed that the police decided to not provide cooperation to the EC rather than obstructing the commission from conducting the polls. The decision was made based on advice from the National Security Council, he said, which consists of the president, vice president, attorney general, chief of defence forces and the defence minister.

Police considered the consequences of proceeding with the election while two candidates were refusing to participate, Riyaz said, suggesting that violence and unrest would have occurred.

He also suggested that candidates would have found it “harder to refuse” to sign-off had the EC sent the voter list in parts as soon as the re-registration forms were processed.

The commissioner assured “full cooperation” from police to the EC to conduct the presidential election, adding that he believed a president-elect must be sworn in on November 11.

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives on Saturday night, EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek was adamant that it was “the police who have stopped the election.”

“It is the people who are supposed to prevent others from obstructing the election, who have obstructed the election today. The police were also ordered to provide protection, security of ballot boxes and papers. The police stopped the election using the excuse that all three candidates did not sign the voter registry. But the Supreme Court verdict does not give the police the authority to oversee that,” he said.

“The police refused to provide security. The verdict clearly says the police must accompany the ballot boxes and papers to the polling stations. But last night the police said they will not facilitate the process. If we dispatch the boxes without police cooperation, then the Supreme Court has the space to annul the election [again],” he continued.

“In addition to that, in the morning, when our officials left the office with documents, papers, ballot boxes, they stopped them. [They said elections officials] did not have the permission to leave the Elections Commission. They stopped the election. The police officers told our elections officials they had been ordered to stop anyone from leaving the Elections Commission building with any documents relating to the election.”

“I know if [EC officials] had tried to disobey and leave, [the police] would have obstructed them, physically stopped them. The [EC officials] did not attempt to disobey, but they did ask the police why. And a sergeant there said this is what they had been ordered to do. They did not allow EC officials to leave the building with documents.”


Personal issues creating JSC tension as Majlis committee unprepared to deal with “out of control” judicial watchdog

Tension continues to surround the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as the chair and a fellow commission member accuse one other of code of conduct violations, while members of Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee is have alleged it is unprepared to deal with the situation.

“The JSC is out of control right now, we must do something. The JSC president is ‘out of the circle’,” Parliament Independent Institutions Committee Member and MDP MP Ahmed Sameer told Minivan News today (August 29).

Last week, the JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed was set to face a no-confidence vote introduced by fellow commission member Shuaib Abdul Rahman. Rahman claimed the JSC Chair had been abusing his powers by exerting undue influence on the commission’s decisions and that the entire JSC was in a state of limbo.

However, Adam Mohamed refused to table the no-confidence motion against himself, claiming that it would be in violation of the Maldives’constitution and the JSC Act.

In reaction to Mohamed’s refusal to table the motion, Rahmaan submitted a case against the chair to parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, as well as to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

This prompted the JSC Chair to file his own cases with the parliamentary committee and the ACC, requesting they penalise Rahman for breaching the JSC’s code of conduct. Mohamed claims that an internal JSC motion cannot be referred to any outside parties.

While Sameer today acknowledged that “there are a lot of issues arising from the JSC”, he explained that the parliamentary committee was not yet able to address them.

“The committee has not formed officially yet. We have to select a chair and deputy chair, then official work can begin,” said Sameer.

He anticipated that the parliamentary committee members will “hopefully” be chosen by next Monday or sometime later in the week.

Once the Independent Institutions Committee is officially formed, they will then hold an emergency meeting to address the urgent JSC issues, noted Sameer.

Meanwhile, though the JSC claims to be functioning as normal, the tension between Mohamed and Rahman is said to be palpable.

“From the standpoint of the Commission, this is a personal issue between President and Shuaib [Abdul Rahman], it is not something related to the JSC,” JSC Secretary General Aboobakuru Mohamed told Minivan News today.

“As staff of the Commission, we are not taking sides.”

He explained that “the JSC Chair is circulating press releases on behalf of himself, not the commission”, and that both Mohamed and Rahman are referring to the same articles in the JSC code of conduct.

“We had a JSC committee session yesterday and things were as normal, there were no personal grudges [affecting work] during the session,” said Aboobakuru Mohamed.

“It is definitely not affecting work. [However] the atmosphere yesterday was tense, we definitely feel the tension there,” he added.


Parliament rejects resolution on MVR 300 million BML loan

Parliament yesterday rejected 27-17 a resolution submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer calling for an inquiry into the government borrowing MVR 300 million (US$19.5 million) from the Bank of Maldives.

The loan was obtained without parliamentary approval as required by the Public Finance Act.

The government had previously told local media the the BML loan was borrowed instead of US$65 million loan programme previously approved by the Majlis for budget support, and contended that further approval from parliament was therefore not required.

However, Counsellor General Fathmath Filza told the Finance Committee that the US$65 million loan was only to be borrowed from foreign lenders and that the government has to seek parliamentary approval before borrowing from a local bank as per the Public Finance Act.