The first round of the rescheduled presidential election yesterday (November 9) was peaceful, credible and “well-administered despite challenges,” NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) concluded following its observation of the polls.
“If you look at the statistics, the polling stations generally opened on time, closed on time, and the assisted voter turnout decreased from last time. So in general we found that this election has been very well-administered despite challenges,” TM’s Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said at a press conference last night.
TM’s key findings showed that 96 percent of polling stations closed by 4:30pm, assisted voters accounted for 1.4 percent of the total turnout, and voting was temporarily halted in 3.2 percent of polling stations, of which 85 percent of the cases were interventions at the direction of the presiding officer.
“There were reports that people were not able to vote because their names were not on the voter registry, but this affected very few cases (less than 0.35% of all voters). Out of those affected 23.1% complained at the polling stations that they were unable to vote at their designated polling location,” TM noted in a press statement.
In the annulled election on September 7, TM had found that people unable to vote because their names were not on the register accounted for 0.2 percent of all voters.
Elections Commission (EC) member Ali Mohamed Manik had said at a press conference yesterday that the most common complaint during voting was from people who were unable to vote due to “minor differences” or mismatches between the information on their identity cards and the voter registry.
As most cases involved minor spelling differences in addresses, Manik said the EC issued a circular in the afternoon to allow voting in such instances.
Although isolated cases of violence were reported at 1.8 percent of polling stations in yesterday’s election, “we are happy to report that this election has been peaceful,” TM stated.
“Where there were incidents of violence, they were reported to the relevant authorities, and we will be closely monitoring any further developments.”
While police had entered 14.5 percent of polling stations, in 84.4 percent of such cases, “interventions occurred at the invitation of the Presiding Officer as the rules allow.”
According to police media updates throughout the day, an individual who showed his ballot paper and another who photographed his were arrested in Male’, voting was temporarily halted for a ballot box in Majeedhiyya School after a person voted on behalf of an assisted voter, and people remaining at a polling station in the school after voting were removed upon request by EC officials.
Police were also informed of incidents where ballot papers were displayed or photographed in Haa Alif Baarah and Alif Alif Ukulhas.
In the final reported case, an individual was arrested near Thajudheen School in Male’ following a disturbance outside the polling stations in the school.
The TM statement meanwhile noted that “candidates were well-represented during the counting, making the process transparent and adding to its credibility.”
“Gasim Ibrahim was represented at 83.7% of polling stations during the vote count. Abdulla Yameen was represented at 85.1% of polling stations during the vote count. Mohamed Nasheed was represented at 91% of polling stations during the vote count,” the statement noted.
“Only 0.15% of ballot papers were disputed by the candidate/party observers during the counting process.”
The TM statement also expressed appreciation and gratitude to “the 400+ observers and volunteers in our observer network, based in 20 atolls and a number of foreign countries.”
Asked about the annulment of the September 7 polls – the results of which largely mirrored yesterdays – despite positive assessments by domestic and international observers, Aiman Rasheed said that TM was “very confident in our methodology, we are very confident in the results of our observation.”
“We are confident in the results that we shared with the international community, with the media, and our findings indicate that there was no systematic fraud on election day on September 7,” he said.
Following allegations of vote rigging in the wake of the annulled polls, TM issued a statement urging “all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.”
The EC meanwhile noted at its press conference yesterday that complaints were submitted regarding campaigning after the 6:00pm cut-off point on Friday (November 8).
Mass text messages in the names of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed, were reported in the morning on voting day.
The text messages originated from a number in India.
“To PPM’s [Progressive Party of Maldives] beloved members. Only Gasim [Ibrahim] can stop Islam being destroyed through Nasheed and the selling off of Maldivians’ freedom,” read a text message in the name of the PPM figurehead.
“I have not been able to do anything well apart from protesting on the street. Am I fit to be the ruler of the nation?” asked a text message in the name of the MDP candidate.
EC member Manik noted that complaints regarding the text messages as well as other campaign activities during voting were received by complaints bureaus, adding that the commission was unable to do much apart from requesting the communications authority to block the numbers.
PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen said at a press conference last night that he believed the fake messages in the name of Gayoom would have adversely affected the outcome.