EC to send names of candidates who failed to submit financial statements to PG

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced it will be sending for prosecution the names of 76 candidates who took part in the recently concluded parliamentary elections after they failed to submit their financial statements.

The EC confirmed that the 76 candidates who are to be sent for prosecution do not include any of the newly elected parliamentarians.

According to the General Elections Act, candidates are required to submit financial records of election expenditure to the EC within 30 days of the election.

Of the 302 candidates who contested in the parliamentary elections, 226 candidates submitted the financial records to the EC as required.


Majlis elections: Supreme Court’s actions overshadowed polls, say international observers

The European Union has noted a “violation of rules” by the Supreme Court, as well as warning that the right to a free vote had been “undermined” by reported vote buying in their observations of the parliamentary elections.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) and the Commonwealth Observer Group both presented their interim reports at press conferences held today (March 24) in Malé.

Presenting the EU’s statement, Chief Observer Eduard Kukan said that although the voting was “calm and orderly,” with the process conducted in a “professional, impartial and transparent manner,” the Supreme Court’s removal of two members of the Elections Commission less than two weeks before the poll “raised serious concerns” and “overshadowed the electoral period”.

“The [Supreme Court’s] consequent removal of the chairperson and his deputy represented an assertion of power reserved to the People’s Majlis. It was a violation of the rules in both the constitution and the Elections Commission Act,” the EU EOM statement noted.

Similarly, the Commonwealth group’s interim statement – presented by the Chair Bruce Golding – congratulated the Maldives on holding a “peaceful and conclusive election,” but was “deeply concerned” by the Supreme Court’s actions which “inevitably had a negative effect on the overall electoral environment”.

As a result of this, the COG noted it was “disappointed that there was still a lack of clarity regarding inconsistencies between the Maldivian Electoral legislative framework and the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last year.”

When reporters asked Mr Kukan if the Supreme Court influenced the results of the elections, he noted that it made a “difficult electoral environment,” but added that their sole mission was to observe the election process.

“It’s up to the people who they vote for,” he added.

Vote buying, media plurality, and female candidates

Another key finding in both statements was reported vote-buying and excessive campaign expenditure.

The EU EOM highlighted the tradition of high spending during elections, with candidates legally spending up to 1,500 MVR or some €70 per voter in a constituency.

According to the report, this spending is “insufficiently regulated,” and concluded that the lack of cap on spending “undermines” the right to a free vote from compulsion or inducement.

The Commonwealth mission made the recommendation that “concerted and systematic efforts need to be made to address this issue”.

Allegations of vote buying were highlighted in a previous statement by NGO Transparency Maldives (TM), who stated that “wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process.”

Furthermore, TM revealed that a survey conducted prior to last year’s presidential election showed that 15 percent of respondents had been offered “money or other incentives” in exchange for their vote.

In addition to vote buying, both the EU EOM and the COG expressed concern over the media and freedom of expression during the elections. According to the Commonwealth, local stakeholders expressed concern that coverage by private media outlets were influenced by political affiliations.

“The liberalisation of the media sector in 2008 has so far not led to media pluralism,” stated Kukan. “Ownership of the main private TV and radio stations is concentrated in the hands of a small number of businessmen and politicians whose ideology is reflected in the editorial decisions.”

Kukan added that the “significantly partisan editorial content” hinders the “diversity and impartiality” in the election coverage. Kukan named broadcasters such as Raajje TV and VTV who he accused of “overly promoting their chosen party and candidates.”

The EU EOM also noted deficiencies in the legal framework’s adequacy to support the elections according to the international standards to which the Maldives has subscribed.

“Contary to the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], the rights to vote and to stand to election are limited on the grounds of religion, as citizenship is limited to Maldivians of Muslim faith, and candidates must be Sunni Muslim.”

The EU report added, “the Maldives has entered a reservation to article 18 of the ICCPR, thus restricting freedom of religion, and a reservation to article 16 of  The Convention on the Elemination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) restricting gender equality in family matters, thereby protecting inheritance laws which discriminate against women.”

The report noted an “extremely low numbers of female candidates,” with a total of 23 female candidates – just 5 of whom were elected. This indicates a decrease from 6.4 to 5.8 per cent female members of parliament.

The report noted that this, along with the low voter turn out for women was in part down to “prevailing and increasing social and cultural norms which disempower women, confining them to the domestic sphere.”

After continuing to observe the post-electoral period, the EU EOM will produce a detailed final report including recommendations for future elections.

The Commonwealth’s official report will be published following the group’s departure on March 28.


Majlis elections: “The people trust us, despite being recently formed”, says MDA

The deputy leader of Progressive Coalition member Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has stated that the provisional results of the parliamentary elections demonstrate the public’s trust in the relatively new party.

Ahmed Amir is reported in local media as saying that the results displayed that the citizens of the Maldives yearn to have a peaceful community.

Amir stated that although the official provisional results from the Elections Commission are currently pending, the results as announced by several media outlets showed that the MDA had won five out of the seven seats in which they had contested.

He expressed confidence that there is a “high probability” the final results will show the MDA to have won a sixth seat – the Velidhoo constituency.

Amir said that when viewing parties individually, he believed the MDA had received the maximum level of success, adding that this showed that the public invested high levels of trust in the party.

“If one works with sincerity, they will be accepted by the public. The fact that many popular existing parliamentarians failed to get re-elected shows that the public closely observes the work done in parliament. That the people will accept political parties if they too act accordingly with the laws and regulations,” Amir stated.

Amir stated that the party had only asked the coalition for slots in constituencies that they were confident of winning in. He further added that when the constituencies were being distributed between the coalition members, the MDA had given importance to settling matters via discussion and compromise.

The deputy leader then stated that the success in the parliamentary elections has given the party even greater inspiration to work to further broaden and strengthen itself.

“The elections were already overhead when the party was formed. This caused it to be difficult for us to do sufficient work to increase membership. However, in the next three years there won’t be any elections except if a by-election happens to be held. This will give us time to work to strengthen the party,” he stated.

Amir stated that the party’s main objective will be to work for the benefit of the people, noting that although the MDA is in the government coalition, it will not be in agreement with everything that the government proposes and it will only align with work beneficial to the public.


EC dismissals: PPM urges appointment of new commissioners ahead of Majlis polls

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has proposed that a parliamentary meeting be held to appoint members to replace recently dismissed Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz.

The Supreme Court’s decision to remove the pair has been rejected by parliament’s independent institutions oversight committee which decided on Monday that the two members remained in their posts.

PPM Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader Moosa Zameer told local media that the party wished to abide by the constitutional provision that the EC should consist of five members.

Zameer further asserted that the party believes there is sufficient time to appoint persons to the remaining two seats ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for March 22.

“We can hold the elections even with three members in the Elections Commission. However, the constitution says there must be five members in the commission and we want to hold the elections in accordance with the constitutional terms,” Zameer is quoted as saying.

“There is nothing stopping us from doing so, is there?”

However, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid decided on Wednesday to not hold any further parliament meetings ahead of the upcoming election, claiming that he had discussed decision with leaders of the political parties.

Zameer nevertheless called on the oversight committee to review the names submitted by the President, and for the parliament to vote on the matter at the earliest opportunity.

“If the parliament cooperates, then this will not prove to be a difficult task,” Zameer stated.

PPM’s Zameer and MP Ahmed Nihan were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen on Wednesday nominated four persons to posts in the EC, submitting their names to parliament.

The names sent were Mohamed Zahid, Mohamed Shakeel, Ahmed Sulaiman, and Fathimath Muna.

While the parliament committee maintains that the posts held by Fuwad and Fayaz are not vacant, a replacement for the fifth commission seat has been unanimously approved by the parliament.

The position was previously filled by ‘Ogaru’ Mohamed Waheed who had resigned due to ill health during last year’s presidential election. The new appointee is president’s nominee Ismail Habeeb.


Q&A: MP Eva Abdulla – Galolhu Uthuru constituency

In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be conducting interviews with incumbent MPs.

All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.

As part of the series, Minivan News interviewed MP Eva Abdulla.

Eva Abdulla is a parliamentarian from the Maldivian Democratic Party in the 17th Parliament, representing the Galolhu Uthuru constituency. She is among the only 5 female MPs out of a total of 77 MPs currently in parliament.

Mariyath Mohamed: What made you enter the political arena and how?

Eva Abdulla: The first political activity that I participated in was President [Mohamed] Nasheed’s Malé campaign [for a parliament seat representing Malé district]. I was in Malé between studying for my degree and masters in university. This was the most active political campaign that had occurred in Malé after I grew up. At the time we would be involved in preparing fliers, printing t-shirts, entering data into spreadsheets and such activities.

Even from the early 90s, we would engage in secret political activity at home, like printing t-shirts to mark the International Human Rights Day, which we could only ever wear at home. We had the chance to naturally participate in political activity from home. I got engaged in political activity as soon as I grew up and had the space to do so.

If the question is ‘why’, then I have to say that I always knew it was not right how during Maumoon’s time [the 30 year administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] people would get jailed for speaking out or writing material which criticised the government. Even before Maumoon’s time, when I was really young, I heard of how even during Nasir’s time [Gayoom’s predecessor Ibrahim Nasir], people had been locked up for criticising the government. So from then, I believed this is not right. That people should not be penalised for writing or criticising rulers and the government.

Back when I was young, Nasheed would be continuously jailed and released. We would always visit whichever uncle or other relative of ours is imprisoned in jail or the hospital when they are brought for treatment. So this was something that impacted my views, something I closely experienced.

MM: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?

EA: To be honest, there were good days and bad days. Personally, I think I can safely say I give it my all. Looking at my attendance, as you know, I only took leave on two days within the five years for any personal reason. Even on the day of my son’s circumcision, I attended Majlis. It’s not quantitatively that I would look at this. If at all, I get frustrated when the results come out.

First of all, although MDP was in the executive, we were a minority party in parliament. And so, passing anything became such a big struggle. For example, the income tax bill. In our view, with the tax regime that we introduced, the income tax bill is extremely critical, something that needs to be implemented regardless of how small a percentage we take. And yet, it still remains pending in parliament, despite being in committee for four years already.

Then there is the selection of people to various boards. It is not the most suitable people we have selected to be on these boards due to the political struggles involved. The Supreme Court bench is the best example I can give. On the day that nominations were made for this bench, I walked out of my own parliamentary group meeting crying. Things have gone to this extent. But the thing is, to bring results, we have to work within a group, and with external parties as well. So there are days where I get extremely frustrated.

However, I personally don’t judge performance based on whether I spoke well, or I attended well, but rather with consideration of the results we manage to obtain. The 17th parliament is the most prolific parliament in our history when we tally our work, having passed the maximum number of bills. This is the parliament that had the most public engagement.

This is the parliament that was constantly criticised by the public, and rightly so. And yet, if we are to compare it with past parliaments, it is only now that people have the opportunity to see how parliament performs, with the beginning of sessions being publicly broadcast on TV channels.

MM: What are the main committees you were acting on?

EA: The Economic Committee, and all the tax committees and the Budget Committee – which I sat on in relation to my seat on the Economic Committee. I had my heart set on the Budget Committee from the time I first joined parliament. This is because, for me, the budget needs to be well-compiled in order to dictate policy or responsibly run an executive.

MM: What particular bills did you focus on most passionately? You are seen as a parliamentarian who is often outspoken about gender rights issues.

EA: Yes, gender issues are important. But while this may sound dry, tax related bills and decentralisation laws are, in my heart, equally important.

The thing with gender related issues is that there is only a handful of people who are willing to stand up for them. You would have heard some of the statements that some parliamentarians have made about such issues. So for such bills to succeed, us handful of female parliamentarians need to put up a very strong fight.

If it is things like tax or decentralisation, all of MDP is willing to back it. But when it comes to gender issues, I feel a personal responsibility to make sure it is done right.

The anti-torture bill – because of my personal experiences within my family, things we have seen and heard of happening in the country, and especially the case of Evan Naseem, I have since then wanted to establish an anti-torture bill in the Maldives. I have done this as soon as I got into parliament. That wasn’t sponsored by MDP, but my own privately submitted bill. That is what I most passionately worked on.

MM: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term; in terms of what you feel you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?

EA: First of all, laws are not made with a focus on the constituency, or the political party. It is made with the nation in mind. When an MDP government was formed in 2008, and the parliamentary elections came across in 2009, we set out with a legislative agenda. This included decentralisation, forming a tax regime, forming legislation to ascertain social security for all citizens, health insurance…these are groundbreaking things that occurred in the Maldives. These are things that reached implementation due to MDP coming to government, forming policies and passing laws to implement these policies, and I am very proud of those.

For example, responding to something Riyaz Rasheed said in parliament in 2011, I said that he is criticising us for the introduction of a tax regime, but that I am sure that whichever government comes to power, they will not eradicate the tax regime, but will bring some changes to it. Take a look now, isn’t that what has happened? Today, we wouldn’t be able to get even an income like we are getting now if not for that tax regime we introduced.

MM: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your political career? Why?

EA: There have been times when I did not stand up to the level I ought to have for certain matters within the party. I am not speaking of things which personally impacted me alone. But a couple of things about which, two or three years later, I wish I had done more.

MM: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR 20,000? Why or why not?

EA: I’m not. Because it is ridiculous.

Even when it was first submitted to parliament – and the public was not yet aware of its details – I was among the first to say no to it. I voted against it from day one. Also, it was something that was brought in very much on the sly, including it among many other points in a huge document about the public finance law. Many parliamentarians who do not take the allowance unknowingly voted for it due to this reason.

Of course I won’t take it. For one thing, people did not know I would receive this when they elected me. I don’t want any perks that people did not know I would receive when they voted me in.

MM: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?

EA: While it is invasive, I personally don’t mind. There are many members elected to parliament about whom the electorate needs to know what they are involved in. There are few parliamentarians, who, like me, are not involved in some private business. If we are to look at the financial declaration [as it is submitted to the parliament secretariat now], there is no difference between me and Gasim [MP, Leader of Jumhooree Party and Chairman of Villa Enterprises Gasim Ibrahim]. But everyone knows this cannot be true. So yes, make it public.

MM: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?

EA: I think it is something that some people do because the party system in the Maldives is still very young. I’d like to think that it simply won’t happen in the next parliament.

I have to say the multi-party system is well accepted, as everyone besides 14 out of 77 parliamentarians were elected through a political party. Now when the five year term is coming to end, only about two out of those 14 independent parliamentarians still remain without signing to a party. So, the majority of people running for parliament are aware that it is through a party that you can best get your message across.

I would never switch parties. If I am elected through a particular party, I would personally see it as a betrayal to the electorate if I switch to another party. I strongly believe that I should remain for the five years as I was when I was initially elected. Once the five year terms ends, a person can bring whatever changes they like, but the electorate should get what they voted for.

MM: What improvements do you feel the 18th Parliament will need to make to improve as an institution?

EA: Firstly, something that the public rarely sees, the work conducted in parliamentary committees. This needs to be done in a far more responsible and professional manner. I personally see the work done in committees as being more important that even the work done on the floor.

We also need the required staff. In parliaments in other countries, they provide members with staff who have the required expertise. This is still not done here, and members are expected to have a knowledge about everything.

A lot of it also depends on who people vote in. People who can stay on topic and who can stick to the issue at hand without resorting to personal attacks need to be elected. We need to move beyond petty political agendas.

MM: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? Why? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?

EA: Yes, I am re-contesting. First, we are an opposition party now and we have the opportunity to show how an opposition party works responsibly. As you saw, when MDP was in power, the opposition’s focus was on toppling the government. Their intention was not to defeat the government in the next elections, but to topple them from the streets and that, in the end, is what they did.

Instead of this, when we work as an opposition – and god willing I am re-elected – we will bear in mind that despite not being in the government, there is a legislative agenda that we must push for. MDP had a manifesto when we contested in the presidential elections. This manifesto includes in it what we feel to be the best that the country deserves. While I am not saying that we will try to have the incumbent government work to implement our manifesto, I believe we have a responsibility to push forward and try to have the government deliver to the people the best that the people deserve.

This includes some legislative changes. One example is that we need to clean up this judiciary. As an opposition, that has to be our priority. The five year changes in government is almost meaningless in a place where justice cannot be served. There’s a lot the parliament needs to do make the judiciary, and independent commissions, more accountable.

MM: While there is little public criticism about the work you do in parliament, there is often allegations in public that you have reached your political position through familial connections. That although you are elected, this is due to the influence of certain figures within your family. What is your reaction to this allegation?

EA: I don’t think I can get away from it, it is what it is. President Nasheed is the most iconic figure currently in this country, the most popular individual here. That he is my family, a relative, I cannot get away from. But just because he is a relative does not mean I will stop what I am doing, either.

If you take a look at my campaign, he doesn’t even step into Galolhu. It’s something that the whole of Galolhu even complains about, but he has his reasons because he is so personally connected to them.

There are many reasons why a person gets elected, but there are even more reasons why someone will get re-elected. Let’s then see if I get re-elected.

If there is little criticism about my work, that is good. If the criticism is about my blood relatives, there is nothing I can do.


Death threats force Elections Commission to seek police assistance

Ongoing death threats received by the Elections Commission (EC)’s permanent staff and polling station officials have prompted the commission to file a report with the Maldives Police Service (MPS) today.

A lack of state cooperation prevented the commission from holding a “free and fair [presidential election] vote without intimidation, aggression, undue influence or corruption” on September 28 as constitutionally-mandated, the (EC) announced on Friday night, shortly before it was surrounded by a police barricade.

Lack of police support, “some political parties” threatening to set ballot boxes on fire, and death threats made against Elections Commission members, staff, and officials involved in the voting process were highlighted as reasons for postponing the second round run-off, which would otherwise have taken place yesterday.

Special Operations police surrounded the EC secretariat on Friday, with orders from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take over the building and ballot papers should it proceed with holding the election.

In addition to the MPS stating it would not cooperate with the EC and ceasing to providing security requested by the commission for the second round, police prevented EC staff and visitors from entering the secretariat on Friday. However, staff were later allowed to return after a series of phone calls between Riyaz and EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek.

As of Thursday, the EC insisted that it was constitutionally mandated to hold the runoff within 21 days of the first round, in spite of an order from the Supreme Court to suspend the election indefinitely. This prompted Assistant Commissioner of Police Hassan Habeeb to call the Elections Commission Chair on Thursday night (September 26) and warn that police would not allow the election to take place.

Death threats continue

“It’s not just myself and my family, but Elections Commission staff, including most directors and even some heads of ballot boxes and other polling station staff who have received threatening messages that they and their families will be killed,” Elections Commission Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News today.

“They are very much scared about the situation. Some are even afraid to come out of their homes. It’s very sad,” Thowfeek lamented.

“I hope we will be safe, we have been trying to follow the constitution,” he said.

Thowfeek said the EC had sent a report to the MPS detailing the threats, phone numbers the messages were sent from, and other relevant information.

He noted that the EC was still considering whether to send an official letter to the Telecommunications Authority regarding the death threats “because we are waiting for action to be taken through the MPS, since they have the authority to investigate.”

The following SMS was sent to EC and polling station officials yesterday:

“What you did to rig the vote near ballot boxes will be exposed. YOU resign. Or else even your family will be killed. Allah Akbar we are with the religion.”

On Thursday senior Election’s Commission staff received the following message around 6:00pm:

“We will kill anyone who allies with Fuwad Thowfeek against the Supreme Court order and the Maldivian constitution and continues with voting activities. Allah Akbar.”

Additionally, during an interview Minivan News conducted with Thowfeek last week, he noted that “some of us are getting threats from unknown people. I have received SMS messages saying ‘be careful when you come out on the street, you’ll be stabbed in the stomach’.”

Only the EC’s human resource section and other section heads of the commission have a list of all election officials and temporary staff, explained Thowfeek.

The commission had provided the four political party presidential candidate representatives with a list of all elections officials, including polling station staff, but that list did not include their phone or ID card numbers, he noted.

Police integrity

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) called for the police to provide any assistance the EC requires to go ahead with the second round.

Earlier this month the PIC determined Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz violated the Police Act by posting a letter on Twitter urging police officers not to vote for former President Mohamed Nasheed and recommended administrative action be taken against the police chief.

Minivan News enquired with the PIC whether Commissioner Riyaz would be able to impartially issue orders to prevent the EC from conducting election preparations and holding the second round runoff, or whether the MPS – under his leadership – would be able to impartially investigate the death threats EC staff have been receiving.

PIC Director General Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News today that she needed to consult with their legal department and would reply as soon as possible. She had not responded at time of press.

Elections Commission secure

Police meanwhile remained outside the Elections Commission until yesterday (Saturday) evening, guarding the secretariat and patrolling the road, noted Thowfeek.

“It was our request to have the police in front of the security room, on the ground floor [of the secretariat], and surrounding the building so nobody could enter from behind. They are keeping full security of the building for the protection of the commission and our own safety,” said Thowfeek.

The Elections Commission confirmed there was “no danger” its data could be tampered with because it remained “fully protected” and is being “closely monitored”.

The commission’s server was intentionally shut down on Friday night to prevent anyone from accessing data through a “remote medium”, explained Thowfeek.

Additionally, beginning Friday night, the EC established a rotational schedule to ensure staff are present in the EC’s secretariat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, “so there is no chance an outsider can get in” and tamper with any materials or data, he continued.

“Our own staff are present in the IT, security, and records section rooms – the most important places are constantly monitored,” said Thowfeek.

Police “misunderstanding”

Thowfeek also explained the “misunderstanding” between the MPS and the EC that led Special Operations police to surround the secretariat and prevent staff or visitors from entering, with orders from Police Commissioner Riyaz to take over the commission and arrest staff who disobeyed the Supreme Court order to halt presidential election preparations.

After a Raajje TV journalist called to enquire about the situation, Thowfeek explained to the reporter that “even staff and visitors were not allowed” to enter the EC.

This led Police Commissioner Riyaz to contact Thowfeek and explain that police were sent to protect the commission against any “angry people” trying to enter the EC and harm its staff, according to the EC Chair.

Riyaz also instructed Thowfeek “not to listen to stories from different people about the situation”.

Thowfeek then sent the EC’s Secretary General and Director General downstairs to confirm what was occurring. The commission’s IT and coordination section directors had been prevented from entering the building and police informed the Secretary General that visitors would not be allowed to enter on Saturday either.

The EC Chair again contacted Riyaz and explained that the action being taken by the special operations police differed from what the Police Commissioner had said the MPS officers would do.

Fifteen minutes later, Elections Commission staff with proper identification were allowed into the building and the commission was informed that invited visitors would be permitted to enter as well.

Minivan News had journalists present inside and outside the EC secretariat building throughout the events and did not observe protesters present at the time Special Operations police surrounded the building.

International observer visits

EC officials had previously planned to meet the British High Commissioner in the commission’s secretariat on Saturday, however after the EC’s Secretary General was informed by police Friday night they would not be able to hold the meeting in the commission, it was relocated to the High Commissioner’s hotel, explained Thowfeek.

“The British High Commissioner was here during the first round and commended our work,” said Thowfeek. “He came to see the second round and was disappointed when he found out it had been stopped.”

“He hoped for a quick solution and wished us [the EC] well,” he added.

A team of Nigerian election observers also arrived on Friday and were “very much disappointed” polling did not take place, explained Thowfeek. However, because they “made such a long trip” the EC has still been working with the West African observers and providing information about the electoral process.

The Danish Ambassador and the Commonwealth [observation group] Chair met with EC officials Friday, noted Thowfeek.

“We have had no news from any other [international election] observers,” he added.

Election not possible before November 11, says EC

Holding the second round – or another first round – of the presidential election will now “not be possible before November 11 within existing elections laws”, Thowfeek told Minivan News.

While the EC usually requires 60 days of preparation time for the whole process, “even if we don’t waste a single minute” 45 days will still be required before another presidential election can take place, he continued.

“We have to update the voter list, gazette it, receive complaints and input from the public regarding the list, see who will be present where on that date and allow them to re-register accordingly, add just-turned 18 year-olds and remove anyone who has died during the [voter registry updating] process, etc,” he noted.

Thowfeek explained that general and presidential elections law mandates specific periods of time are given for each step of the election preparation process, for example the voter registry must be published in the government gazette 45 days before polling, 10 days are given to submit complaints, and five days are provided to file cases of unaddressed complaints with the High Court.

“If special laws are made, then maybe it will be possible,” said Thowfeek.

“[Timetables within] the existing laws have to be rescheduled and another set of laws passed [before the November 11 constitutional election deadline],” he elaborated. “The other difficulty is that the Majlis is currently in recess. They may reconvene next week, but any law [passed] has to be ratified by the president.”

“We have just 42 days left before [the end of the presidential term on] November 11, so time is limited,” he added.

The date for the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Jumhooree Party’s case against the Elections Commission remained unscheduled at time of press.

HRCM and civil society support for elections

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has called on the Supreme Court and state institutions to ensure that Maldivians not be stripped of the right to vote, guaranteed by constitutional article 26 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to ensure that there would be an elections within the duration stated in the constitution.

HRCM also called on everyone not to pave way for unrest and to hasten all work that had to be done to uphold the constitution.

The commission also called on the EC to solve all the issues with the voters’ registration.

HRCM further called on the authorities to take legal action against those to pose death threats and threats of violence and also called on everyone to give high priority to national interest.

Yesterday Transparency Maldives appealed to all actors “especially the Supreme Court, to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and electoral deadlines and respect people’s electoral choice.”

The NGO expressed its “concern over the delay of the second round of elections and rising tensions as Transparency Maldives did not receive any reports that suggest systematic fraud in its nationwide observation and no credible evidence that supports such allegations has been made public.”

Transparency Maldives, the HRCM and the Maldivian Democracy Network observed the first round and praised the EC’s free and fair electoral process.

Global election support

Global condemnation followed the Supreme Court’s issuing of the injunction, with the UK, EU, and the Commonwealth specifically calling for the run-off to go ahead as scheduled.

International election observers unanimously commended the first round of polling, calling for losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled.

The Commonwealth’s human rights and democracy arm has since “expressed concern at developments” in the Maldives following the first round of elections.

Business as usual

The Election’s Commission is meanwhile “going ahead” with preparations for the upcoming local council and parliamentary elections.

“We are doing the work for local council elections to take place in December [2013], said Thowfeek.

“[Additionally] last night we issued one draft document for constituencies. According to the law, eight months before the existing term of Parliament expires, we have to check the population figures from various localities and [based on the data] create a report on how constituencies should be formed for the next election,” explained Thowfeek.

Currently there are 77 seats in the People’s Majlis, however 85 seats will be needed, he added.

The Parliamentary election is scheduled to take place on March 2014.


Alhan elected because of DRP campaign, claims Feydhoo branch

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) branch on Feydhoo in Seenu Atoll has claimed the island’s MP, Alhan Fahmy, would not have been elected to parliament had he run as an Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate.

Alhan crossed the floor to the ruling MDP after he was suspended from the DRP for voting against the party line over a no-confidence motion against Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed.

DRP Feydhoo branch president Hussein Rasheed claimed that of the 14 candidates, “Alhan was elected due to the campaign DRP ran for him.”

”It is without doubt that Alhan would not be a parliament member if he had run as an independent or a candidate of another party,” Rasheed said, adding that the MP’s decision to jump had “saddened him” and that the party’s branch “would still accept him back.”

DRP senior member of the branch Mohamed Moomin said only a few DRP supporters had resigned over Alhan’s jump, but otherwise he ”had not noticed anybody shifting parties.”

He said that while many people on the island supported Alhan, ”people voted for DRP and not for Alhan.”

Alhan agreed that 85 per cent of his votes were from DRP supporters but claimed ”I would have been elected even if I was an MDP candidate.”

”There are DRP candidates who failed in the parliamentary election,” he said, adding that he “does not like to argue about the issue.”

Spokesman for MDP Ibrahim Haleem said Alhan’s conduct was professional and he could have won the parliamentary election without DRP’s help.

”During his short term in the parliament he has proved to the people just how professional he is,” Haleem said.

He claimed DRP supporters were claiming otherwise “because of personal issues they have with him.”


Political parties scramble for independents

As the opposition takes the lead in the Maldives’ first-ever multi-party parliamentary election, the fight for the independent candidates has become more crucial than ever in determining where the balance of power will lie.

Persuading as many independent candidates to join its party may be the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s only hope of fending off its greatest fear: an opposition majority that will thwart the government’s every move.

Speaking to Minivan News today, independent candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who is winning in Kulhudufushi constituency, said money might be one of the factors in swaying candidates to join parties.

“There will definitely be a lot of lobbying and persuasion and understandably so,” he said. “I think the fight has already begun…there’s a lot of persuasion going on to take the platform of a party or at least work with them.”

Although the final results are yet to be announced, provisional results from the Elections Commission show opposition parties, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the People’s Alliance (PA), have a total of 36 seats while the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 25 seats.

So far, independent candidates are winning in 13 constituencies.


Addressing press on Sunday, DRP Vice President Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the results revealed the combined victories of DRP and PA as well as the party’s endorsed independent candidates would amount to a majority.

Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi said on Sunday the MDP was in discussions with “three or four” independent candidates.

“They will play a very important role,” he said. “Even now PA and DRP have an alliance so if we don’t get enough independent candidates we might not get a majority and it will be difficult to get bills through.”

Didi added he did not believe any of the candidates were truly independent and would have affiliations with one of the two main parties.

“Most likely they will join MDP because most of them have made promises to their constituents and they will need government support to fulfil them,” he said.

Similar views have been echoed by other party members including Mohamed Zuhair, press secretary at the president’s office, who said: “One or two hardcore independents may remain, but the rest will definitely get absorbed.”

DRP Secretary General Dr Abdulla Mausoom said the elections results showed the public preferred candidates who were aligned to a political party.

Mausoon said before the election many were sceptical about whether candidates would remain independent but he declined to comment on whether his party was in the process of negotiating with independent candidates.


In disagreement was PA leader Abdulla Yamin who said he believed candidates would retain their independence. “That is what they convinced the public and that is how they campaigned. For me to find out that they have joined a party, I would be very disappointed.”

Yamin said he would accept either MPs or members of the public who wanted to join his party, but added, “I think the MDP needs them more.”

Although technically still a member of the DRP, Nasheed said he would not be joining a political party and his ties with the party had been “severed” over the past few months.

“I’m definitely going to remain independent, but I will come to the assistance of the MDP for political reasons only if the opposition was to reject genuine bills or try to pass a vote of no confidence,” he said.

Members of the MDP have expressed concern that an opposition parliamentary majority will submit a no-confidence motion against the president.

Under the constitution, a vote of no-confidence can be taken if the president violates a tenet of Islam; behaves in a manner unsuited to the office of the president; or is unable to perform his duties.

“I don’t want this government to fall and I don’t want an opposition parliament to take advantage because of an MDP minority. I will only take the national interest at heart,” said Nasheed.