Candidates for Villingili and Mahibadhoo constituency seek to invalidate elections

Candidates who unsuccessfully contested for Majlis seats in Gaafu Alifu and Alifu Dhaalu atolls have filed cases at the High Court to invalidate the election results of those constituencies.

According to local media, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate for Gaafu Alifu Villingili constituency Haroon Rasheed and Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate for Mahibadhoo constituency Ahmed Sunil filed the cases today.

Mahibadhoo constituency was won by independent candidate Ahmed Thariq ‘Tom’ – who has since joined Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – while the Villingili constituency was won by PPM candidate Mohamed Saud.

The High Court has accepted cases concerning electoral issues for eight constituencies so far.

Candidates who contested for Mid-Hithadhoo, Naifaru, Shaviyani Funadhoo, Thimarafushi, Kurendhoo, and Nolhivaram have also filed cases with the High Court.

These initial results in these constituencies returned two progressive coalition MPs-elect – one JP and one PPM, one independent candidate, and three MDP representatives, although this includes Thimarafushi’s Mohamed Musthafa who defected to the PPM within 10 days of the poll.

The court has started the hearings concerning the Funadhoo, Hithadhoo-Mid, and Kurendhoo constituencies.

The High Court has today concluded hearings into the Mid-Hithadhoo case, saying that if the court does not need to further study the case or question witnesses during the next hearing it will deliver a verdict.

PPM candidate in Mid-Hithadhoo Ibrahim ‘Hiyaaly’ Rasheed, who filed the case, has asked the High Court for police intelligence regarding the bribery allegations he has made.

Rasheed’s lawyer has submitted the names of 10 witnesses to prove his client’s allegations that there was bribery involved in the parliamentary elections.

MDP candidate for Shaviyani Funadhoo constituency Abbas Mohamed, who lost the seat to PPM candidate Ali Saleem, has alleged that the ballot box kept in Shaviyani atoll Magoodhoo was closed after the time specified by the Elections Commission (EC).

He alleged that election officials started counting the Magoodhoo ballot box after the EC had announced the preliminary results, questioning the validity of the poll.

Abbas also said that PPM candidate Saleem had campaigned after the campaigning time was up by throwing flyers and posters around the islands.

He alleged that Saleem had bribed people in the day of election and that his complaints – filed with the EC complaints bureau – were not considered.

Saleem won the seat by 930 votes while MDP candidate got 855 votes.

Following the election, the EC revealed that a total of 115 complaints were submitted in writing to the national complaints bureau, including 18 concerning the voter registry and 33 complaints regarding negative campaigning, the behaviour of election officials, and campaigning during polling hours.

In its preliminary statement on the parliament elections, local NGO ransparency Maldives (TM) said elections were well-administered and transparent “but wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process”.

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.

“Admissions about illegal activities such as this are usually underreported in surveys. TM’s long-term observation indicates that vote buying may be even more widespread in the parliamentary elections than other elections,” the statement read.

“Inability of state institutions to prosecute vote buying due to gaps in the electoral legal framework, lack of coordination, and buck-passing between the relevant institutions have allowed rampant vote buying to go unchecked.”


Two losing candidates for parliament contests results at High Court

Two losing parliamentary candidates in the March 22 elections have contested the results at the High Court, local media reports.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate for the Shaviyani Funadhoo constituency, Mohamed Abbas, and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate for the mid-Hithadhoo constituency, Mohamed Rasheed ‘Hiyalee’, filed cases at the High Court seeking annulment of the results.

The legal grounds for annulment remains unclear in both cases.

Incumbent PPM MP Ali Saleem was reelected in the Funadhoo constituency while MDP candidate, retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, won the mid-Hithadhoo constituency seat.

According to electoral law, such cases must be filed at the High Court within 30 days of the announcement of official results by the Elections Commission.


Progressive Coalition to hold public feast to celebrate election results

The Progressive Coalition is to host a feast for the public to mark the Majlis elections success, according to local media outlet Vnews.

Speaking in a press conference held in Progressive Party of Maldives offices in Janavaree magu, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali stated that the feast, titled ‘Shukuriyyaa Gaumu’ or ‘Thank you, Nation’, was part of the festivities to mark their success in the parliamentary elections.

Muaz added that senior officials of the Coalition partners will participate in the feast. He also said that the Coalition had invited members of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.

The Progressive Coalition won a total of 53 of the 85 Majlis seats being contested on March 22, with the subsequent addition of 4 more MPs-elect swelling the number to 57.


EC announces official results of Majlis polls

The Elections Commission (EC) announced the official results last night of the parliamentary elections that took place on Saturday, March 22.

A number of ballot boxes were reopened to address complaints from candidates before the official results were announced. However, the recounts did not affect the outcome in any of the 85 constituencies.

The official results did not differ from the preliminary results announced last week.

As 189,482 out of 240,652 eligible voters cast their ballots on Saturday, voter turnout for the parliamentary polls was 78.80 percent.

The number of male voters was 95,744 while the number of female voters was 93,898.

Speaking at a press conference held last night to announce the official results, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik noted that 52 out of 75 complaints lodged at the national complaints bureau had been addressed.

None of the remaining complaints could affect the outcome, he said.

Under electoral laws, candidates could file cases at the High Court within 14 days if they are unhappy with decisions by the complaints bureau.


Majlis elections: JP Gasim satisfied with results, but says vote-splitting cost greater gains

Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim has stated that, while he is satisfied with the results of the parliamentary elections, independent candidates affiliated with the governing Progressive Coalition cost the group seats.

Speaking at a press conference held on Sunday (March 23) at the party’s campaign headquarters, Gasim revealed that out of the 28 constituencies in which the JP had contested, leading figures of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had independently contested in eight.

He stated that the provisional results being announced by various media outlets displayed the losses that this decision has caused the coalition due to vote-splitting between the coalition aligned candidates which led the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to win those seats.

Gasim admitted, however, that members of the JP had also contested in three constituencies in which the PPM was allocated, thereby causing the same loss.

He added that, although both parties had previously announced that they will penalise members who contested independently, neither has taken any such action as yet.

“We saw PPM challenge slots that the coalition had granted to us. And then right after that, Adhaalath Party – who used to work very closely with us – also went out and contested. They said that they will contest in the 28 constituencies that were given to us,” Gasim stated.

The JP leader went on to express hope that the independent candidates who have gotten elected to the parliament would work together with the coalition, stating that they are people “who have had ties with the JP and PPM from before their decision to contest”.

He added that with this alliance he is confident that the government coalition will get a three quarter majority in parliament.

He further said that the results of the parliamentary elections are “proof of the public’s acceptance of the current administration”, and of the rising sense of awareness among the public.

“We must make good use of the opportunity before us. If we try to abuse it, then whether we be government or someone else, no good will come of it,” he continued, stating that upon receiving majority in parliament, the focus should be on serving the citizens.

Gasim further stated that he is “not too keen” on acquiring the position of parliament speaker in the newly elected 18th Parliament.

“I will know for sure only when the time comes. I am not keen on it. I have been given that opportunity even previously,” Gasim stated on the matter.

Criticism against Adhaalath Party

At the press conference, Gasim levied heavy criticism against the religious conservative Adhaalath Party which had backed the JP in the early rounds of the 2013 presidential election.

The Adhaalath Party (AP) contested in 13 constituencies in the parliamentary elections, but managed to win only one seat.

Gasim stated that if the AP had accepted the four slots that the JP had offered them and run from within the coalition, they would have had a better chance at winning seats.

“It would have been better for the Adhaalath Party if they had accepted the four seats we offered them. But then, it’s only when a person dies that the living realise his true value. Some people are only able to appreciate how kind their parents were only after they pass away,” Gasim said.

He added that the decision of the AP’s leadership had caused them “irreparable damage” in this election.

“Imran came at me and demanded we give them 15 percent of seats, and said that if we don’t do so, they will contest in 50 constituencies. He said then we will see how that turns out, that we will see which party is able to win more seats.”

I found his words very unpleasant, it is not the kind of words that a person who maintains such Islamic principles would utter,” Gasim said.

“I responded immediately to his words. I said ‘so this is what it all comes down to. Now we are getting to see the truth. Out of impatience, you are struggling to come out of the womb in whichever way possible’,” he stated.

While the Elections Commission’s official provisional results are pending, local media reports that the JP has won 16 seats and the AP has won one seat out of the total of 85 seats in the 18th parliament.


Transparency Maldives reveals details of election day observation mission

Transparency Maldives has today confirmed it will be fielding the only nation-wide domestic elections observation mission for this Saturday’s Majlis elections.

The mission will comprise of over 300 trained observers and volunteers, spanning all 20 atolls and foreign countries hosting ballot boxes for the country’s second multi-party parliamentary elections.

In addition to election day efforts,  Transparency will be conducting long-term election observation in order to ensure that the pre-election is free from obstructions, and that voters can make an informed choice without undue influence.

Transparency Maldives’ long-term observer network has been functional since 1 March 2014.

“Though the pre-election environment is largely peaceful, Transparency Maldives has identified vote buying, allegations of abuse of authority and state resources, and the lack of political financing transparency as major issues of concern through the long term observation,” read the press release.

Transparency will be releasing a press statement on the opening of polls on the afternoon of election day, as well as a statement on the closing and counting of ballots the following day.

A final report on the findings with recommendations will be published within a month of the polls.


Government seeks to “revert back to centralisation”, says MDP

Threats to disband Addu City Council are “impossible” and show lack of “political understanding” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

The statement follows warnings from President of Local Government Authority (LGA) and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim that the council could be disbanded if it did not cooperate with the government.

The six member council was one of two administrative divisions – along with Malé City – designated as cities in the 2010 Decentralisation Act.

Both are dominated by the opposition MDP, with all six of Addu’s council seats being won by the party in recent local elections.

Speaking at a government coalition campaign rally held in Addu’s Hithadhoo island earlier this week, Nazim said that residents did not cooperate with the government and that this can create problems, local media reported.

“Action may have to be taken against them, and could lead to dissolving the council”, he was quoted as saying.

Speaking at the same rally, President Abdulla Yameen remarked, “while the MDP may say that they would hold the government accountable if they win a majority in parliament, they would in reality create problems for the government.”

In response to these comments, the MDP have released a statement characterising Nazim’s “unlawful threat” as a “warning to stop the empowerment and development of Addu City citizens.”

The opposition party accused the government of attempting to dissolve the Addu City Council in order to revert the country to autocratic rule.

“However, the people of Addu City have always shown that they will not bow to such dictatorial actions,” the statement read.

Spokesperson Hamid told Minivan News that the threats made by Nazim were impossible, and a sign of the government’s “desperation” and lack of political understanding.

“Decentralisation is very much welcome and they have tried to revert back to centralisation” he added.

As part of its Majlis election campaign, the MDP has pledged to amend the Decentralisation Act in order to empower local councils. Former President Nasheed has said the party’s aim was to secure financial independence for local government.

“We want each council to conduct business transactions using the island [to generate income] for establishing sewerage and water systems, build roads or even construct a harbour or do work needed for the school – we want to find a way for you to undertake these efforts on your own,” said Nasheed last month.

Budget for Addu

Prior to Nazim’s remarks, President Yameen told residents in Hithadhoo that the 2014 state budget comprised of developmental projects that would solve the problems in Addu City.

Speaking at a parliamentary campaign event held on Tuesday (March 18), the president said that apart from the projects that will be run via the state budget, he had also planned other developmental projects for Addu by obtaining funds from other sources, reported Haveeru.

“According to my information, 50 percent of the finance needed to deal with the land erosion problem has been arranged by the Saudi government. We have written a proposal to Kuwait Fund to attain the remaining 50 percent funds as loan aid,” Yameen was quoted as saying.

In addition, Yameen said that work on building the Islamic Centre in Hithadhoo will commence in June this year.

If the public wanted to see these plans completed, the governmental coalition would need to acquire the parliament’s majority, Yameen said, calling upon the people to vote for candidates representing the government’s Progressive Coalition.

Shortly after this year’s budget was proposed, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig suggested the financial difficulties facing his council were a result of the failure to implement the Decentralisation Act properly.

“Right now decentralisation in this country is just for show,” Sodig told Minivan News in December. “The government and Majlis need to resolve these issues if the citizens are to benefit from decentralisation in a meaningful way.”

Under the landmark legislation, the LGA is tasked with monitoring councils, ensuring standards, improving technical capacity, and coordinating with the central government.

The LGA board consists of a cabinet minister appointed by the president, a member appointed from the MCC, four atoll councillors elected from among members of atoll councils, a representative from civil society appointed by parliament, a member of the general public appointed by parliament, and a member elected from the Addu and Malé city councils.


Commonwealth parliamentary elections observer group arrives

In preparation for the parliamentary elections, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has constituted an Observer Group with a view to assess compliance with national and international standards, and to strengthen the electoral framework.

The observation is led by former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who introduced the group at a press conference held in Malé today (March 19).

An arrival statement was read by Golding, who stated that the group’s task was to “consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process,” and stressed their commitment to staying “objective, impartial and independent.”

The group will “assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Maldives has committed itself, including both the Maldivian constitutional and legislative framework and relevant Commonwealth and international commitments,” Golding added.

The group consists of seven members who will be drawn from across the regions of the Commonwealth, and includes a range of experts from political, electoral, legal, and media fields. Golding explained that the observers will be deployed across various atolls on March 20, but did not disclose when asked which atolls they would be monitoring.

A preliminary statement of findings will be published shortly after the elections on March 22, followed by an official report which will be published following the Group’s departure on March 28.

When asked by Minivan News during the conference whether their arrival in the Maldives has been well received by the government, Golding confirmed that they met all the relevant stakeholders and had a “good balance of views conveyed to us about the challenges that may exist.”

The Commonwealth team sent to observe the 2013 presidential election described the initial poll as “inclusive and competitive”, before the results were annulled by the Supreme Court after allegations of inconsistencies within the voter registry.

The group had described the voter register as “accurate and robust”, with Chair of the observation group Dr Lawrence Gonzi noting that “Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded.”

Golding was also asked by local media today if a credible and fair election was possible following the recent decision by the Supreme Court to dismiss the Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan.

Goulding responded that they have “taken note,” but added that he was unable to divulge the details of their discussions.

In addition to the Commonwealth, the European Union have been invited by the Elections Commission to implement the Maldives’ first full EU Election Observation Mission (EOM).

According to the Chief Observer Eduard Kukan, the EOM intend to strengthen human rights and the rule of law, to deter malpractice, and to improve the electoral environment. Their report will also make concrete recommendations to help improve the electoral framework.

India this week revealed that it had declined an invite from the Elections Commission to send a team of observers due to election preparations in India itself.

“The Maldives Elections Commission had invited our Election Commission to observe the polls. But the Election Commission is very busy managing the current schedule, so we have declined,” the New India Express reported a senior government official from the country as having stated.

Officials at the Indian High Commission in Malé have confirmed that no observers will be sent, though it was pointed out that High Commission staff would be performing some observer functions.


India declines invite to send observers for parliamentary polls

Due to election preparations in India itself, the country has chosen not to send a team of observers to the Maldives for the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

“The Maldives Elections Commission had invited our Election Commission to observe the polls. But the Election Commission is very busy managing the current schedule, so we have declined,” the New India Express reported a senior government official from the country as having stated.

Officials at the Indian High Commission in Malé have confirmed that no observers will be sent, though it was pointed out that High Commission staff would be performing some observer functions.

Previously, India sent a high level delegation led by their former Chief Election Commissioners to the Maldives to observe 2013’s presidential election, with the first round – later annulled – given high praise by the observers.

A delegation of the European Union is currently in the country preparing to monitor the parliamentary elections.