National Complaints Bureau investigating 181 complaints concerning council elections

A total of 181 complaints were submitted to the independent National Complaints Bureau concerning yesterday’s local council elections.

Bureau Chief Ali Azim informed the press yesterday that none of the issues raised could have a material effect on the outcome of any local council contest.

“Of the 181 complaints submitted so far, we have not identified any that could impact the outcome. But we are looking into it,” he said.

The most common complaint concerned the Elections Commission’s (EC’s) decision to display national identity card photos in the voter lists placed outside polling stations, Azim said.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told reporters yesterday that photos were included in the voter lists as a safeguard to prevent fraud.

In addition to a number of phoned in complaints, two women submitted complaints in cases where ID card photos were taken before they wore face veils, said EC member Ali Mohamed Manik.

Following complaints from women who wear the hijab, Azim said the complaints bureau brought the matter to the attention of EC members and “informed [polling stations] to cover with a piece of paper the photos of people who insist on taking it down.”

The decision to display photos also drew criticism from some religious scholars, with NGO Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem calling to punish those responsible.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla contended that the practice was contrary to Islamic principles and infringed on the rights of veiled women.

Meanwhile, Azim revealed that complaints submitted through official complaint forms included 78 cases of voters registered for the wrong ballot box, one case of a voter’s name missing from the list, three cases of alleged illegal campaigning, six cases of ballot boxes transferred to a different location, three cases concerning assisted voting, two complaints concerning inmates, one case of a voter displaying a marked ballot paper, and seven complaints about the EC.

Phoned in complaints included 27 complaints concerning voter registration issues, two complaints from voters registered for the wrong ballot box, 11 complaints of deceased citizens in the voters list, one complaint of gender mismatch, three complaints of illegal campaigning, three requests to transfer ballot boxes, two complaints about the EC and 28 complaints about displaying identity card photos.

In addition, a complaint was made alleging that two pens with fading ink were used in a polling booth.

“Concerning that complaint, we have seized the two pens through the Maldives Police Service. We are considering verifying through forensic investigators in the country or abroad,” Azim said.

According to the police, three men aged 38, 42, and 48 were taken into custody in Addu City for allegedly displaying their marked ballot papers. All three have since been released.

Two men from Faafu Nilandhoo were also briefly taken into custody after attempting to prevent the closing of the ballot box.