Amendments prohibit civil servants from holding political party posts

Amendments voted through to the Civil Service Act today prohibits civil servants from either holding posts in political parties or seeking the registration of a political party.

The amendments also prohibit civil servants from using powers to directly or indirectly influence political activities as well as participating in political activity either during official working hours or in a way that casts doubt on impartiality in the performance of duties.

The amendment bill (Dhivehi) submitted on behalf of the government by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Ameeth was passed unanimously with 40 votes in favour and one abstention.

Continuing protests on the People’s Majlis floor with sirens and megaphones into the 12th consecutive sitting, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MPs did not participate in the vote.

Presenting the legislation (Dhivehi) in August last year, the PPM MP for Raa Madduvari explained that the amendments to the 2007 law were part of a raft of bills proposed by the government to bring outdated laws in line with the new constitution adopted in August 2008.

Ameeth said the restrictions were necessary to ensure that the civil service was free of political bias and undue influence.

In September 2011, the Supreme Court backed a ruling against the prevention of civil servants’ participation in political activities.

The apex court referred to Article 30(a) of the Constitution, which states, “Every citizen has the right to establish and to participate in the activities of political parties.


Majlis election: Nasheed calls for MDP restructuring after election defeat

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called for new leadership within the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) following defeat in what he described as an “unfair” but accepted parliamentary election.

“I request new people to come and run the party,” Nasheed told the media today.

The party’s figurehead said he will continue to serve the party in the future and hopes that members of the party would make clear his role.

“I want new people to come forward to run the party. But I will not go away from the party, I will always remain in doing party work,” he added.

Nasheed, a co-founder of MDP and it’s first chairperson, was elected as the President of Maldives in the first democratic election in 2008.

The position of both president and vice president of the party remain vacant after party president Dr Ibrahim Didi and VP Alhan Fahmy were removed in a no-confidence vote in April 2012. Nasheed said today that a new party president should be elected soon.

“It is important for the party to restructure with these new results and with new people and go forward fast,“ he said.

Commenting on the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) comments about reforming the MDP, Nasheed said that the work done by all parties in the Maldives needed reform.

“If PPM says that, it should be an inspiration for us. I believe when parties tell each other to strengthen their functioning, it must be accepted,” Nasheed said.

The function of holding the government accountable would be difficult without a majority, he noted, but it would still be carried out by the MDP in other forms such as questioning state institutions and bringing issues to the attention of the public.

“We did hope for a majority. I was hoping for around 45 seats. Not winning the election was a great loss for us. But I don’t think the result is such a loss that we should be so worried that we stop our work and become weak.”

“The MDP will remain as a big party, will hold rallies, give speeches, take trips, will say whatever has to be said politically at anytime. The MDP will protest, MDP will raise their voice over issues. MDP will carry out peaceful political activity?” Nasheed continued.

An official party statement issued today said that the party hopes its members will remain in reforming the country, and assured that the elected candidates of the party will remain in “preventing the country from going off track” and in reforming the judiciary.

“The MDP will always go forward in the path shown by the members and supporters of the party, in ways which are most beneficial for the country,” the MDP press statement read.

Parliamentary Elections

The reasons for losing the election previously suggested by members of the MDP leadership were echoed by Nasheed today

He said the defeat was a result of multiple factors, including undue influence, fear, money, candidates, policies, campaign budget shortages, and a lack of confidence in the election.

Nasheed suggested that expelling employees from companies with government shares and government positions also had a negative impact on the results.

“The voter turnout was very low in many areas. I believe among these reasons are removing Elections Commission members, and lack of confidence in the election from the members of the public,” Nasheed said.

Criticising the Supreme Court’sremoval of the Elections Commission (EC) president and vice president a few days ahead of the parliamentary elections, Nasheed said that such an election will be “very difficult to be considered fair”.

He said that it was a display of power to the public and it resulted in a low voter turnout, as many people believed the election would not make a difference.

“We believe this is not a fair transparent election because of that. I am not saying that things didn’t go well on election day. I’m not saying that we don’t generally accept the election.”

He also noted that the leadership of any party and the those involved in it should take responsibility for the victories and losses.

Commenting on the leadership’s responsibility for the defeat, Nasheed said that negligence of leaders should be accepted when faced with a failure, but that there had been no such negligence to a level which required going into detail and pointing fingers.

Congratulating President Abdulla Yameen for achieving “a great victory”, Nasheed called on him to lead and work with the MDP in reforming the judiciary and sustaining the democratic system.

“We hope that our members will do substantial work in the parliament as an opposition party. We believe there is a lot of work that has to be done through the People’s Majlis.”

“I hope the government will use their parliament majority with care, that they will not take our members to court, and that these members will not have to face extraordinary obstacles.”


EC fines MDA for failing to hold a national congress

The Elections Commission has fined the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) MVR30,000 for failing to hold the party’s national congress within the legally prescribed period.

The Political Parties Act states that such a congress should be held within nine months of registration. The MDA – lead by businessman and parliament member Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam – was registered on 20 December, 2012. The fine has to be paid within fifteen days.

The MDA is a member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) governing coalition. It currently has two members in the parliament and will be running for seven seats in the upcoming parliamentary election.


Parties prepare for Majlis elections as EC calls for applications

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced it will be accepting applications for the People’s Majlis elections between January 29 and February 11.

A fee of MVR5000 (US$ 324) is required for every application.

The parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 22, and results are to be announced on March 29. The commission also published the Elections Regulation 2014 today.

As the Elections Commission (EC) gears up for the elections, all major political parties contesting have begun to select their candidates.

Maldivian Democratic Party

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who narrowly lost the presidential election last November -will be contesting for all 85 seats of the People’s Majlis. 27 candidates have won the party’s ticket without contest, being the sole contender in those areas.

Tickets for the remaining 58 seats – sought by 176 candidates – are to be awarded through party primaries. The primaries were held for 20 seats on January 25, after being called off the previous day due to administrative and voter registry issues. Winners in these areas have also been announced.

Polling is expected to take place tomorrow for Baarashu constituency tomorrow, and primaries will be held for another 30 constituencies this weekend.

Governing coalition deal

The governing coalition led by President Abdulla Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has decided to compete as a group. The parties in the coalition have reached a deal to reserve a set number of seats for each party.

As per the deal, 49 seats have been reserved for PPM candidated, 28 seats have been allocated for tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP), and Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam’s Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) will run for 8 seats.

Progressive Party of Maldives

President Abdulla Yameen’s PPM, which has the majority of coalition seat allocations, has scheduled part-primaries for February 4. By 4pm yesterday – the deadline to apply for party tickets – 150 candidates had applied for the allocated 49 seats. These candidates will now go through a screening process where they will be evaluated and graded based on the following criteria;

  • upholding the party ideology
  • how long the person has served in the party
  • experience in the parliament
  • campaigned for the party presidential candidate
  • belonging to a ‘special category’ recognised by the party
  • the amount of service provided for the party

The screening will be carried out by a committee formed by the party council and the strategic planning committee. Applicants who don’t get at least 75 percent marks will not be qualified to compete in the primaries. In constituencies where one person is qualified for the primary, that candidate will automatically win the ticket. If all the applicants for a seat fail meet the criteria, a primary will be held among them.

Jumhooree Party

The JP yesterday opened applications for 19 of their 28 allocated seats before 30 January. Applications for the remainder of the seats will also be announced soon. Applicants will initially be reviewed by a special committee formed by the party council, giving them points through a set of criteria. The applicants with the most points will receive the party tickets. In case of a draw,the party will attempt to find a solution through dialogue – failing this, the party will discuss a primary election.

Maldives Development Alliance

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) have decided to reserve two of their eight allocated seats for sitting MP s – party leader and Dhaalu Meedhoo MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, and Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo MP Ahmed Amir. Tickets for Kendhikulhudhoo and Hoarafushi were won by uncontested candidates. Primaries will be held in for Manadhoo and Velidhoo tickets on 30 January, while the application for Holhudhoo constituency is still open.

The MDA has decided not to contest for Gaddhoo constituency, despite being allocated the seat by the coalition, as there are no party members in the area.

Adhaalath Party

While the PPM has earlier discussed allocating coalition seats for the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) through the coalition deal, no seats were allocated for them through the coalition’s parliamentary election deal, as the party is not officially a coalition member. The PPM has said, however, that other members of the coalition are free to share their allocated seats with AP.

In this regard, the JP has proposed an interest to share some of it’s tickets with Adhaalath. According to JP Secretary General Dr Ahmed Saud, the party will propose 1 to 3 seats to Adhaalath with a set of conditions such as not competing with the JP for any other seat. Both JP and Adhaalath has confirmed their leaders will soon hold talks to decide on the matter.

An Adhaalath official told Minivan News that it is unlikely for the party to settle for that amount of seats when the party is already confident about several constituencies.


United States, India, HRCM, multiple NGOs back Elections Commission, urge presidential polling to take place Saturday

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has urged political parties to support the Elections Commission to hold the presidential election tomorrow, and called on “as many Maldivian citizens as possible to go out and vote”.

The United States has called on political leaders to ensure participatory democracy is not undermined, and expressed concern about the potential postponement of Saturday’s election.

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidates have demanded fingerprint verification of the finalised voter registry, with police refusing to support the election without the candidates’ signatures. After submitting letters to the Elections Commission (EC) soon after midnight, the party’s leaders have been unreachable.

Signing of the registry by the candidates is a new demand contained in the Supreme Court’s guidelines for the election, following its annulment of the first round of polls shortly before midnight on October 7.

“The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) urges political parties to prioritise national interest and support the elections commission in this difficult moment to hold the presidential election as scheduled,” the commission declared in a press statement issued today.

“We call on as many citizens as possible to go out to vote and not to obstruct the vote,” it added.

Earlier this week the HRCM member and acting chairperson Ahmed Tholal told local media that the commission had complete confidence in the Elections Commission’s ability to conduct the upcoming presidential election freely, fairly and in a transparent manner.

Multiple Maldivian and international civil society organisations have also called for the presidential election to be held as scheduled tomorrow.

United States and India

The United States Embassy in Colombo has also expressed concern that the October 19 election may be postponed, and called on political leaders to ensure participatory democracy is not undermined in a press statement today.

“Political leaders must come together to ensure that participatory democracy is not undermined and that free, fair, credible and inclusive elections can take place peacefully and in line with international standards. Further efforts to delay the electoral process could undermine the will of the people to choose their representative,” the US Embassy stated.

“The Electoral Commission has made concerted efforts to comply with the Supreme Court’s requirements for a new first round, including the re-registration of thousands of voters,” it noted. “The United States is concerned that the re-organised first round of the Maldivian presidential election, set for October 19, may now be postponed.”

The US also highlighted the Maldives’ constitutional requirement that a new president be sworn in by November 11, 2013.

India echoed the United States’ “deep concerns” that the presidential election may be further delayed and “once again urged the government of Maldives and presidential candidates” to hold the election tomorrow and uphold the Maldives’ constitution, in a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Male’ tonight.

“We call upon all political parties to show a spirit of understanding, cooperation and accommodation by supporting the efforts for holding elections as scheduled, including by accepting the voters’ register,” stated the Indian High Commission. “Holding of free, fair and credible elections without further delay is essential for fulfilling the political aspirations of the people of Maldives.”

President Mohamed Waheed has meanwhile urged parties “not to act in a fashion that obstructs holding of the election and to prioritise national interest over personal interest”.

Transparency Maldives

Local NGO Transparency Maldives has reiterated its appeal for the presidential election to take place as scheduled.

“We have previously called for the presidential election to be held in the timeframe stipulated within the constitution,” Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News today.

“In resolving the rising tensions and disagreements in the country, Transparency Maldives appeals to all actors, especially the Supreme Court, to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and electoral deadlines and respect people’s electoral choice,” reads a September 28 Transparency Maldives press statement.

The NGO also previously appealed to “all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.”

Rasheed noted that “We have already missed two deadlines: holding a runoff election within 21 days after the first round and holding an election 30 days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term November 11,” as stated in articles 111 and 110 of the constitution.

“The only deadline that has not been missed is holding the presidential election before October 20,” he continued.

“The Supreme Court’s verdict mandates all state institutions, including political parties, must work with the Elections Commission to ensure a free and fair election,” he explained.

“An election cannot be held without everyone joining together – civil society, political parties, media, state institutions – to support the Elections Commission,” he added.

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption NGO has stated that it is “fully ready for extensive observation of the October 19 presidential election”.

Transparency fielded a team of 400 election monitors during the first round of September 7, stating that the process was fair and credible and that incidents observed on the day would not have had a material impact on the outcome of the election.

In late August, Transparency Maldives expressed doubts over the integrity of the Supreme Court, urging it to “maintain its actions in such a fashion that the court does not allow further diminishing of its integrity and to be transparent in its functioning and sharing of information to strengthen the public trust towards the institution.”

The NGO also recently noted that the failure of parliament and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address alleged integrity issues of the Supreme Court judges have “created avenues for political and other actors to question the conduct, injunctions and verdicts of the Supreme Court”.

The Home Ministry this month announced that it would be investigating Transparency Maldives for challenging the Supreme Court, prompting the NGO’s international affiliate – Transparency International – to express its concern “grave concern” about staff and volunteer safety and “alarm” over the intimidation and public allegations threatening its Transparency Maldives chapter.

Maldives NGO Federation

In light of the HRCM statement, the Maldives NGO Federation, representing over 60 local civil society organisations, also reiterated its support for the Elections Commission.

“The NGO Federation of course appreciates the hard work of the Elections Commission and we fully trust in the work they are doing,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News today.

“Given the Supreme Court’s verdict, it’s will not be very easy for the EC to go ahead and hold the election without political parties signing the voter registry. We are hopeful that the talks held tonight will help solve the issue,” he noted.

“I would like to believe that the political leaders of this country will be responsible people,” he continued. “And we stay hopeful that we will get the opportunity to exercise our constitutional right [to vote] tomorrow.”

“The EC Chairperson has said that even if the political parties sign the registry by 7:30am tomorrow morning the election can still be held,” he added.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s September 28 second round until a verdict in the JP case against the EC had been reached, the NGO expressed concern over the election delay and urged the Supreme Court to deliver a speedy verdict and to allow elections to proceed as per the constitution.

The Home Ministry subsequently demanded the NGO provide a copy of its press release regarding the Supreme Court.

The NGO Federation also recently expressed its concern that political parties have been attempting to discredit the Elections Commission by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.

The NGO Federation declared their confidence in the EC and noted the essential role the commission has played in holding free and fair elections over the past five years.

International Federation of Human Rights

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) NGO said it is continuing to observe developments in the Maldives, and is calling for the outgoing government to ensure Maldivian people were given their right to vote in a free and fair election held in accordance with international standards.

Expressing concern about “mixed signals” being given to Maldivian people and the international community about holding an election, the international NGO said there was growing anxiety around the world for voting to be held without further delays.

FIDH said it continued to hold particular concern over the decision by the country’s Supreme Court to annul the first round of the presidential election held on September 7 – an order it claimed, in a joint statement with the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), was “unjustifiable”.

“The unjustifiable delay and judicially forceful suspension of the second round of the election, due on 28 September, indicates an encroachment of the judiciary over the powers of the Elections Commission, an independent constitutional body answerable to the Parliament of the Maldives,” read the statement from MDN and FIDH on October 8.

The statement described the court’s verdict as being founded on “materially baseless arguments”, after the first round was “applauded as a success by the international community.”

“Maldivian authorities must swiftly bring the electoral process to an end, in a free and fair manner,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji at the time.


“No rest, no sleep” until deadline: EC Commissioner

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii

“We are very certain the election will be held as scheduled, but not everything is within our control,” Elections Commissioner (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek told a press conference tonight (October 16).

“We are giving our maximum effort to reach the deadline. No rest, no sleep, two hours [maximum]. We were working 24 hours straight, then 36, now 48. Our officials are doing everything humanly possible. International observers are even surprised [at the intensive effort put forth],” said Thowfeek.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Currently, the commission is primarily working on processing voter re-registration forms and entering the information into its database, Thowfeek explained.

With the commission not yet having completed the process, it has extended its complaints filing deadline to 2:ooam.

“We are receiving complaints and will correct the mistakes based on the voter re-registration forms,” said EC Commission Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “The problem is that a large number of people want to be registered to vote at different locations [other than their home islands].”

Whether the EC can finish processing the re-registration forms by its goal of tomorrow morning has not yet been confirmed.

Deadline looms

Thus far, 56,243 forms have been processed and the EC expects over 60,000 people to have re-registered – leaving approximately 10,000 forms remaining. After this process is finished, the commission hopes to begin printing the final voter registry tomorrow morning.

The EC has already provided political parties with the voter lists and will give them the finalized voter registry once it is completed.

“We hope the candidates will sign the voter registry, as responsible people. If they don’t then we will determine what to do at that point in time,” said Thowfeek. “We do not know what to say if they do not sign the registry. We don’t know whether the election can be held or not if that occurs.”

Meanwhile, the EC has completed printing the ballot papers – with candidate number two, President Mohamed Waheed having been removed – and is in the process of verifying and checking the ballots.

However, the commission cannot seal the ballots for transportation until after the voter registry has been finalised.

Additionally, all the elections officials have been selected and trained, however they cannot be sent to the polling station locations until the voter list is finalized, noted EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar.

The EC is aiming for officials to depart to polling station locations on the islands tomorrow.

“If elections officials do not leave for London tomorrow night, there will be no ballots in London,” said Manik.

“For example, it would be really strange if you were asked to build a 10 story building in 10 days and then hand over the keys, but such a thing we are doing,” he continued. “This is not something we have ever experienced, we apologise for everything.”

“Last time we formed a timetable and followed it, but now we have minimal time, so we are trying to finish things as fast as we can,” he noted. “We are doing everything as per the Supreme Court guidelines.

“We need to consider the ongoing Cambridge O’Level examinations – that is also why we will hold the election Saturday,” he continued.

Ongoing challenges

The EC noted that the holiday period had made their task even more difficult.

“Some temporary officials took leave for Hajj and Eid, however we cannot hire new staff because it each person requires two hours of training,” said Thowfeek.

“The government is giving a lot of assistance, which is the only reason the EC can keep going,” he noted. “We are working around the clock to hold the election on October 19.”

The Department of National Registration (DNR) provided the EC with the details of their database, however they have since amended some of the information and still need to provide their updated registry to the commission, explained Manik. We are still talking with the DNR to resolve the issue.

He also noted that the EC is working with the DNR to verify individuals’ records and address complaints the commission has received.

“For example, according to the DNR, Moomina Haleem [the country’s first female cabinet minister] is deceased, however we met with her and determined it was actually her husband that died. So we have to make sure people like Moomina Haleem do not lose their right to vote, explained Thowfeek.

“Now an individual can only cast their vote if all their personal information is correct [in accordance with the DNR’s database,” he noted.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We are following the Supreme Court guidelines; we are doing everything as they’ve said,” Thowfeek emphasised. “We will take action against those who conduct fraud.”

“By the will of Allah we will do everything we can to hold the election on October 19,” he added.


Human Rights Commission to post election observer teams

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) will station election observer teams in 10 regions of the Maldives to “ensure that eligible voters are provided with the right to vote,” reports local media.

The situation in all parts of the Maldives will be monitored via phone and in addition to the Commission’s observer teams, a special team will also be in Male’ to “act in cases of emergency”, stressed the HRCM.

“Our staff have also been trained on how the police are allowed to use force during the elections,” HRCM President Mariyam Azra told local media on Thursday (August 15).

The HRCM has conducted a training program for the observers, in addition to meeting with the Elections Commission (EC), police and political parties in the run up to the September 7 presidential elections.


Thousands of voters failing to re-register to vote in Male before August 7 deadline, warns Elections Commission

Only 11,000 out of an estimated 65,000 Maldivians have registered to vote outside of their permanent residence for the September 7 presidential election, with many unregistered voters confident they will not encounter problems voting on election day.

Despite this confidence, many of these same voters have also cited confusion or a lack of awareness about registration and voting regulations.

While public response to the voter re-registration process has been poor, Maldivians can only re-register until August 7, after which time the window of opportunity will end, Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek told local media.

“We urge everyone to pay special heed to the re-registration. Once the deadline ends, we won’t allow any more chances because we need to verify the forms as well,” Thowfeek explained.

The EC has received some registration forms from political parties that are taking part in the process, which Thowfeek hopes many people are using to re-register to vote prior to the deadline.

The 54,000 person voter registration shortfall has prompted the EC to establish a voter registration desk in the Raalhugandu area – Male’s surf point, adjacent to the Tsunami Monument in Henviru ward – openly nightly from 9:30pm to 11:00pm.

To try and understand what is preventing so many Maldivians from registering to vote, Minivan News spoke to a cross-section of youth – individuals between 18 and 35 years-old – and asked: 1) Whether they plan to vote in the September’s presidential election; 2) Where they plan to cast their vote; 3) If they have registered to vote in that location; 4) If they have checked the voter registration list previously published in the Government Gazette, or with the EC.

An overwhelming majority of those questioned expressed passionate excitement about the upcoming elections and said they plan to vote, and enthusiastically voiced support for a particular political party. However, many of the same individuals were unaware – and even unconcerned – about the voter re-registration process.

“Yeah, I’m gonna vote here in Male’. I think I’m registered, cause a guy from the [island] council talked about it and he took a photocopy of my ID card,” said a 20 year-old, originally from Haa Alif Atoll now living in Male’.

“I didn’t check the [voter registration] list. What does it contain – the list of people who can vote this year?” he asked.

Maldivians originally from the atolls now living in Male’ have also said they find the voter registration process for the Male’ Dhaftharu – a special registry for people who are Male’ residents, but are from other islands – to be “too complicated” or “time consuming”.

“‘Ehburun’ – I support the [Maldivian Democratic Party] (MDP)!” exclaimed a 25 year-old safari boat worker from Shaviyani Atoll, who lives in Male’ with his wife and young children.

He said he plans to vote but has had “no time” to research the voter registration process or check the voter registration list and juggle family and work responsibilities. His wife is also politically passionate, and believes they will have no issues voting on election day, but has not checked the voter registry.

Numerous individuals do not think they need to re-register to vote, especially if they voted in a recent election or if they plan to vote on their home island.

“I will be registered on my island. I’ll be able to walk into the polling station on my island and vote, no problem. I have not checked [the status of] my registration, because there’s no need,” said a 22 year-old who is working and studying in Male’.

This sentiment was reflected almost verbatim by a 21 year-old from Meemu Atoll who works in a private business office in Male’: “I don’t know if I’m registered, but there’s no need. I’ll go to my island on election day and be able to vote no problem.”

Those who plan to travel back to their home islands to vote are completely confident political parties will provide boat transport on election day, and that weather causing rough seas will not be a problem.

Those who plan to travel to their islands – from atolls in the far north to the far south of the Maldives – are indiscriminate about which political party boat they will take, even if it means they will be accepting transport from a party they will not be voting for.

University students studying in Male’ have also told Minivan News that because “transportation is difficult” they are currently looking for scheduled trips to their home islands, but will ultimately have to seek out political party boats traveling from Male’ to the islands on election day. The transport provided by political parties tends to be more “luxurious” than regular ferries, some said.

These college students feel because they are studying full time, and many simultaneously work full time jobs, the EC registration process is too complicated and not flexible enough to accommodate their schedules.

Additionally, they “do not trust political parties enough to register through them”.

Meanwhile, many resort workers are still unsure of the location they will be voting and therefore have not registered to vote.

“I’m not sure if there will be a ballot box on the resort. We have not been informed by the resort management,” said a water sports instructor working on a resort near Male’.

He explained that the Maldivian staff also have not been informed if the resort will provide time off or transportation to another island to vote – and they were not notified during the 2008 presidential election either.

“I want to vote, but even if I knew where I should be voting, I only get one day off, so I cannot come to Male’ to register,” the water-sports instructor added. “There needs to be an online registration system.”

Another resort worker noted that he recalls a voter registration SMS reminder  “bouncing around a while back”, but is still unclear on whether he even needs to register to be eligible to vote.

The EC earlier revealed that only 56 of the country’s 100 resort islands had agreed to allow ballot boxes for staff to vote.

“As an alternative, we’ll place boxes in the islands closest inhabited island and they’ll send their employees [to vote],” Thowfeek said at the time. “Resorts cannot stop their staff from going [to vote] because we have an understanding, an arrangement with them. If they try to stop [their employees from voting] we will take the necessary actions [against them].”

Traveling abroad for work during election has also created problems for some Maldivians.

“If we travel we will miss the election. There should be an early voting system,” said a 25 year-old working in Male’.

Even individuals actively involved in campaigning for a particular political party and assisting with the voter registration process for their constituency are not entirely clear about the re-registration process.

“I’m not sure when the deadline is,” said a 23 year-old campaign volunteer who works in Male’.

“I’m definitely voting for MDP,” declared one 22 year-old in Male’, however though he said he has been very active organising various events – political and non-political – in his neighborhood, he did not think he needed to register to vote.

Voter apathy

While the lack of voter registration awareness has not deterred many Maldivian youth from confidently believing they will be able to vote on September 7 without issue, there are some individuals who feel so politically disenfranchised they are choosing not to vote.

“It won’t matter whether I vote, nothing changes for us, we are mistreated by police under every government administration,” said a 22 year-old working in Male’. “Only politicians and their friends have rights, no one else does.”

“I don’t feel like voting since no one will be willing to do anything good for the citizens. When it comes to voting, they’ll tell us it’s our right. But when we go to get our rights, there’s no rights for us,” said a 23 year-old Maldivian studying abroad in Sri Lanka.

“For instance, what about the parents of the murdered guys? Where do they go to get justice for their murdered sons?” he asked.

“You see there’s no candidate that I would like to vote for. I hate each and every one. Everyone [running for president] is out for their own good, no one is going to help the country develop. Neither is any citizen going to get benefits,” he added.

Some Maldivians are planning to vote if the elections continue on to a second round, but say they do not think it is necessary to vote in the first round.

“MDP has so many supporters they don’t need my vote. Ehburun! But if they don’t win in the first round, then I’ll vote in the second,” said a 25 year-old Male’ resident.

EC Hotline Help

The EC has stressed that they wish to hear any and all issues, concerns, or complaints voters may have in regard to the upcoming elections.

“We are here to listen and check into any problems,” said Thowfeek. “Anyone can call the EC regarding any problem, we currently have 12 lines and will increase the number of reception lines as demand increases.”

Currently. the EC hotline is staffed 8:00am to 8:00pm, however as elections day approaches the line hours will be extended, Thowfeek explained.

Maldivians can call or SMS to determine where they are registered to vote, which political party they are registered with, to report any problem or difficulties, and to seek any information.

The Elections Commission hotline is 1414.

The SMS codes for enquiries are as follows:

SMS PPR(space)(ID#) – current political party registration
SMS Voterinformationsystem(space)(ID#) – respective polling place location based on voter registration

Additionally, voter registration, including political party affiliation, can be verified in the Maldives’ government gazette.


Elections Commission processing membership forms, but yet to recognise new parties

The Elections Commission (EC) has yet to formally recognise any new parties meeting the minimum membership requirement of 10,000 stipulated in a recent bill, the commission has stated, but is processing membership forms.

Following the passage of Political Parties Act 11 parties – including former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) – were removed from the commission’s registry for failing to meeting the minimum membership. It also removed the parties from the list of political parties published on its website.

Speaking to local media, Secretary General of the Elections Commission Ahmed Asim said the commission had begunto process the membership forms submitted by political parties prior to the enactment of the act, based on advice given to the commission by the parliament.

Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee has meanwhile instructed the Elections Commission to begin processing the forms submitted by political parties, following a submission filed by the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) led by tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

According to Asim, President Mohamed Waheed’s GIP and the MDA had both submitted more than 10,000 membership forms to the elections commission at the time the commission announced that parties lacking the required number of members would immediately be dissolved.

“Apart from those two parties, we have been processing membership forms submitted by other political parties. However, we have not yet decided whether to publicise the names of the new parties that attain the 10,000-member mark,” Asim told Haveeru.

The Supreme Court has issued a stay order on the elections commission ordering them not to take any decision that would dissolve any political party prior to the court coming to a decision on the matter. The order was based on a case filed at court by the Attorney General.

Despite President Waheed’s decision to veto the Political Parties bill and to return it to the house, parliament overruled him with an overwhelming super majority of 60 votes.

MPs representing both the government coalition and the opposition alleged that President Waheed had rejected the bill because it involved his personal interests and that his party GIP would be one of the first to be dissolved after the law came into force.

The bill had come under heavy criticism from several smaller political parties including President Waheed’s own party – which at the time had less than 3000 members – claiming the bill was an attempt to destroy the party.

Following the passage of the bill, the Attorney General lodged a case in the Supreme Court requesting a writ of mandamus against the Elections Commission to prevent dissolution of political parties that failed to maintain the required 10,000 members as stipulated in the Political Parties Act.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham was reported in local media as stating that the enactment of the Political Parties Act meant political parties that did not have the required number of members would be dissolved without any transitional period.

Following the ratification of Political Parties Act, only five political parties remain registered in the Maldives. Remaining parties include the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and four government-aligned parties” the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Jumhoree Party (JP) and Adhaalath Party (AP).