Maldives NGO Federation criticises political parties attacks on Elections Commission

Additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer

The Maldives NGO Federation has expressed concern that political parties are attempting to discredit the Elections Commission (EC) by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.

The Maldives NGO Federation, representing over 60 local civil society organisations, issued a press release Sunday (August 18) that 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.

The organisation also highlighted concerns that some political parties have been trying to discredit the EC “so close” to the scheduled September 7 election.

“We are concerned about attacks by political parties on the Elections Commission,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News today (August 19).

The organisation has called on all the political parties and government institutions not to do anything that will that will obstruct the EC from holding free and fair elections.

Furthermore, the NGO Federation appealed to everyone to cooperate with the EC to ensure the upcoming presidential election is free and fair.

Political party complaints, threats of legal action

The NGO Federation’s appeal follows a series of complaints about the EC issued by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhoree Party (JP).

The PPM has claimed their concerns with the EC have gone “unaddressed” and so are now seeking a legal resolution, PPM vice presidential candidate and former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told local media in Addu City yesterday (August 18).

While Jameel did not explain what the PPM’s specific course of action against the EC will be, he noted that the party was questioning the commission’s independence for three reasons.

“The first and the biggest problem is the questions surrounding the validity of the electoral register. In that regard, problems had been noted similar to what happened before. The reason is whether the IT system established in that place is secure enough to ensure that no one can alter the list. But they couldn’t give us that assurance,” Jameel said.

“On top of that, we hear that outsiders are active inside the elections commission. Such things create more apprehension. But so far it remains unclear what their purpose is,” he added.

Last week, PPM and JP filed a complaint against the EC’s Legal Director Haneefa Khalid, for alleged political tweeting ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

Mahloof singled out one he claimed had offended PPM President and former 30-year autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The EC is currently investigating the matter and said it will take administrative action should it find the need to do so.

PPM Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof told local media the party’s main concern was that Khalid was the wife of Dr Ahmed Ashraf, who contested the by-election of parliament’s Ungoofaaru constituency on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ticket following the murder of sitting MP Dr Afrashim Ali. The election was won by the PPM by a narrow margin of 81 votes.

On the same day, the Attorney General’s office began probing a disciplinary case concerning Khalid following a complaint filed against her by the Maldives Police Service (MPS). The MPS filed the complaint after Khalid “addressed the police disrespectfully” while she was inside a Male’ jail meeting a client whom she had been representing in court, according to local media.

In early August, PPM and JP lodged a complaint with the EC expressing their fears foreign nationals will have access to the Maldives’ voter database for upcoming polling, as it seeks assistance from Indian IT professionals to set up software to help oversee future council elections.

In response, the EC met with a “combined team” representing the JP and PPM to dismiss any fears, adding that only local EC staff had access to sensitive information and the commission’s security systems.

“We explained to them that the Indian team would not be working on systems being used for the upcoming presidential election. They will instead be providing assistance to help develop a program for future elections,” said EC President Fuwad Thowfeek.

The PPM and JP had challenged the possibility of holding free and fair elections scheduled for September 7 this year if foreigners could access the electoral database and other systems, local media reported previously.

Additionally, in late July the PPM requested the EC not reject voter registration forms missing details such as the name of a voter’s parents or a phone number, that could not be verified during random checks.

The EC rejected the request to make voter registration more “lenient” and noted at the time that no “official complaints” had been filed with the commission over its ability to capably oversee the upcoming presidential election, despite the PPM alleging in local media that it was incapable of ensuring a fair vote.

PPM Council member and Youth Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef was quoted in local media the same week calling for “major reforms” to the commission, which he alleged lacked the capacity to oversee fair voting.


Elections Commission claims 50,000 voters re-registered as deadline approaches

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced that more than 50,000 people have re-registered to vote at the commission, a day before the deadline.

Re-registration is necessary for those intending to vote at a polling station other than that listed with the Elections Commission, such as a worker based on a resort island or student in Male. Similarly, Maldivians residing abroad are also required to re-register in order to vote in the country of residence.

Registration can be easily checked using a national ID number and the EC’s 1414 SMS system (text 1414 in the format ‘VIS [National ID #]’.

The Elections Commission has previously announced that it intends to place ballot boxes in India’s Trivandrum and New Delhi, Colombo, London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore – areas having significant populations of Maldivian expatriates.

By law, a minimum of 100 voters are required to register in any region for a ballot box to be placed.

The commission last week warned that low registration in London, Singapore and New Delhi could mean it would not be able to place ballot boxes in these locations. However by today, only New Delhi and Singapore still lacked the minimum number of registrations, with just 50 registered at the latter.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told local media today that he expected large number of re-registration forms would be submitted to the commission in the remaining period.

“Many re-registration forms will come in on the last day. That’s something we know from experience,” Thowfeek told Haveeru.

According to Thowfeek, the commission will stop accepting re-registration forms after Wednesday as per the previously set deadline of August 7. The commission has meanwhile ruled out any possibility of extending the deadline.

“The door for re-registration will be closed tomorrow night at 12 o’clock. After that we can’t accept any forms. We are expecting a large number of forms before the deadline expires,” he added.

Elections Commission has previously estimated that around 65,000 people will re-register before the deadline. Thowfeek appeared confident that the numbers would reach the commission’s estimate prior to the deadline.

The Presidential Elections are scheduled to take place on September 7. If no candidate attains the required 50 percent plus one vote to secure a first round victory, a run-off election will take place 20 days after the first election.

The commission has announced that four candidates will be competing in the elections.

The candidates are leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim (running mate Dr Hassan Saeed), Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed (running mate Dr Musthafa Luthfy), incumbent President and independent candidate Dr Mohamed Waheed (running mate DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen (running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel).

Check the voter registry and registered place of voting

Download registration form (Dhivehi)

In the Maldives? Check your details via SMS

To check where/if you are registered to vote, SMS 1414 ‘VIS(space)(National ID#)’

To check political party registration, SMS 1414 ‘PPR(space)(National ID#)’

Elections Commission hotline: 1414


Candidates to file for presidential election on July 15: Elections Commission

Candidates for the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for September 7 will be invited to file their candidacy with the Elections Commission (EC) from July 15, the commission has stated.

Along with opposition leader former President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), leaders of several political parties currently aligned with the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan – including the incumbent – have publicly announced they will be competing for the office.

Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, Leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP) and business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim and Parliamentary Group Leader of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who won the party’s controversial presidential primary beating rival Umar Naseer – have publicly announced their bids for the presidency.

Speaking Minivan News on Sunday, President of the EC Fuad Thaufeeq said that the opening of the candidacies was not a “new announcement” as the constitution required the commission to announce the presidential election 120 days prior to the end of the current presidential term, which expires in November 2013. Therefore, he said the opportunity to file for formal candidacy needed to be opened on July 15.

“From July 15, all prospective candidates will get a 10-day period to file their candidacy with us. This period will include public holidays as well. So the due date to file candidacy will be July 24,” he said.

According to Thaufeeq, the commission has begun preparations for the presidential poll and is currently working on finalising “regulations” concerning the election which he claimed would be completed within a week’s time.

During the period in which the commission opened the regulation for public commenting, the EC president said it had received significant support from major political parties including the MDP, PPM and DRP.

Apart from the political parties, Thaufeeq also said that local NGO Transparency Maldives had also given very “constructive comments” on the draft regulation.

Transparency recently published a comprehensive pre-election assessment, highlighting vote-buying, political polarisation, and credibility as critical challenges for the 2013 elections.

The election was set to take place “against a context of uncertainty, crises of political legitimacy and unprecedented levels of political polarisation,” the NGO noted.

The Elections Commission has meanwhile revealed that this year’s presidential elections – which will be the country’s second multiparty presidential poll since the formation of political parties in 2005 – will see 31,000 new voters casting their vote.

According to the statistics from the commission, the total number of eligible voters for the election stands at 240,302 – 31,008 more than the number of eligible voters in the 2008 presidential elections (209,294).

The commission in March also opened registration for voters who are currently not residing on the island where they are initially registered to vote, in a bid to increase voter turnout for the 2013 election.

According to the statistics published at the commission’s website, voter turnout for the first round of the 2008 Presidential Elections stood at 85.38 percent with a slight rise in the second round of polling, at 85.58 percent.

The President is elected through a universal suffrage ballot where a candidate must obtain a minimum margin of 50 percent plus 1 vote to secure an election victory. Should any of the candidate contesting in the election failed to get the required number of votes, a run-off election is held after a 20-day period contested by the two candidates with the largest share of votes, to decide the winner.

Former President and the opposition MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed predicted that he would win the election in the first round while the remaining government-aligned candidates have maintained the winner of the elections will be decided in a run-off election, where losing parties form coalitions with either of the two remaining candidates.

Despite the claim, the opposition MDP have claimed that they do not plan to go into a power-sharing coalition with parties, elaborating that coalition governments were incompatible with the country’s presidential system of governance.

Nasheed – who was elected as the President in 2008 with the backing of then-coalition of parties “Wathan Edhey Gothah Iththihaadh” which fell apart within the first year of his presidency – previously claimed that he along with all political leaders of the country had tasted the “bitter lesson” of incompatibility of coalition governments and described that the idea of coalition governments contrasted with the spirit of the constitution.


Additional 100 ballot boxes to be placed during 2013 Presidential Elections: Elections Commission

The Elections Commission has said it will place an additional 100 ballot boxes for the 2013 elections, compared to the number used during the 2008 presidential elections.

President of the Elections Commission Fuwad Thaufeeq told local media outlet Sun Online that the commission expects a total of 556 ballot boxes to be placed throughout the country.

He said the reason for the increment on the number of ballot boxes was due to the fact that the numbers of resorts and other industrial islands had increased during the last five years.

According Thaufeeq, during the last elections the elections commission placed 60 ballot boxes in resorts but that the number was expected to rise. The commission’s current estimates suggest that it will require 100 ballot boxes in the next election.

“The number of resorts has increased. As far as I remember the number stood at 60. Our current estimates suggest we would need at least 100 ballot boxes for resorts this time. However, this may not even be the exact figure as it is unclear if there will be more resorts opened in the next seven months,” he said.

However, he said that the commission also intends to place ballot boxes in five countries in which large number of Maldivians reside. In the 2008 elections, the commission placed ballot boxes in five countries including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK.

The Elections Commission previously revealed that approximately 31,000 new voters will be eligible to cast their vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

Vice President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz told Minivan News earlier that the number of eligible voters currently stands at 240,302 – 31,008 more than the number of eligible voters in the 2008 presidential elections (209,294).

According to the Elections Commission eligible voters include 123,565 male voters and 116,737 female voters; however this was subject to change.

The commission is also set to open registration this March, for voters who are currently not residing on the island where they are initially registered to vote.

“This is a very large election. Usually, people are unable to register when the period given for registration is too short. That is why we decided to open registration in March,” Fayaz said at the time.

Funding concerns

The Elections Commission has previously expressed concern over the lack of sufficient funding given to the Elections Commission and warned that if additional funds are not made available, it will be unable to hold a presidential election this year.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Thaufeeq said holding the nationwide elections would cost between MVR 55-60 million (US$3.57-3.89 million). However, he expressed concern that the commission’s current budget would be insufficient.

“With the current budget given to the Elections Commission, I am afraid we may not be able to hold the elections. The commission has raised concerns with the Finance Minister, the President’s Office and Parliament’s Public Finance Committee,” he said.

Thaufeeq also said a budget shortfall may “slightly impact” the fairness of the elections, but said the commission would do everything it could to ensure the elections were free and fair.

However, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has stated that the government was committed to holding free and fair elections regardless of the budget constraints.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad also said that the government would provide financial assistance to the commission in facilitating the elections.

“We will provide sufficient funds to hold elections. There is no question about it,” he told Minivan News earlier.

Maldives presidential election is scheduled to take place on September7 and the Elections Commission is expected to formally declare the start of campaign season in July.

However, all major political parties including the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and government-aligned parties such as the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ithiaad Party (GIP) have all begun their presidential campaign. The PPM is meanwhile scheduled to hold its primaries by the end of March.

President of Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz were not available for comment at time of press.


Elections Commission Head warns a compromised Nasheed trial could create doubt over election integrity

President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq has expressed concern over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision to take refuge in the Indian High Commission.

Former President Nasheed sought refuge last Wednesday claiming his security was compromised and that the government was intending to arrest and convict him to prevent him contesting the 2013 presidential elections.

Speaking to local media, the elections commission chief said it was deeply concerning to see the presidential candidate of the largest political party seeking refuge from a diplomatic office.

Thaufeeq said Nasheed was a former President and ought to receive the privileges entitled to a former president as stipulated in the law.

“Firstly, Nasheed is a former president, secondly he a presidential candidate of a political party. Thirdly, he represents the largest political party in the country. Each of these factors carries significant weight,” Thaufeeq said.

He said the Elections Commission would do everything it could to find a solution for all the parties involved, including the former president.

Thaufeeq said Nasheed should get a fair trial in accordance with the constitution and the law, and that such a trial should not be politically motivated.

The President of the Elections Commission warned that if Nasheed’s trial proved to be a tool to bar him from contesting the scheduled presidential elections, it would cast doubt over the integrity of the election.

“Even if it is Abdulla Yameen or Umar Naseer or Gasim Ibrahim or Mohamed Nasheed or even Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, these people have all announced they will contest the elections. If one of them happens to be on trial, that trial must be free and fair,” he told local newspaper Haveeru.

The Elections Commission has announced that the election will take place on September 7.

Nasheed is being tried for his controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, during his final days in office in January 2012.

Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission ahead of the second hearing of his ongoing criminal trial, after an order was issued by the magistrate court to place him under police custody.

After entering the High Commission, Nasheed tweeted: “Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives.”

Rumours of Nasheed’s imminent arrest began to circulate on Tuesday (February 12) ahead of the scheduled hearing, prompting his supporters to camp in the narrow alley outside his family home in Male’.

Following the Indian High Commission’s decision to take Nasheed in, police failed to produce him stating they did not have the jurisdiction to enter the premises, citing the protections of the Vienna convention to which the Maldives is signatory.  The hearing was subsequently cancelled in his absence.

The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik expressed concern over the move and accused India of meddling with its domestic affairs.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru on Thursday (February 14), Home Minister Mohamed Jameel said attempts by any country to prevent a person from facing charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General (PG), could be described as interfering with domestic matters of a sovereign state.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Jameel implied that India was meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters,” he said.

“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, allow Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.

statement released by India’s Ministry of External Affairs following the development called on the government of Maldives to facilitate an inclusive election in which all political party leaders could take part.

“Now that the President of the Election Commission of Maldives has announced that Presidential elections would be held on 7 September 2013, it is necessary that the Presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance. Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives,” read the statement.

The United States, United Kingdom, UN, EU and Commonwealth have all followed India‘s lead and stressed the need for the next presidential election to be an inclusive election.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has maintained that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.