First proposed amendment to constitution seeks to bar individuals aged 65 from the presidency

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has proposed the first amendment to the constitution, seeking to bar individuals aged 65 years and above from standing for the presidency.

Hoarafushi MP Mohamed Ismail told Minivan News he had submitted the amendment to Article 109 of the Constitution because he believed an elected president must “suitably represent” the country’s predominantly young population.

“We do not want a President who cannot function due to old age and has to be brought to important meetings in a wheelchair. The President should not be over the age of sixty-five,” he said.

According to the Department of National Planning, half of the Maldivian population is under 25 years of age.

If passed, the amendments would bar Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom from contesting the 2018 presidential elections. Gasim would be 66 years and Maumoon would be 81 by 2018.

At present, the Constitution only requires a president to be “at least thirty-five years of age.”

The JP has today announced it will reject the amendment with JP’s deputy parliamentary group leader Abdulla Riyaz stating the JP would lobby all parties to vote against the proposal.

“We do not believe in using the youth as an excuse to do these kinds of acts for political gain. It is irresponsible,” Riyaz told local media.

The proposal would require a two-third majority of the full 85-member house or 57 votes to pass. The ruling coalition i.e. the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and MDA currently hold 48 seats at the parliament. JP holds 13 seats while opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) holds 22.

JP Spokesperson and former member of the Constitutional Assembly Ahmed Sameer said the amendment constituted a breach of Article 69 which states that “no provision of the constitution can be interpreted in a manner that would prevent any individual from obtaining rights and freedoms as per the constitution.”

He also pointed out that Article 26 (b) on fundamental rights and freedoms states that ‘every citizen of Maldives eighteen years of age or older has the right to run for public office’.

Sameer and former Attorney General Husnu Suood claim that a public referendum would be required before the President could ratify the amendment.

Sameer pointed to Article 262 (b) of the Constitution which states that any amendments made by the People’s Majlis to certain provisions – including Article 108 which governs presidential elections – can only be ratified by the President after a public referendum.

Opposition MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said the ruling coalition was seeking to ‘prevent certain targeted people from contending in presidential elections.’

“Amendments to the constitution are usually brought after the constitution has been tested by time and when such amendments become necessary to the people of the nation, not for the gain of the government at the time or certain individuals,” said the MP.

Amendments to the constitution “must not be taken lightly,” Fahmy said describing the amendment as “dangerous.”

Minivan news was unable to reach PPM at the time of press.

Related to this story

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Majlis passes amendment allowing president to reappoint auditor general

MPs debate restricting constitutional rights after arrest


Reeko Moosa unveils plans to contest 2018 presidential primary

Deputy Speaker and Hulhu-Henveiru MP Reeko Moosa Manik revealed plans to contest the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) primary for the 2018 presidential candidacy.

While speaking at an MDP rally held in the carnival area last night, Moosa said the party would discredit any allegations that it has no internal democracy.

Moosa said his resignation as chairperson following the disappointing Majlis election results in March was intended to provide space and opportunity for young politicians to take charge.

“I took a step back from the front lines of the party in order to spend more time with my family after ten years of working tirelessly at the front lines of the party,” said Moosa while speaking about his absence from party activities in the recent months.

When stepping down, Reeko called upon fellow party leaders to follow his example. Former President Mohamed Nasheed made similar suggestions before standing uncontested for the party’s presidency in August.


Supreme Court suspends prominent lawyer pending investigation for contempt

The Supreme Court has today suspended former attorney general and high profile lawyer Husnu Suood from all courts, accusing him of violating lawyers regulation’s article 3.2[a][c].

Husnu Suood has shown the Supreme Court notice he has received to the media. It states that his comments regarding Supreme Court ruling number 42/SC-C/2013 constituted contempt of court.

The Supreme Court’s notice stated that it has asked the police to further investigate the case and that Suood is to be suspended from all the courts until this investigation is concluded.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Suood said that he believed this was related to the issue of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed’s sex scandal case.

Suood suggested that the Supreme Court had suspended him because he is in the committee investigating the judges alleged appearance on the tape.

‘’[Former Youth Minister] Hassan Latheef and Hisan Haseen were also both lawyers accused of the same thing, but the court gave them advice and did not take action against them, but I am suspended so it is not fair,’’ Suood said.

He noted that the Supreme Court ruling in question was the verdict that invalidated the first round results of presidential election first round.

“They [Supreme Court] told me that the suspension was regarding a tweet I posted on twitter which says that I believe that the Supreme Court’s ruling was in violation to the constitution,’’ he said.

“I deny that I was the one who tweeted it, but even if it was me I do not think that expressing one’s opinion is a crime.’’

He also said that there was nothing in the case for the police to investigate.

‘’Now there is nothing I can do about it I just have to wait for the police to finish the investigation. But what is there to investigate,’’ he asked.

Previously, the Supreme Court suspended Suood for alleged contempt of court.

On September 28, Suood said the dispute regarding the presidential elections had left the country’s ongoing democratic transition in “limbo”. The former AG had represented the Elections Commission (EC) in the election annulment case before being thrown out for ‘contempt of court’.

“I am of the view that all institutions have a duty to uphold the constitution,” he said at the time, in response to the EC’s efforts to conclude presidential polls within the legally mandated – article 111 of the constitution.

“According to the constitution, the Supreme Court’s word is final only in respect of the interpretation of provisions of constitution and law. Here, the Supreme Court had not given an interpretation on Article 111. However, Judicature Act says that all state institutions must abide by the rulings made by courts.”


Maldivians convey “1000 Thanks” to the Elections Commission

Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek, member Ali Mohamed Manik and Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar have met with a group of young Maldivians who presented the commission with a memento to express gratitude for their repeated efforts to conduct a presidential election this year.

The poster, titled “1000 Thanks”, was a mosaic of photos of several hundred citizens holding messages of support for the EC.

Upon receiving the token of thanks, Thowfeek stated that the commission’s team “is very happy to know that we are not alone in this work, and that we have the support of so many people.”

“It is for you, for citizens, that we are tirelessly doing this work, without rest or sleep, and often without even time for proper meals. We are very thankful for this show of support and are further inspired to carry on doing all we can to ensure we can guarantee that the people of Maldives get to elect a leader through free and fair elections,” Thowfeek stated.

Thowfeek added that the gratitude shown by the people is deserved by the whole team at the EC, adding that this includes commission members, department heads, staff members and temporary staff members. He said that the complete team consists of about 4000 people.

“This means a lot to us, and we will cherish this sentiment of thanks. We will Do everything possible to honor the trust you have in us.”


According to the team who presented the “1000 Thanks” poster to the EC, the campaign is an effort initiated by a group of persons on social media via twitter and facebook. All the photos in the mosaic were submitted via these mediums, or were taken by volunteers in various islands, including capital city Male’ and Addu City.

“The main objective of this effort is to show gratitude to the EC and Fuwad for his excellent leadership, holding the team together and going forward in the face of so many strong obstacles and threats. This is a gesture of thanks from us, the electorate, to the EC team for their tireless work to defend our right to vote,” said team member Ismail Zayan Shakeeb, a first time voter in the coming fresh round of elections.

“We are still getting photos via email, facebook and twitter. We wanted to hand this token to the EC prior to Saturday’s voting, and so have printed the nearly 500 submissions we have received in just under a week. Our social media channels are still open for submission though,” said an 18 year old female volunteer.

Participants in the campaign are seen holding a variety of messages, including “#InFuadWeTrust” – a twitter hashtag which has become popular during the recent attempts to hold elections, “Fuwad – finally a man to trust”, and “Fuwad is our Batman, our very own Dark Knight”.

Presidential Election: Attempt 4

The November 9 polls are the EC’s fourth attempt to hold presidential elections – with the first round held on September 7 later annulled by the Supreme Court.

“It is a difficult time for us, but we know that Maldivians have been waiting for and wanting an election for over two years. And we believe that it is our responsibility to provide a free, fair and independent election for our people,” Thowfeek said.

“We did everything we possibly can to do this, and the best election we have had was on the 7th of September. But then, for very unreasonable reasons, the Supreme Court has annulled these elections,” he stated.

“This election won’t be as good as we want it to be, which we could have done if we had gotten the time period allocated for elections in the constitution,” he stated.

“It looks like we will be having elections this Saturday.”

Back at work

Thowfeek was admitted to ADK late Wednesday night, and hospitalized till Thursday afternoon.

Soon after his release, he returned to the EC offices to join his team with preparations for Saturday’s election, insisting that he “feels much better now”.

“I had a chest pain, and my colleagues advised me to go see a doctor. The doctor did a very thorough check up and said there’s nothing to worry about. They kept me admitted in the hospital for about 16 hours. But the doctor said upon discharge that I can come back to work, and so here I am,” Thowfeek explained.


EC grants opportunity for parties to review re-registration forms

Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek has described the differing responses the commission has received to the opportunity political parties have been given to review voter re-registration forms.

Concerns over the voter registry resulted in the failure of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) candidates to sign the lists prior to the vote scheduled for October 19, prompting the police to block polling.

The election has been re-scheduled for November 9.

Representatives have been granted access to the forms from yesterday (October 28), but EC officials have suggested that some parties had failed to take full advantage.

All parties, however, have today assured Minivan News that they are using the review period to maximum effect.

Whilst the PPM is working “very enthusiastically” on reviewing forms – with four or five representatives present at all assigned times -Thowfeek reported that the JP had only sent one person, with a separate EC official revealing the party had failed to send anyone to this morning’s session.

“MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] said from the start that they are not too concerned about checking the forms, and said that they will however send representatives if the other parties are doing the same. They haven’t really submitted any complaints either,” said Thowfeek.

The MDP was the only party to have signed the lists prior to the delayed vote.

An official from the EC said that the opportunity for reviewing forms has been given to the parties since yesterday, with the allocated times being from 9am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm, and 8pm to 10pm.

While the forms are scheduled to be sent to the Department of National Registration for fingerprint verification by November 3, the official said the EC has not yet fixed a deadline for the review process, noting that some parties had requested an extension.

Political party responses

JP Secretary General Hassan Shah today assured that the party is “taking complete use of the opportunity”.

“Since we can send in five representatives at a time, we are doing that. Even today, we sent a full team from 2pm to 5pm. We’ll do the same at 8pm tonight. In the morning because of some work, we were able to send one representative. Sometimes there might be one or two, but if possible we send all five,” he said.

“I can however tell you that the representatives who are going there to review the forms have informed us of numerous problems in the form. They have said there are forms where the signatures of the person wishing to be re-registered and the witnesses have signatures which are similar, the fingerprints are unclear or imperfect and copies of the identity cards are unclear,” he said.

Shah was unable to say how many forms the team had gone through, and what quantity or percentage of the reviewed forms were noticed as having problems.

“I can say though that there are a lot of problems,” he said, adding that the team were bringing these issues to the attention of the EC.

Ahmed Tholal, former Director General of the EC, who is currently heading the PPM’s reviewing process told Minivan News that the party was sending full teams at all allocated times to carry out the process as directed by the EC.

“I cannot say for sure how many forms with problems that our team has come across so far, however there certainly are some issues. We’ll know to say for sure once we have completed reviewing all the forms,” he said.

Meanwhile, MDP Deputy Secretary General Ahmed Akram said that his party was also ensuring it sends full teams to review the forms.

“We have reviewed 7,500 forms so far and have not come across any issues of concern,” he said.

“MDP will complete it by whichever deadline the EC decides upon, as we believe that election related matters must be decided on by the Elections Commission, and not the courts,” Akram stated.


PG assures Election Commission it will be protected

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has today assured the Elections Commission (EC) that it will do all it can to ensure the constitution is upheld after receiving a complaint regarding the behaviour of the security forces.

The PG issued a statement acknowledging receiving the EC’s complaint that the security forces had ‘hijacked’ the EC the evening before the scheduled second round of the presidential election.

In a statement the PG’s office assured the EC that it would take any action necessary to carry out its responsibilities as stated in Article 233(j) and Act Number 9/2008 15(j) to uphold the constitution, laws and rights of the people.

On September 27 when police were surrounding the EC building, commission President Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News “We will not be able to hold elections without support from the police. The police will stop any election preparation activity.”

Thowfeek said the EC members had been met by two officers “to get our assurance the preparation activities have been stopped.”

Special Operations (SO) police surrounded the EC secretariat with orders from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take over the building and ballot papers.

The police barricade followed a Supreme Court order calling on the security forces to prevent anyone from disobeying a previous injunction to delay the second round of presidential elections.

The injunction was issued after the the Jumhooree Party (JP) filed a case at the Supreme Court alleging that there were major issues with the voter registration and requesting to cancel the first round of the presidential election and to delay the second round.

On October 8, the Supreme Court annulled the first round of the election and ordered the elections commission to hold the first round again before 20 October.

The EC has announced the re-vote will take place on October 19, leaving voters less than 24 hours to re-register due to the upcoming Eid holidays.

EC member Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed has today resigned, reports local media, though the reasons for his departure are not yet known.

On the evening in question, the police cordoned off the area around the EC and ordered journalists at the scene to leave. One EC official told Minivan News, on condition of anonymity, that staff were not being allowed to enter the building.

The PG’s office said that the case alleged security forces had obstructed the legal duties of an independent commission established under the constitution. It stated that the office was now discussing the matter with the EC.

Shortly after its acknowledgement that conditions were not appropriate for a free and fair polls, the EC filed a report with the police following multiple death threats received by its staff.


Court extends detention of two arrested for printing ballot papers

The Criminal Court has extended the detention period of two persons arrested for allegedly printing ballot papers in Kulhudhufushi.

According to local newspapers, the two suspects were brought to Male’ when the Kulhudhufushi Magistrate Court extended their detention period to three days.

They were taken to the Criminal Court last night (14 September) as the three day period was about to expire.

At the time of the arrest on September 12 , an island council member of Kulhudhufushi, who spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity, said the printed ballot papers in question were bigger than the actual ballot papers and were also laminated.

“I heard they were printed by some pro-Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters to make people aware of what the ballot papers would look like,” he said.


Two arrested on Kulhudhufushi for allegedly printing ballot papers

Police have arrested two individuals from the island of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll for allegedly printing ballot papers.

A police spokesperson told Minivan News today that police could only confirm that a case involving the printing of ballot papers was under investigation.

“That’s the only comment we can give at the moment,” he said, declining to provide further information.

An island council member of Kulhudhufushi, who spoke to Minivan on condition of anonymity, said the printed ballot papers in question were bigger than the actual ballot papers and were also laminated.

“I heard they were printed by some pro-Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters to make people aware of what the ballot papers would look like,” he said. “Two men were arrested in connection with the case.”

One of them was arrested on Tuesday (September 10), the council member said, while the other was arrested yesterday (September 11). He also confirmed that they were taken to the island court, which extended their remand detention period to three days.

According to the council member, the ballot papers were printed at a major bookshop on the island which is owned by a pro-Adhaalath party supporter.

“They did not make it an issue at first but when they were defeated in the elections they reported it to the police as a complaint,” he said. “If the police arrested the people who printed it, the police will also have to arrested the people who helped them print it.”

He said that the case was reported to police by “anti-MDP people” on the island.

“They are trying to mislead people and claim that the elections result was not right,” he said, adding that he himself believed that the election was free and fair.

He added that there were no issues with the ballot boxes placed on the island.

The Elections Commission (EC) told local media yesterday that the commission would have been aware if fake ballot papers were cast and dismissed allegations of fraud.

“The ballot papers we printed has strong security features. If other papers were used in ballot boxes, we would know it very clearly,” EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Fayaz explained that the EC printed 2,407 extra ballot papers, which was one percent of the total number of ballot papers, and that Novelty Printers would bear witness to the number of papers that were printed. Each polling station was sent 11 extra ballot papers, he added.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy tweeted this afternoon that police have allegedly arrested a “third MDP activist in Kulhudhufushi.”

The party has also issued a press release strongly condemning the arrests.

“We believe that our campaign event manager Ahmed Athif was arrested based on completely false allegations for the purposes of bringing the party into disrepute, creating fear on the island, and intimidating senior campaign activists,” the statement read.

The party identified the second individual as Ahmed Abdul Raheem ‘Beney,’ an MDP youth activist. The MDP contended that the arrests were intended to divert attention from the defeat suffered by pro-government parties, calling on police to “cease intimidating the public with such uncivilised allegations.”


Loyalty, support, money: The motivation behind Male’s political decoration

In the months leading to the September 7 presidential election, the streets of Maldives have erupted into a mosaic of party banners, with posters, flags, banners, and graffiti decorating every street corner.

While it may seem to an onlooker that the amount of material each party has placed around the country represents the amount of public support they enjoy, some volunteers putting up the decorations suggest another side to the story.

Party supporters are largely responsible for the colourful displays, but some parties are accused of spending thousands on hiring groups to help them keep up with the campaign craze, oftentimes spending large funds on the process.

“Doing it for democracy”

“We’re doing this for democracy. We don’t want any money or incentives for this. All we want is an elected government that cares about the people”, one group of young graffiti artists painting Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) themed artwork in their neighbourhood told Minivan News.

“The thing is, if we don’t get involved and try to guarantee a better life for ourselves, why would anyone else bother? I’m all for MDP, especially after the rest of the political lot brought about the coup d’etat. That is the ultimate shove of their boot against the people, a blatant admission from the ‘baaghees’ that they have no respect or concern for the common man,” said Ahmed Affan, a 26 year old man, an accountant who volunteers in his free time with a team hoisting MDP flags across the streets of Male’.

Another 23 year old volunteer who frequents MDP campaign offices during his free time to help out with banner and t-shirt printing explained his own motivations: “With the best manifesto and policies, I want MDP to win of course, I volunteer to help as I believe our artwork and ideas would get the message across in additional ways to the public and help gather more support.”

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) teams also told Minivan News that they were voluntarily engaging in campaign decorating.

“It’s ‘Zaeem’ [Supreme leader – referring to former President and Leader of PPM Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] who has done the most for our poor country. We will do whatever he wants of us. We are determined to have our candidate [Abdulla Yameen – half brother of Gayoom] have a clear win in the election, and we are spreading this message to as many people as possible,” said a 37 year old man hoisting PPM flags and putting up posters down a street in Galolhu.

One team of PPM volunteers refused to speak with Minivan News, stating, “Our leadership refuses to speak to you, and that means we have nothing to say to you either.”

“Heartfelt support” vs “just for the money”

Aishath Zubaira, a 63 year old supporter of President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who has posters of her preferred candidate on the walls of her residence, says she supports him “with heart and soul”.

While Minivan News spoke with two different groups streaming the streets with strings of small ‘Forward with the Nation’ coalition flags, they had contradicting reasons for doing so.

“Waheed’s a capable man, and the majority of his supporters are mature and, well, kind of elderly to be honest. There are few young people like us who are aware of just how much Waheed can do for this country, so we need to come out and help make him more popular,” said a 43 year old volunteer, holding a dozen or so rolled up posters sporting photos of Waheed with his running mate, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Another man who appeared to be in his late twenties, who introduced himself as “Issey”, put up posters and distributed copies of the coalition’s manifesto. “It doesn’t matter which candidate’s campaigning I am doing, it’s not even like these ugly flags and photos will make a difference for any party,” he said.

“I sometimes even go with the Jumhooree Party guys. Point is, this is an excellent time to make some money on the side and I’m going to make the best use of it. But then, I know who I’m voting for and no one’s got any business asking me who it is.”

“They spend like crazy, we earn like crazy”

A 31 year-old man working at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) told Minivan News – on condition of anonymity – that he works in one of Jumhooree Party (JP) coalition’s campaign teams of six to ten persons each.

“When we finish putting up the strings of flags across a street, we need to ring a number that the party has given us. Then a party official will turn up with a file which has information on when and where the teams are active. They will put a tick confirming the job is done and pay us in cash on the spot. We get about MVR 3000 (US$195) a night on average,” he explained.

“Some teams wait a while after the official has left and then cut off the recently hung flags, thereby allowing some other team to earn from the same street a few days later. It’s probably not right, but well, the politicians spend like crazy when elections near, and so us lucky folks earn like crazy.”

Another young volunteer laughed when asked for his reason for being so actively involved in campaign activity, “Every JP graffiti artwork that goes up is a job done for about MVR 10,000 (US$650). We’re economizing the situation when there is a demand for skills like ours. Nothing wrong with that, eh?”

According to local media reports, Police have arrested at least eight people for cutting off lines of flags of various political parties in late August, though police media officials were not responding to calls at the time of press for confirmation.

Visit our facebook page for more pictures as Male’ dresses for the election