PIC reluctant to cast doubt on election annulment, says Elections Commission

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has refused to investigate the confidential police forensic report – based on which the Supreme Court annulled the first round of the 2013 presidential election – because it could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the ruling, the Elections Commission has said.

Speaking at the People’s Majlis Commitee on Independent Institutions, EC member Mohamed Farooq said that the commission noticed serious issues in the Maldives Police Service (MPS) forensic report. According to Farooq, the EC found that many among the people who were considered deceased based on the forensic report were actually alive.

When the EC requested for the court’s permission to include those people in the eligible voters list, the court responded saying it did not declare anyone dead and the annulment of first round of elections was based on the police forensic report, Farooq said.

“Then we realised that it was more of a issue with the forensic report than the Supreme Court. And since it was prepared by the police, we submitted a complaint to the Police Integrity Commission, because they produced such a faulty report,” Farooq was quoted as saying in CNM.

Fraudulent allegations

According to Farooq, the PIC responded to the complaint saying that if a decision is made on the forensic report it could raise questions about the legitimacy of that case, and therefore the commission will not decide on the matter nor will they investigate the case further.

In the first round of elections former President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) came first with 45.45 percent. President Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) came second with 25.35 percent, and the Jumhooree Party’s Qasim Ibrahim came third with 24.07 percent of the vote.

Qasim subsequently filed a case at the apex court citing fraud and vote rigging in the election. On October 7, the  Maldives Supreme Court annulled the first round.

The 4:3 verdict cited a confidential police report submitted to the court alleging 5,600 ineligible votes. It was said to be compiled by a team of MPS ‘forensic experts’ who worked inside the Supreme Court premises collecting and analysing evidence of the alleged vote rigging.

Later, when the People’s Majlis ‘241’ security services oversight committee requested for the report, then Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz declined. The parliament have still not officially received the report, however a copy of the document was obtained and published by Minivan News.

Report’s impact could be huge: MP Sameer

The report was later shared with the EC, who will now review it and submit a report to the People’s Majlis Committee on Independent Institutions.

Speaking to Minivan News today, the committee chair MP Ahmed Sameer said the  group would review the EC report and take necessary action.

“The impact of this report is huge. If there is something wrong with the report we will have to look into it. It shall be discussed in the Majlis,” Sameer said.

The three dissenting judges in the Supreme Court case, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, Justice Abdulla Areef and Justice Muthasim Adnan in their dissenting opinion dismissed the confidential police report submitted by the Attorney General Azima Shakoor as invalid evidence as EC was not provided a right of response to the document.

The majority decision of court based on the secret police report cited 5,623 ineligible votes, while Faiz and Areef, after a comparison between the EC’s list of those who voted and the Jumhooree Party’s seven lists alleged of dead, underage, and repeated voters found only 473 cases (0.2 percent of votes) of irregular votes.

The two judges also stated that election laws do not allow for annulling the entire election in instances of fraud, and all three dissenting judges challenged the apex court’s constitutional jurisdiction over the case.

The confidential police report was also dismissed by the United Nations after an expert review of the document. “We feel confident in asserting that the election was all inclusive, there was no disenfranchisement and the quality of the voter register met international standards,” read a statement from UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco following his visit to the Maldives stated

Other local and international election observers, among them Commonwealth and Indian observers, also praised the conduct of elections, considering it free and fair.

Some people claimed to be underage in the secret police report were later found to be of voting age at the time, and some declared deceased in the report found to be alive.


Busting black magic on Guraidhoo

Aishath Moomina, a janitress at Kaafu Atoll Guraidhoo Island School, was attending to her usual early morning sweeping duties on September 3, when she found a kihaa (young coconut) with Arabic inscriptions buried outside the school gates.

Only a few days remained for the first round of presidential polls and ballot booths were to be set up at the school. That very same day, Moomina started to feel uncharacteristically tired and her skin started to burn.

“That’s when I knew it was black magic. This [black magic] happens every time there is an election,” she told Minivan News.

Guraidhoo, located 30 kilometers south of Malé and home to the country’s only home for people with special needs, is now at the centre of an election-related fanditha or black magic controversy. Since the discovery of the kihaa, various items with Qura’nic verses have been found in Guraidhoo School and throughout the island.

As a run-off election scheduled between the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) approaches on September 28, “cursed objects” have popped up in Fuvahmulah, Hithadhoo, Kudahuvadhoo and Velidhoo Islands.

Though the first round of polls went well, Moomina said that several students have had fainting spells, seizures, and have started to exhibit symptoms such as incoherent muttering, fainting, uncontrollable crying and tiredness.

On Sunday (September 22), Minivan News went to Guraidhoo Island to speak to residents on fanditha’s effect on the vote, finding a wide-spread deep belief in the supernatural, which combined with a tense presidential poll, has increased paranoia within the community.

This has spurred a group of men to actively patrol the two schools where polling booths will be placed and conduct a drive to undo the effects of fanditha.

Vote madness

The intense rivalry between political parties is evident on Guraidhoo’s narrow streets. The MDP’s yellow, the PPM’s pink and Jumhooree Party’s red flags fight for space, while political party campaign offices blast campaign songs at ear-drum shattering volume. Many islanders spoke of family members falling out and long-time neighbors refusing to speak to one another due to differences in political ideologies.

“There is a lot of turmoil in the island. People have gone mad for the vote,” said Faristha, a 47-year-old woman who discovered three Qurans buried in the lagoon. She believes the three Qurans buried in Guraidhoo’s lagoons are powerful black magic, as tradition dictates that the Quran only be disposed of in the open ocean or fast-flowing rivers.

“Black magic exists. If you believe in Allah and the prophet, then you must believe in djinns and black magic. The Quran says they exist. No man in their sane mind would throw away the Qurans like that,” she said waving her arms in anger.

Black magic is a crime punishable by death under the Islamic Shariah. While there are no legal sanctions or penalties against black magic in the written laws and regulations, the Maldives Police Services had arrested MDP activists and raided MDP protest camps on suspicion of black magic following the controversial transfer of power of February 2012.

With the proliferation of cursed objects, the Islamic Ministry released a sermon on Friday proclaiming black magic to be among the most evil of sins.

Black magic busters

Hassan Shuzeym, 35, is an artist, a caretaker at Guraidhoo’s Home for People with Special Needs, and now leader of the drive to undo black magic. Sitting at one of Guraidhoo’s newly opened guesthouses, the slim, dark-skinned Shuzeym told us how he organizes a 20-man patrol from dusk til dawn in order to ensure cursed objects are no longer buried at the schools.

A culture of performing black magic to coerce love or for personal gain had always existed on the island, Shuzeym told us over cigarettes and coffee. But black magic to influence votes on a large scale was new, he said.

“This magic is being done to change people’s hearts about their votes. But it’s only affecting the students who study at the school. We want to minimize the harm caused to people from the black magic.”

Shuzeym and his friends dig up objects and perform counter spells to cancel out their magic.

“In places where it is too dangerous to dig them out, we read surahs (chapters) of the Quran and sprinkle water on the area to cancel out their powers,” he said.

When asked how they knew where to look for cursed objects, Shuzeym told us with a mysterious look, “I can only tell you it is not with the help of humans.”

With their black-magic busting work, patrolling and observation teams, Shuzeym is confident the vote would be safe from all external influences.

As we left the guesthouse, we encountered a young MDP supporter who stopped us. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the young man told us he and his friends had performed one of the “black magic acts” that had created a furor in the island.

“I think the coconut is a fake, I believe black magic exists, but that coconut didn’t look real. I think it is by those who oppose us to intimidate us, so we spilled lots of water around all the entrances around both schools, just for a joke. We did not think anyone would take us seriously,” he said.

However, upon discovering water at the entrances, the janitors at Guraidhoo School stopped all students from entering the school premises until the school’s headmaster arrived and permitted them to do so.

“In the end, even if the coconut is fake, it has only been positive. We have more security for the vote,” the young man added.


President Waheed meets with delegation of UN election observers

President Dr Mohamed Waheed met with a delegation of election observers representing the United Nations Department of Political Affairs in Male’ yesterday (September 9).

According to the President’s Office, the delegation discussed the election held Saturday (September 7), as well as the second round of voting now scheduled for September 28 after no single candidate was able to secure 51 percent of ballots cast.

Along with commending the government for conducting what it called a free, fair and transparent elections, the UN delegation called for a peaceful run-off vote and “smooth transition” to a new administration once polling was concluded.


Security concerns preoccupy polls, says the Guardian and the BBC

Results of today’s presidential election may improve stability not only in the Maldives, but across the Islamic world, reports UK media The Guardian.

“I’ve always said that what happens in Maldives first, happens in the Middle East later,” candidate and former president Mohamed Nasheed told reporters in Male’ earlier this week.

Nasheed’s statement is reciprocated by intensified attention from regional powers, reports the Guardian. Citing India’s commercial and diplomatic ties with the archipelago, and Sri Lanka’s “cultural and other ties”, the publication adds that “China too is keenly interested in developments in the strategically situation island nation.”

The country has pushed for new growth in recent years, however international media note that basic security is a concern for voting Maldivians.

“‘Some Maldivians appear nostalgic for the stability of the long decades of [former president Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s rule, particularly elements of the security forces,” writes The Guardian, noting that Maldives Police Chief Abdulla Riyaz thanked Gayoom for founding national police services via Twitter six days ago.

BBC News received similar information from Transparency Maldives, a branch of Transparency International. Group representative Thoriq Hamed said the four candidates had campaigned “smoothly and peacefully,” but stated that there remains “some apprehension and confidence issues about the security forces.”

Other key issues in today’s presidential election highlighted by foreign media include religion, nationalism, gender equality, education and the economy.

Both publications observe that last year’s change in leadership sparked political unrest and generated anxiety over the negative impact on the country’s vital tourism industry. The presidential election is the second multi-party democratic election in the nation’s history, and the first since February 2012’s controversial transfer of power.


Campaigns conclude as Maldives prepares for watershed polls

The Maldives’ second-ever multi-party democratic presidential election will take place tomorrow (September 7).  With the campaigning deadline set at 6:00pm today, party supporters in the tens of thousands were out in full force to make every last second count.

Events were held throughout the country for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s final campaign push to re-elect former President Mohamed Nasheed- although none surpassed the scale and energy of the final march through the nation’s capital island Male’.

The carnival atmosphere was charged with nervous energy as MDP supporters bedecked in yellow, sporting a variety of Nasheed-themed t-shirts gathered near the tsunami monument before beginning their final campaign parade.

Despite rumours running rampant that hired thugs, police, and military would clash with MDP supporters, creating unrest as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and thwart the scheduled election, the MDP’s march was peaceful.

Jovial supporters in their thousands danced, cheered, and even ran their way along Male’s thoroughfares. Participants of the march surpassed MDP’s eighth anniversary parade, with people packed the entire length and width of Majeedhee Magu, Male’s nearly two kilometre-long thoroughfare.

Voices from the parade

The streets were also lined with supporters and spectators, while people could be seen hanging from their balconies, almost all with smart phones and cameras to capture the spectacle.

“I’m very excited to vote tomorrow – Nasheed is going to win” said 18 year-old first-time voter Ishan.

It seemed like every MDP supporter Minivan News spoke to was confident of Nasheed winning the first round, and holding up the number four, symbolic of Nasheed’s placement on the voter ballot.

“Tomorrow will surely be a victory,” said 23 year-old Edam. “Ehburun (one round) for sure,” added 24 year-old Ahu.

“For 30 years we suffered under Maumoon, but ‘Raees’ (President) Nasheed did so many things for us – he brought development, social security, and freedom,” she continued.

“Anni only had three years [in office] because of the coup – he deserves at least two more,” added her 30 year-old female friend.

Lorries interspersed between the MDP supporters carried live bands performing political rock songs, while others blasted techno music that remixed dance beats with phrases from former Nasheed’s speeches.

The lyrics are well known with even small children singing along, dancing on the sidewalks, and marching with their parents in the parade.

As with previous MDP protest marches and campaign walks, a variety of demographics were represented – participants and spectators alike – including children, youth, the elderly, disabled, women and men, organised into groups, some carrying giant MDP flags, while others waved yellow ribbons, fans or pom poms.

Even opposition party supporters were seen peeking out from campaign ‘haruge’ (headquarters), while some traffic and special operations police gathered on the balcony and at the entrance of their station to watch the passing parade.

The march ended on a high note after circling around the capital to end back at the Tsunami Monument with Nasheed addressing thousands of his enthusiastic supporters.

Tomorrow’s vote will provide MDP’s supporters a chance for catharsis, coming almost 20 months after the former president controversially resigned from power on February 7, 2012.

“Voting tomorrow is important because we want change. We want peace and all this turmoil to end,” said a 32-year old woman. “Once Nasheed is elected everything will get back to normal.”

Jumhoree Party campaigning

The Jumhoree Party (JP) concluded its own election campaign with a march commencing at the artificial beach area of Male’ shortly before 5:00pm this evening.

Hundreds of supporters draped in red – the party’s colour – rode atop some three dozen trucks as the rally set off around the capital to support JP candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim.

Hundreds of JP supporters prepare to embark on final rally before polling

In one truck, populated almost exclusively by cheering young women – some wearing headscarves, others not – the group exclaimed their reason for participating.

“Of all four candidates Gasim is the best,” explained one young sitting in the back of the truck to loud cheers from her fellow passengers. “He’s the best,” they reiterated in unison.

Further down the JP’s campaign convoy, in a somewhat more somber truck carrying a group of middle aged men, Minivan News asked why they chose to support the JP’s candidate, an MP and resort and media tycoon.

Looking at first perplexed by such a question, one middle-aged gentleman responded matter of factually: “There is no one else.”

Show of strength

JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal today told Minivan News today that the party’s march was designed as a show of strength by supporters before all campaigning is legally mandated to finish at 6:00pm.

With campaigning finished, he said the party was presently sending some 480 observers to islands across the country alongside the international observers from organisations such as the Commonwealth.

A convoy of trucks set to carry JP supporters

“Situations of violence”

Ajmal said that although JP was confident of peaceful polls tomorrow, he claimed the party was concerned there might be “situations” of possible violence should the opposition MDP lose.

“We do not want problems, our leader the honourable Gasim Ibrahim has supported equal opportunities for [former President] Nasheed to participate in this election,” he said. “We believe that violence could be triggered across the country though.”

Ajmal claimed that with MDP representatives and supporters currently facing alleged corruption cases totaling MVR4.7 billion (US$307 million) filed by the auditor general, the stakes would be high for tomorrow’s election.

The MDP has continued to maintain that state prosecutors have singled out opposition party members since the last year’s change in government, this week accusing Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz of sacrificing his impartiality in return for job security.

The current government came to power on February 7, 2012, after former President Nasheed controversially resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military in a series of events the MDP has alleged was a “coup d’etat.”

Considering the nature of the power transfer, Ajmal said that the JP, which the governing coalition after the power transfer , would have “no problems” in the MDP potentially returning to power, despite the party “hating [Nasheed’s] attitude of responding to the people”.

“We know not enough people will support Nasheed this time. His party supporters alone are not significant enough to win,” added Ajmal.

Opting not to hold a rally ahead of tomorrow’s polling, incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed instead visited a ‘jagaha’ (meeting hall) established by his ‘forward with the nation’ coalition to campaign by phone from 5:15pm after conducting a number of tours of the country in recent months.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) concluded its campaign with an event on the nearby island of Vilimale, attended by running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel and over 600 people, according to PPM MP Ahmed Nihan.

The event was also intended to officially inaugurate a PPM office on the island.

Polling opens tomorrow at 7:30am and closes at 4:00pm. 239,593 people are registered to vote in the 2013 presidential election, according to the final register. This is a 15 percent increase (31,000 people) on 2008’s 209,294 eligible voters.

Of these, 65,745 voters have registered to vote at a location other than their home island. Voting will occur at 459 ballot boxes stationed on local islands, resorts, and overseas Maldivian High Commissions.

Registration can be easily checked using the EC’s 1414 SMS system: text 1414 in the format ‘VIS [National ID #]’


President’s Office declares September 8 public holiday

The government has declared Sunday (September 8) will be a public holiday. The decision was made at the request of the Elections Commission (EC) in order to take into account the presidential polls being held across the country on September 7, the President’s Office has said.


Stay-home mothers deserve pensions: Nasheed

Stay-home mothers deserve pensions as well as enhanced work opportunities, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed said during a campaign event yesterday evening (Tuesday).

Taking calls during a Q&A session held for women, Nasheed said he would find a means to raise funds for said pension, reported Haveeru. He also highlighted the gender components of the MDP’s manifesto.

“Out of the 137 programs included in our policies, six have been solely designed for women,” he said, according to Haveeru.

Among MDP’s proposed policies for women are flexible working hours, complemented by day care services. During the Q&A, Nasheed added that housing is a primary concern for mothers and that this would be addressed by his administration, if elected.


DQP, Dr Hassan Saeed quit President Waheed’s coalition: “too much family, expatriate influence”

The government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has announced that it has left President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition, ending its support for his 2013 election bid.

The decision came shortly after the religious conservative Adhaalath Party left the coalition and joined resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP).

Local media is speculating that DQP Leader Dr Hassan Saeed – President Waheed’s Special Advisor since the controversial February 7 transfer of power – is likely to be announced as Gasim’s running mate.

In a statement released by the DQP on Thursday, the party said its council had unanimously agreed to leave the coalition, and accused President Waheed of being incapable of protecting the interests of his coalition partners.

Instead, the party alleged, Waheed was turning to “family influence” in making key decisions.

“The president dissolved the steering committee established with coalition partners to resolve issues within the coalition and resorted to taking decisions within his palace,” read the DQP statement.

Among other concerns, the party claimed that no key roles were given to coalition partners in the presidential campaign, which were instead outsourced to the president’s “family members and expatriates”.

The DQP alleged that some coalition partners had also breached their initial agreement to work together and were secretly attempting to induce members of other coalition partners to join their party.

The DQP, which has a membership of less than 1800 people, also claimed that president Waheed gave more priority to those who financially backed him over those who supported him with “sincerity and genuineness”.

“Therefore, despite repeated efforts, President Waheed’s failure to resolve these issues” forced the party to leave the coalition, DQP said.

Responding to the statement, a source in Waheed’s coalition told Minivan News that the DQP’s decision to leave the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition was unexpected, when compared to the departure of the Adhaalath Party last week.

The source said DQP Leader Dr Hassan Saeed was himself in attendance during an official signing event held yesterday by Waheed, who was seeking 1,500 signatures needed to apply for candidacy as an independent. Saeed had been booked to attend another campaign visit over the coming days, the source said.

Despite the defection, the source claimed President Waheed’s campaigning would not be impacted by sudden defection of the DQP in any way.

“The [DQP] is a very small party of around 2000 members so we are not expecting much of an impact,” the source said.

With the departure of both the DQP and the Adhaalath party, President Waheed’s coalition now consists of his own Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was earlier been unveiled as Waheed’s running mate, although whether the pair will contest on the same independent ticket remains uncertain.

“There are people trying to bar me from competing. I will not be the one to get caught in that trap,” Waheed said earlier this week.

“So I intend to take the form and go on the streets. I will visit houses, carrying the form, during the next two days and ask those who wish to see me remain in this post for another term to sign.”

Dr Hassan Saeed has meanwhile resigned from his position as Waheed’s special advisor, shortly after the DQP announced its decision to side with Gasim Ibrahim.

Saeed was promptly replaced by former Attorney General Aishath Bisham.


Dr Ahmed Saud announces bid for presidency as independent candidate

Founding member of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and its former council member, Dr Ahmed Saud, has announced that he will be contesting in the upcoming presidential elections as an independent candidate.

Speaking to Minivan News, Saud said the decision to compete for the top office was a “very serious” decision based on the recommendation of many supporters.

“I will be contesting in the presidential elections. I have also informed the current and former presidents, President Waheed, President Nasheed and President Gayoom through Twitter that I have decided to contest in the elections,” Saud said.

Saud – who was a senior member of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) during its time of formation – said that he would file his candidacy as soon as the elections commission opens the opportunity.  The Elections Commission is expected to open the opportunity to file candidacy next week.

Dr Saud meanwhile said that he has several high-profile political figures and other notable individuals backing his bid for presidency.

“As you would know, I am one of the founding members of two of the largest political parties in the country, the DRP and PPM. Therefore I will have supporters in the political arena,” he said.

Saud also reiterated that his decision is not based on settling any personal feuds with any of the candidates who have already announced their candidacy and said that none of them “should be concerned about it”.

Speaking about the decision, Saud said that he was contesting in the election with the hope of establishing a government that has the vision and the knowledge to steer the country from its current state and lead it to prosperity.

When asked about his policies and election manifesto, Saud said that his manifesto is currently being completed and that he has assembled a team to work with.

“During the window period that comes after the elections commission opens the opportunity to file candidacy, I will begin unveiling my manifesto and policies,” he said.

Saud also dismissed the idea that contesting in the elections as an independent candidate was a disadvantage and said that “not all theories are proven right all the time”.

“I even support the multi-party system. But that system which I believe in is a party system that is based on proper democratic foundations and principles. In Maldives, unfortunately, we could not see that system within the last six to eight years,” Saud explained. “Instead, we still see a system that is not properly developed and a system that still has many legal loopholes. The political party system in this country has brought deep political polarizing and divisions,”

“Instead of political campaigning, what we see is hate mongering, blasphemy and character assassination in the name of campaigning,” he added.

Saud claimed that those who wished to work for the betterment of the country do not need to wait till the multi-party system gets properly developed and that the country’s development should not be hindered because of a dysfunctional party system.

“Therefore this is an important step I am taking for this country. The Maldivian people need to see options for them to vote as they face the elections.  It should not be candidates that are chosen by political parties that should be their only option,” he said.

Asked about his expectations, Saud said that he expects a first round election victory and that he is currently in talks with several political parties who have expressed interest in backing his candidacy.

“Like anyone who decides to contest in the election, I too am confident that I will win the election. Even though I am contesting as an independent, I am not targeting for the run-off elections. I am targeting for a first round election victory and I think it is very likely,” Saud said.

With his announcement, Dr Ahmed Saud becomes the fifth candidate who has announced their candidacies.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Presidential Candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed, PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen, Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim and leader of Gaumee Iththihaad Party (GIP) and current President Mohamed Waheed have all announced their bid for presidency.

All four candidates are currently campaigning vigorously throughout the country.