Preparations for presidential elections underway: President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has assured the public of a “free and fair” presidential election in 2013 as part of his New Year statement.

Waheed used his address to announce that preparations for the 2013 presidential elections were already underway and that the government intended to take “all necessary measures” to ensure a fair election.

Following political tension in the nation following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, President Waheed said it would be vital in the build up to this year’s election for society to put aside its differences.

“As we prepare for the upcoming elections, I urge the people to strengthen the harmony and unity that have existed in the Maldivian society over the years, and not to allow anyone to disrupt this social harmony,” he said.

“The year 2012 saw major challenges, especially in the political challenges, in the country. It was, however, a year in which steps were taken with patience to maintain the security, safety and harmony of the country and its people,” he said.

The President assured the public that the government intended to improve both the general welfare and security of the people within the capacity of the budget passed by the People’s Majlis on December 27.

“The government will continue to create a safe society with reduced crimes. I call upon the people of the Maldives to put national interest ahead of their political interests,” Waheed added.

President Waheed’s government was brought to power on February 7 last year following a controversial transfer of power later deemed legitimate by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

However, Dr Waheed’s predecessor, former President Mohamed Nasheed, has questioned the CNI’s findings, alleging that he was forced to resign from office under “duress”.

Concerns about the CNI’s conclusions were also raised last month by former Human Rights Minister Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed after she was dismissed by the present government back in November.

“Stolen democracy”

In his own New Year statement, former President Nasheed claimed that democracy had been “stolen” from the public by individuals looking to “further their narrow political ambitions”.

“We have seen a worrying return of police brutality and state-sanctioned violence and intimidation. With this we saw an increase in violent crimes including the tragic murder of Member of Parliament and Islamic scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali, fatal attacks on a journalist and members of public of whom some are children,” Nasheed alleged.

The former President claimed the country had been reported in the world’s newspapers for “all the wrong reasons” and that the Maldives is no longer the “successful Muslim democracy” it once was.

“Instead, the media has been full of stories about human rights abuses, coup d’etat and the government’s disastrous foreign policy decisions that forced out the largest foreign direct investor in the Maldives,” Nasheed added.

“I hope that this year, we will see a genuinely free and fair election, in which everyone is allowed to compete.”


Government rules out 2012 presidential vote on the back of by-election “Mandate”

The government has said that victory yesterday for its coalition partners in two parliamentary by-elections is a clear indication of its “mandate” amongst the Maldivian people to remain in power until 2013, despite continued local and international calls for early elections.

Following the weekend’s elections, government spokesman Abbas Adil Riza today called on international bodies to take the results of the polls into consideration when reflecting on the need for fresh national polls.

Amidst mostly peaceful voting, official provisional results from the country’s Elections Commission showed that Ahmed Shareef of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhoory Party’s (JP) Abdullah Jabir both beat ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates to take seats in the People’s Majlis.

From a government perspective, Abbas claimed that the by-elections should be seen as a “vote of confidence” by the public in the national unity government made up of parties such as the JP, the PPM and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

However, the MDP maintained yesterday that the by-elections indicated that the country was able to hold “free and fair elections” as soon as possible.

“The MDP has consistently called for early presidential elections in the Maldives to resolve the political deadlock that exists since the unlawful transfer of power on February 7 following police and military backed coup in the Maldives,” stated MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor .

“Elections today are held at a time when [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayyoom has publicly stated early Presidential elections would not be held in the Maldives citing conditions for elections are not right and also that Elections Commission does not have the capacity to hold early elections in the Maldives.”

Public support

In addressing the MDP’s claims, government spokesperson Abbas believed the results of polling for the two parliamentary and two Island Council seats indicated public acceptance of President Waheed’s administration.

“It is clear that there is public support in the country for this government and that there are not any problems with its constitutional mandate to be in power. In three out of the four elections held, the coalition won by a clear majority,” said Abbas. “The MDP has continued to call for early elections, though yesterday’s elections show that the public backs the government until early elections can be held in July 2013.”


Abbas’ comments were made as the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which was last month criticised by President Waheed’s government for showing “bias” in calling for early elections, is set to convene tomorrow.

The political situation in the Maldives since the transfer of power that bought President Waheed into office on February 7 will be a key topic of discussion for the tomorrow’s meeting. The CMAG panel meeting tomorrow comprises of foreign ministers from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Jamaica, Sierra Leone,Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago.

Since CMAG made its original statement last month about the Maldives situation, the US and EU have also pledged to support the Commonwealth in working to facilitate fair, early elections.

Earlier this month, the US government pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) to help fund an elections program to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.

In announcing the elections funding,Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo Valerie Fowler said at the time that the US would “work with the Commonwealth to help the Maldives work through the current situation to elections”.

The US will lend any support, including technical assistance, to ensure the next presidential election in the Maldives is conducted “smoothly and observed the rule of law”, Fowler said.

“Through USAID we are in the process of starting an election programme that will assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. We have allocated US$500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012.”

However, Fowler noted that the US believed there needed to be an “environment conducive to early elections”, an aim that could only be created through dialogue, as well as capacity building measures.


Jumhoree Party’s council appoints Gasim presidential candidate

The Jumhoore Party (JP) council yesterday appointed party leader and MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim as the party’s presidential candidate to run for presidency in the 2013 presidential elections.

In an interview Gasim gave to his own TV station, Villa TV (VTV), he thanked the council for making the decision and vowed to bring prosperity to the Maldives, and solve all the current issues if he was elected as President.

He accused the current government of destroying the social justice, the constitution and selling state assets, and said the Maldives was “currently in a very serious situation”.

Gasim then called on the citizens to work with courage, saying that he would establish a legal administration and would keep his actions within the law.

Gasim is one of the country’s most successful local resort tycoons, and well known philanthropists, as well as an MP and leader of the JP who enjoys strong support in his home constituency of Maamigilli and was key to the development of Maamigilli airport.

Formerly a coalition partner of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), his small party subsequently aligned itself with the opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), and later with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

As well as owning VTV, Gasim was last year narrowly appointed as parliament’s representative on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the body at the centre of the current judicial crisis following its acceptance of a civil court injunction against the investigation of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

During the recent protests Gasim has campaigned for the judge’s release, and was also a key figure supporting the December 23 protests calling for the defence of Islam in the Maldives.

Under the former government he presided over the treasury as finance minister during a period in which expenditure on the civil service increased 400 percent, leaving the incoming government with a budget deficit of 33 percent.

In 2010 he was accused by the current government of corruption and bribery, however the case was swiftly thrown out by Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

MDP MP Mohamed Mustafa told Minivan News that it was “not surprising” that Gasim had been appointed as the JP’s presidential candidate.

‘’JP is owned by Gasim and it is Gasim himself that decides that Gasim should be the presidential candidate. No one should be surprised about it,’’ Mustafa said. ‘’JP is not a very democratic party, everyone knows that.’’

Mustafa contended that Gasim would be inappropriate as president because he did not have the necessary capability and knowledge.

‘’He will not win the next presidential elections. When it is time for the elections this opposition coalition will split because everyone in the coalition wants to be president,’’ he predicted, adding that Gasim would find himself competing with the ambitions of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his half-brother Abdulla Yameen, DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader Dr Hassan Saeed.

‘’When Gayoom feels like he may win the elections, he will ask the others to wait,’’ Mustafa said. ‘’We are all going to wait and watch this happen.’’

He speculated that the Adhaalath Party would likely side with Gasim “because senior figures of Adhaalath are employed by Gasim.”

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Mahlouf did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Voice clip of MDP T-shirt negotiations leaked to local media

A voice clip of a conversation has between Special Envoy to the President Ibrahim Zaki and a person named Anandhu, purportedly in the UK, has been leaked to the local media, concerning negotiations for the delivery of T-Shirts for the Maldivian Democratic Party ahead of the Presidential election.

In the voice clip that first appeared on the website of local radio station SunFM, Zaki and Anandhu speak about payment for the T-shirts ahead of the 2008 presidential elections.

The General Elections Act article number 70 states that “products or money” given by foreigners shall not be used by a Presidential Candidate or any person on behalf of a Presidential Candidate, and article 70[a] states that ”Products or money given by foreigners, foreign parties or foreign administrations shall not be used.”

Zaki told Minivan News that he had provided ”many T-shirts” to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

”No foreign party has directly contributed the MDP, it all came to me and from the things I received I gave things that I felt like giving to MDP,” he said. ”The General Election Act prohibits political parties accepting offers from foreign parties.”

Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq did not respond to Minivan News at time of press, while Vice Commissioner’s phone was switched off.

Director General of the Elections Commission Mohamed Tholal said he was out of the country and was unable to comment.

The leaked conversation:

Anandhu: Yes, Zaki. On the 1st I will make the transfer. Now, I understand from you, from the email I got also, that I got to do it directly to Elements (?) Garment.

Zaki: Yes, because that makes things very easy for us. That means by wire transfer.

A: Ok, no problem. The rest, I mean you can count me. On the 1st it will be done by wire transfer, ok? And I will then send you an email on the 1st itself to say it’s done and chase it up with Elements Garments to make sure everything goes according to plan. But if I do it on the 1st, say we receive the funds on the 2nd, I mean, do you know the company very well? Does Mausoom know the company very well?

Z: Mausoom knows very well.

A: OK, tell Mausoom to tell then that the funds are coming. Prepare everything and as soon as they receive the funds they can just send it. Because what my fear is that by the time it comes to Male’ – I don’t know how long it will take.

Z: I think it will not take more than about five, six days.

A: Five, six days, ok. As of today, when do you envisage the date of the election will be? It will be around the 11th of September?

Z: Well, you know, the original contemplation of the government was to have the first round on the 20th of September and to have the second round on the 4th of October.

A: Then we have enough time. Because what my worry was, I didn’t want the t-shirts to get to you too late.

Z: Yeah, and in the meantime, an EU delegation came here a couple of days ago.

A: Yes, yes.

Z: And they met us and they said they’ve been talking to Gayoom also and talking to us. And they said their idea is that the 1st of September to the 30th is the month of Ramazan, the fasting month. So their suggestion is why don’t we have the first round on the 4th of October and the second round after two weeks.

A: It makes sense. I don’t know how you feel, but it makes sense. It gives you a bit more time to prepare.

Z: No, our reply was very simple. We cannot agree that the current regime can be extended more than the 11th of November.