Elections Commission announces re-registration deadline of 8:00pm

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced a deadline of 8:00pm tonight for citizens wishing to vote outside their home island in the run-off election scheduled for November 16 to submit re-registration forms.

Voter details can be checked in the Maldives by sending an SMS to 1414 in the format ‘VIS [ID#]’, or by calling the helpline on the same number.

Registration details can also be checked online at http://elections.gov.mv/index2715.html


Elections Commission announces Saturday 5pm deadline for submitting re-registration complaints

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced a deadline of 5:00pm on Saturday (November 2) to submit complaints regarding re-registration for the first round of the presidential election on November 9 as well as a possible second round scheduled for November 16.

Voter details can be checked in the Maldives by sending an SMS to 1414 in the format ‘VIS [ID#]’, or by calling the helpline on the same number. Registration details can also be checked online at http://elections.gov.mv/index2715.html

The EC noted in its announcement that all re-registration forms submitted by citizens wishing to vote in a location other than their home island have now been processed.

In addition, complaints submitted ahead of the canceled election scheduled for October 19 have also been attended to, the EC said.

The commission also announced that Elections Complaints Bureaus have been set up in Addu City and islands with atoll council offices.

With the exception of Fuvahmulah and Shaviyani atoll, the bureaus have been established at the atoll council offices. The bureau in Shaviyani atoll is located at the first floor of the Atolhuvehi building in Funadhoo while the office in Fuvuhmulah was set up at the atoll house.

The bureau will be open until November 16 from 8:00am to 3:00pm except on Fridays. On Fridays, the bureaus will be open from 2:30pm to 5:00pm.

The complaints form is available from the EC website and the National Complaints Bureau counter on the second floor of the PA complex building as well as the bureaus in atoll and city council offices, atoll election units, and election focal points set up in island council offices.

Phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses of the complaints bureaus can be found at the EC website.

According to the timeline for the rescheduled election, re-registration forms will be sent on November 3 to the Department of National Registration (DNR) for verification of fingerprints – a key demand by two of the three presidential candidates.

The voter registry will be finalised, printed and sent to presidential candidates on November 4. Candidates will be asked to sign the voter lists on November 5 and 6.

Ballot boxes are to be dispatched on November 8, the election will be held on November 9 and the preliminary results will be announced on the same day.

The official results will be announced on November 12, one day after the current presidential term ends.

Re-registration form verification

The DNR revealed last week that 11 out of the 500 voter re-registration forms sent to the police so far for verification have been rejected to date.

At press conferences on Thursday (October 31), the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) said that they have identified several problems with the re-registration forms, after the EC allowed the parties to review the forms last week.

Abdulla Ameen, campaign agent of PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen, told the press that a five-member team from the party reviewed the information on 11,000 forms submitted before October 19 and discovered issues on 20 percent of them.

Among the problems the PPM discovered, Ameen said, included address mismatches, expired ID card numbers, smudged fingerprints, missing signatures, missing phone numbers and incomplete information of witnesses.

The forms should have been rejected by the EC, Ameen argued.

The PPM has therefore asked the EC to verify 6,000 forms either through fingerprint verification or by contacting the re-registered voter, Ameen said.

The verification was necessary to ensure that voters were not re-registered in a different location without their knowledge, he added.

JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile told reporters that the party’s team also identified similar problems after checking about 15,000 forms.

Gasim reportedly said that he would not allow the election to be held in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines laid down in the apex court’s judgment annulling the September 7 election.

The re-scheduled election on October 19 was cancelled after the JP and PPM candidates refused to approve the voter registry as required by the Supreme Court guidelines and police obstructed the EC an hour before polls were due to open.

In an interview on the state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM), EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek described the Supreme Court guidelines as “locks” and “restrictions” while expressing frustration with candidates having “veto power” to prevent the election from taking place.


Elections Commission slams PPM, MDA protesters and police for obstructing election re-registration

The Elections Commission (EC) has “strongly condemned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) supporters for threatening officials, inciting discord, and obstructing EC officials’ ability to work”, and has notified the government that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) failed to remove the protesters from the registration section’s premises for five hours “despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance”.

A midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10 ordered the commission to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

The 65,000 people previously registered to vote in locations other than their permanent addresses have to re-register because there was no thumb print on their registration forms, EC Chairperson Fuad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News earlier this week.

Speaking to the press tonight, Thowfeek said the PPM and MDA ruckus had caused a six hour delay in reregistration. The EC has accepted all reregistration forms, and will finish processing all forms by 8:00 am tomorrow (October 15). The EC has urged all eligible voters to check their reregistration status and submit complaints by 6:00 pm tomorrow.

A system crash around 2:30pm Sunday afternoon due to the large volume of data saw the EC begin manually entering data to continue processing while the system was restarted. An official told Minivan News yesterday the problem was fixed two hours later at 4:30pm, however some people reportedly became upset as the manual process meant they were unable to be immediately issued with a confirmation slip. 2500 tickets remained at the time of the crash, the official noted.

Boisterous PPM and its allied MDA supporters in the queue quickly accused the EC of attempting to rig the election.

After the EC began to manually process the registration forms “a group of people representing the MDA and PPM protested against the move, threatened the officials at the premises, incited discord in the premises and obstructed the work of the Elections Commission officials in an uncivilised manner,” the Elections Commission stated in a press release issued last night (October 13).

“Despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance the EC had to suspend its work of processing the re-registration forms due to the PPM/MDA led actions, which made it extremely difficult for the EC to provide its services to the public and caused a lot of people to endure great difficulties,” said the EC.

“An environment that allowed the Elections Officials to work without fear and threats was only created five hours later, after police removed supporters and activists of both the MDA and the PPM from the Elections Commission’s registration department,” the EC continued.

“In this regard, the incident was brought to the attention of President’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense and National Security, the Chief Justice, Speaker of the Parliament and the Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee,” the EC said.

“We disappointingly note that the events that took place [on October 13] caused huge derailment of the efforts being made by the Elections Commission to hold the presidential election as per the deadline given by the Supreme Court, and we strongly condemn these actions,” the EC added.

“We also call upon the political parties and political parties to not cause such hindrances to the commission in the future, and act in a responsible manner.”

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News on Friday evening that the EC had received threats that the voter registration section would be attacked, and that “people would throw stones at the windows and burn things there.”

“When we received that information we wrote to the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) requesting protection of our office. It’s very sad. There are a group of people who want to block this [vote], those who know they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult. But I hope these things can be handled by the police and MNDF. The whole world is watching and wants this election,” he told Minivan News.

Re-registration process

“The Elections Commission is tirelessly working to ensure that the Presidential Election is to be held before the deadline of October 20, given by the Supreme Court in its judgement (No. 2013/SC-C/42), amidst getting just 10 days to facilitate all the necessary arrangements,” stated the commission. “With regard to this, the opportunity to apply for voter re-registration was opened until 4:30pm October 12.”

Over 12,000 individuals were issued token numbers to submit their voter re-registration forms and as of 9:00am today the last person was served, EC Secretary General Sattar told local media today. As of midnight 23,000 forms had been processed and the EC is “continuously working” to process the remainder.

The EC will be able to present the final voters list to presidential candidates on Wednesday or Thursday this week, Sattar added.

The commission estimates that 65,000 individuals will re-register to vote outside of their home island, the same the number of people who re-registered on the ‘dhaftharu’ for the now annulled first round of the presidential election.

Prior to PPM and MDA supporters disrupting re-registration yesterday, the EC was accepting re-registration forms based on tokens issued until 4:30pm on October 12.

“Re-registration forms submitted by political parties were accepted in bundles, with each set containing 100 forms. In that regard, the Election Commission collected all re-registration forms submitted by political parties by 7:00am on October 13,” stated the EC.

“Individuals who personally wanted to re-register themselves at the commission were issued two different types of token numbers. A different range of token numbers were issued for individuals submitting less than five forms and individuals submitting more than five forms, but less than ten forms,” the commission continued.

“The secretariat of the Elections Commission had continuously given the service of accepting the forms to these token numbers without any interruptions… [until] approximately around midday, when the officials at the service counters of the Elections Commission secretariat had to process the forms manually [due to failure of its network],” the commission noted.

Disruptive protests by PPM and MDA supporters began shortly thereafter.

Fingerprint verification

The Supreme Court issued another midnight ruling October 14 that ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to address the complaints of any individual who has the right to stand for election, “including the verification of fingerprints on re-registration forms through the Department of National Registration.”

PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen recently told local newspaper Haveeru that it “would be hard” for him to approve the voter registry – another recent requirement from the Supreme Court – should the EC not verify fingerprints.

However, the Elections Commission has not received any official complaints regarding the re-registration process and any questions regarding the validity of voter registration forms will be addressed in conjunction with the Department of National Registration (DNR), as ordered by the Supreme Court, EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told local media.

Complaints about the voter registry should be issued “sensibly before the election” scheduled to take place October 19, Sattar told Minivan News today.

Based on the Supreme Court order, “any form” could be subject to verification, including the entire voter registry, Sattar explained.

While the Department of National Registration (DNR) and Maldives Police Service (MPS) both have the capability to verify fingerprints on voter registration forms, neither institution can verify all the data, he added.

Despite the Supreme Court order requiring fingerprinted voter registration forms, the Elections Commission has said it does not have the technical capacity to verify if the forms have the correct fingerprints.

“There is no way for the EC to verify the authenticity of their thumbprints,” EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News earlier this week.

“The Supreme Court verdict does not say we have to verify [fingerprints]. We don’t have the capacity to do that. No institution does. But if we notice a problem, we can take those particular forms to the police for investigation,” Elections Commission member Ali Mohamed Manik previously noted.

Meanwhile, police would require approximately five minutes per form to cross-check information on the voter registration form with the DNR database and then verify the validity of fingerprints. With over 60,000 re-registration forms to process, it would take a minimum of six months to complete, the MPS told local media today.


Voters, monitors, media banned from taking phones, cameras, files into polling area as per Supreme Court guidelines, advises EC

All eligible voters who wish to vote on Oct 19 somewhere other than their permanent address must re-register using the new fingerprint forms.

Voter re-registration will close at 4:30pm today. Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, diplomatic missions and at www.elections.gov.mv. In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration status online, or by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, or call the hotline on the same number.

Voting will begin at 7:30am on Saturday, October 19 and polls will be closed at 4:00pm, the Elections Commission (EC) announced at a press conference last night. Those in the queue at 4:00pm will be allowed to vote, said EC Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.

Two ballot boxes will be placed in Sri Lanka and one each in India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The previous requirement for more than 100 voters to register for a ballot box to be kept overseas would not be enforced this time, Thowfeek said, adding that ballot boxes would be placed in resorts and industrial islands whether or not the registration exceeds 50 persons.

The re-registration deadline for persons voting outside their home islands is 4:30pm today, after the Supreme Court ordered the EC to restart the registration process in line with the court’s guidelines.

Thowfeek explained that while forms submitted on October 9-10 with fingerprints in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines would be valid, re-registration forms processed before the annulled September 7 presidential election as well as for the postponed second round scheduled for September 28 would be invalid.

Among the 16-point guidelines imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court judgment annulling the first round of the presidential polls was a requirement to include fingerprints of persons submitting re-registration forms as well as the fingerprints of two witnesses, if the form was submitted by a third party.

“Registration by forms submitted in September have been invalidated now. So until registered, a person’s name will be under his or her permanent address [on the voter registry]. Until a person registers elsewhere they have to vote in the place of the permanent address,” Thowfeek said.

“We do accept that this is a very short period we are offering to citizens. But as you know, because of the Supreme Court verdict we cannot provide a long period for any process. The verdict states that the first round of the presidential election must be held before the 20th of this month.”

In line with the Supreme Court guidelines, Thowfeek said voters would not be allowed to take phones, handbags or any other item into the polling station, advising voters to keep phones at home.

“The Elections Commission and relevant authorities should make it illegal for any person (including officials) who enters the polling station to carry phones, handbags, files or any item (excluding pens) that could be considered to infringe upon the rights of candidates and ensure that no such action takes place,” reads point 10 of the Supreme Court guidelines.

To abide by the guideline, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik revealed that media monitors would not be allowed to bring cameras or phones into the polling station.

“We sincerely apologise to you for this because in the past monitors took cameras and phones but we have to abide by the [Supreme Court] judgment,” he said.

The EC was given legal advice recommending that “any persons” stated in the guideline included media monitors as well, Manik said.

As elections officials would not be allowed to carry phones either, Manik said a communications official would be stationed outside each polling place.

In addition to a communications official, a second official would be added to supervise the handing out of tokens.

Asked if the EC could provide assurances that the voter registry would not include underaged citizens or the deceased, Thowfeek explained that in line with the Supreme Court judgment, the main source of the registry would be the database at the Department of National Registration (DNR).

“The department is tasked with maintaining [records] of births and deaths. So if they are maintaining the list correctly, I believe it shouldn’t include the names of any deceased,” he said.

In the past, Thowfeek said, the EC sought lists from the DNR and island councils, which were cross-checked to compile the voter registry.

The DNR has provided regular access to its database as well as identity card (ID) photos for the EC, Thowfeek said, adding that the ID card photos would be used along with the voter lists at polling stations.

Regarding the recent resignation of EC member Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed, Thowfeek said Waheed informed the commission that he was advised to resign by doctors as it was “not advisable to work in a stressful environment” due to his health.


Over 10,000 voters re-register as EC continues runoff preparations

The Elections Commission (EC) has received over 10,000 voter re-registration forms as its preparations for the second round of the presidential election continue amid controversy catalyzed by the Jumhooree coalition’s refusal to accept the first round results.

The coalition’s allegations of vote rigging have resulted in ongoing cases in the Supreme Court and High Court. Earlier this week, police barricaded the EC secretariat in response to these claims, searching its trash unsuccessfully for evidence of voter registry fraud.

The media has continued to disseminate unsubstantiated information about the commission, and threats have been directed at the EC’s chair, his family, and the vice chair, as well as EC official Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed in the week-and-a-half since the presidential election’s first round.

The Jumhooree Party’s allegations that the EC rigged the first round vote include claims that an inaccurate voter registry and fake identity cards allowed individuals to vote more than once, or to cast ballots in the names of deceased people. The party has also alleged that the ballot counting process lacked transparency.

The EC has subsequently raised concerns that there may not be a suitable environment for the presidential election’s second round should Villa TV (VTV) – owned by JP leader Gasim Ibrahim – continue to deliberately spread false information and incite people to rise up against the commission.

Parliament’s National Security Committee and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) are currently conducting separate investigations into the matter.

Despite these challenges, the EC is continuing to prepare for the second round runoff – scheduled for September 28 – and has emphatically dismissed allegations of vote rigging as “baseless and unfounded”. The EC has highlighted its transparency, its ongoing complaints investigations, and the praise from a broad spectrum of election observers who noted peaceful voting and the preparedness of the EC.

“With [election] officials from different sources [working] in front of [election] observers, there was no way the type of fraud [the JP is alleging] could be made,” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek recently told Minivan News.

“We have been strictly following the rules, regulations, laws, and constitution, so I don’t think there is room for anything to stop the second round voting,” he said.

“We are printing the ballot papers, conducting refresher training sessions for officials, prepping all the logistics, including travel plans, etc.,” he noted.

Over 10,000 re-register

Individuals registered to vote in one location had a four day re-registration opportunity – ending on Sunday (September 15) – to change that location according to their needs for the September 28 run-off.

The EC yesterday revealed that its secretariat in Male’ had received 10,000 re-registration forms and has sent replies to each individual. The commission is also currently processing re-registration forms forwarded from island councils in the atolls.

“The exact number of people who re-registered will only be known after the registration process is completed. About 10,000 forms were submitted for Male’ alone,” said EC Registration Department Head Aminath Majdha. “The exact number will be known when we know the number of forms submitted to the councils from the atolls.”

The re-registration forms that the commission has received thus far include new voters who did not participate in the first round polling, such as individuals who recently turned 18, as well as Maldivians who will be in Saudi Arabia performing the Hajj pilgrimage, Majdha explained.

The number of Maldivians now registered to vote in Saudi Arabia requires a ballot box to be stationed in the country, she added.

For the presidential election’s first round the EC stationed 470 ballot boxes on local islands, resorts, and diplomatic missions in Singapore, London, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, as well as Trivandrum and New Delhi in order to accommodate 239,593 eligible voters.

Voting with forged ID’s not possible: DNR

Meanwhile, the Department of National Registration (DNR) has dismissed the possibility of individuals voting with forged national identity cards.

DNR Director General Fareeda Yoosuf has insisted there was no chance forged ID’s could be used to vote.

Each individual identity card is unique and does not change even when renewed and, even in cases where lost IDs are replaced, the same identity number is used, Yoosuf noted.

“The card number will remain the same for each individual no matter how many times the card is renewed,” she explained. “We haven’t issued identity cards with two different numbers to the same person, so I’m certain that can’t be done.”

“When each person has a unique number and is allowed to vote based on that number, there is no chance a person can vote more than once by using different ID numbers,” she continued.

No complaints of forged identity cards have been received by the DNR so far, she noted.

Earlier this week, the EC also announced that eight deceased individuals the JP had claimed to be on the electoral register had been found to be living.

The commission has determined that the eight people did cast ballots and has met five of them, EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz told local media. The commission has received information that the other three individuals are also alive, though the EC has not yet been able to meet them.

Recount impossible

During last week’s National Advisory Committee meeting – where the JP, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), and incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s representatives called for a recount of ballot boxes from the first round – the EC noted that the alleged voter discrepancy was not enough to call for a recount of all 470 ballot boxes.

The law states there are two instances where ballot boxes may be recounted: 1) If the EC decides the voting process was compromised and decides to conduct a recount to address a complaint(s); 2) If there is a court order issued for a recount, EC Vice Chair Fayaz explained recently.

However, the EC also emphasised that all the commission’s members were willing to conduct a recount of any ballot box where credible evidence of fraud is presented.

It would be impossible to conduct a recount prior to the second round, given that the time consuming task would require about two months to complete, EC Chair Thowfeek explained to Haveeru yesterday (September 16).

“That is something that simply cannot be done, it will take a long time to recount the votes,” said Thowfeek. “It takes around 12 hours to count four or five ballot boxes.”

Requesting a recount without any legal basis – only to remove personal doubts – is not sanctioned by the constitution or the elections law, he continued.

“The ballots had been counted in the presence of monitors, observers and representatives, so even if there is a recount, the results won’t change,” he noted. “Moreover, a vote recount is not something the people will welcome either.”

However, the PPM has alleged Thowfeek “changed his tune” about the time necessary to conduct a recount, claiming he told the National Advisory Committee the process would take about four days.