November 9 elections timeline announced

The Elections Commission (EC) has publicized its work plan for the first round of the presidential election scheduled for November 9.

A window to submit complaints on voter registry information was opened up yesterday (Tuesday, Oct 22). The EC will address complaints today and open up the re-registration process tomorrow and Friday (October 24, 25) for newly eligible voters and voters who will be voting in a location other than their home island.

Voters who re-registered for the cancelled October 19 polls and do not wish to change registration status will not have to submit forms.

Forms are available at the Elections Commission Secretariat, Island Council offices and online.

The EC has said it will continue to follow all elections laws and the guidelines delineated by the Supreme Court for the cancelled vote on October 19.

After re-registration is completed, the EC will receive rejected re-registration forms on Saturday (October 26). On the same day, the names of elections day officials will be sent to candidates for vetting as outlined in the SC guidelines.

The EC will be seeking Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) help in addition to police support in dispatching ballot boxes and papers to polling stations. An MOU will be signed between the two organizations on October 27.

Elections observers and monitors will be issued permits on October 29.

On November 1 and 2, a draft of the final voter list will be publicized and the EC will continue to receive any complaints regarding the voter lists.

On November 3, re-registration forms will be sent 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 finalized, 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.

This is the EC’s fourth attempt to hold presidential polls. A first round of presidential elections was held on September 7 – no candidate gained 50 percent of the vote, and a second round was scheduled for September 28.

However, third placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party sought to annul the September 7 results, alleging widespread fraud, despite unanimous praise – international and domestic – of a free and fair election process.

With a verdict pending on the eve of scheduled second round, the EC decided to proceed with polls on September 28, but the Supreme Court in a midnight ruling ordered the EC to delay polls and security forces to halt elections preparations.

On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the first round and ordered a re-vote by October 20.

The apex court also delineated 16 controversial guidelines on conducting polls which the EC have criticized as restrictions and an infringement on the EC’s independence as the guidelines involve state institutions and presidential candidates in electoral process.

Guidelines include compilation of a new voter registry based on the DNR database, re-registration with new fingerprinted forms. The security forces are required to oversee transport of ballot boxes and papers to polling stations, and candidates are required to vet elections officials at polling stations as well as to sign the voter registry.

Two of the three presidential candidates – the JP and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – refused to sign the voter registry on the eve of October 19 elections, after which the police refused to dispatch ballot boxes and papers.

Finally, just one hour before polls were to open, the police forcibly stopped elections officials from leaving EC HQ with any election related document.

After several discussions with the executive and presidential candidates, the EC announced new polls for November 9, and a second round on November 16 if necessary.


Elections Commission processes 20,000 forms, as thousands queue to re-register

The Elections Commission (EC) has processed 20,000 voter re-registration forms, and is still serving a queue of thousands of tickets taken before yesterday’s 4:30pm deadline.

65,000 people re-registered to vote ahead of the September 7 election, which was annulled last week by the Supreme Court. With little over a week remaining before the rescheduled October 19 vote, the court at midnight on October 10 ordered the EC to collect voter fingerprints and restart the entire re-registration process from scratch.

The announcement of a 24 hour deadline for registration saw hundreds of volunteers in political party outposts working right through the night of October 11 in an effort to re-register thousands of voters. The largest party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which obtained 45.45 percent of the popular vote in the annulled first round, said it had re-registered more than 33,000 people.

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 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 Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and its allied Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) supporters in the queue quickly accused the EC of attempting to rig the election, while soon after 7:00pm police had arrived at the EC’s registration building and begun removing people from the waiting area.

By 9:00pm police had deployed barricades outside separating the MDP and PPM supporters, while the Elections Commission had begun calling numbers again and was stamping temporary receipts, with official receipts to be provided on Tuesday.

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.

PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile reportedly called on the EC to verify the fingerprints on all registration forms submitted, despite no organisation in the Maldives having the capacity to do this.

Foreign reporters to require business visas

The Immigration Department, which operates under the Ministry of Defence, has meanwhile declared that foreign reporters and camera crew must now apply for business visas and be vetted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Visiting journalists have previously entered the country on tourist visas, as business visas (costing MVR750/US$50 for three months) have required the sponsorship and collection of the visiting person from the airport by a local company or organisation.

“Up until now, we issue visas based on a list provided by the Elections (Commission). We cannot allow them to enter on a tourist visa and cover the election. We have communicated this to the relevant authorities,” Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali told local media.

The procedure under which foreign media would be approved and sponsored was unclear, although Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mohamed Najeel suggested that this would be processed through the ministry.

‘Death threat’ phone lines suspended

The Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) has informed local media that it has suspended 15 phone numbers accused of issuing death threats against Elections Commission officials.

The death threats received by the EC’s permanent staff and polling station officials prompted the commission to file a report with police following the Supreme Court’s controversial suspension of the second round of polling, and subsequent annulment of the first round.

CAM CEO Ilyas Ahmed told local media that police had also filed cases regarding several numbers.

“We only take action if there’s a serious problem with a number, and after filing the case to the police. This is a criminal offence and there is a judicial procedure to be completed, so we’re filing them to the police,” he told Sun Online.


Political parties launch last minute re-registration drive, ahead of 4:30pm deadline

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 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.

The Elections Commission has opened up a 24-hour re-registration window for all eligible voters, after the Supreme Court ordered the EC 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.

With the new ruling, the EC opened up a 24-hour window for fingerprinted re-registration starting at 4:30 pm on Friday, October 11 and closing at 4:30 pm on Saturday, October 12.

Political parties have started re-registration drives throughout the country with hundreds of volunteers working around the clock filling out forms, copying identification documents and submitting forms to the EC headquarters.

On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 2013, citing electoral fraud, and ordered the EC to hold a revote by October 20. In its verdict, the apex court provided guidelines for the revote including fingerprinted re-registration forms.

However, with only 12 days for the new polls at the time of the verdict, and more than 65,000 registered to vote in locations different to their permanent address in the annulled first round, the EC said re-registration would only be required if a voter would be voting in a different location than that already registered for in the annulled vote.

But the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) filed a complaint at the Supreme Court on Thursday claiming the EC was not following the SC guidelines.

The Supreme Court then opened at midnight on October 10 and issued a second ruling, ordering the Elections Commission to disregard previous reregistration efforts and restart the entire elections re-registration efforts.

Read the 16 point Supreme Court guideline here.