Elections Commission processing membership forms, but yet to recognise new parties

The Elections Commission (EC) has yet to formally recognise any new parties meeting the minimum membership requirement of 10,000 stipulated in a recent bill, the commission has stated, but is processing membership forms.

Following the passage of Political Parties Act 11 parties – including former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) – were removed from the commission’s registry for failing to meeting the minimum membership. It also removed the parties from the list of political parties published on its website.

Speaking to local media, Secretary General of the Elections Commission Ahmed Asim said the commission had begunto process the membership forms submitted by political parties prior to the enactment of the act, based on advice given to the commission by the parliament.

Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee has meanwhile instructed the Elections Commission to begin processing the forms submitted by political parties, following a submission filed by the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) led by tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

According to Asim, President Mohamed Waheed’s GIP and the MDA had both submitted more than 10,000 membership forms to the elections commission at the time the commission announced that parties lacking the required number of members would immediately be dissolved.

“Apart from those two parties, we have been processing membership forms submitted by other political parties. However, we have not yet decided whether to publicise the names of the new parties that attain the 10,000-member mark,” Asim told Haveeru.

The Supreme Court has issued a stay order on the elections commission ordering them not to take any decision that would dissolve any political party prior to the court coming to a decision on the matter. The order was based on a case filed at court by the Attorney General.

Despite President Waheed’s decision to veto the Political Parties bill and to return it to the house, parliament overruled him with an overwhelming super majority of 60 votes.

MPs representing both the government coalition and the opposition alleged that President Waheed had rejected the bill because it involved his personal interests and that his party GIP would be one of the first to be dissolved after the law came into force.

The bill had come under heavy criticism from several smaller political parties including President Waheed’s own party – which at the time had less than 3000 members – claiming the bill was an attempt to destroy the party.

Following the passage of the bill, the Attorney General lodged a case in the Supreme Court requesting a writ of mandamus against the Elections Commission to prevent dissolution of political parties that failed to maintain the required 10,000 members as stipulated in the Political Parties Act.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham was reported in local media as stating that the enactment of the Political Parties Act meant political parties that did not have the required number of members would be dissolved without any transitional period.

Following the ratification of Political Parties Act, only five political parties remain registered in the Maldives. Remaining parties include the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and four government-aligned parties” the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Jumhoree Party (JP) and Adhaalath Party (AP).


Director General of Elections Commission alleges political motivations behind dismissal

The recently dismissed Director General of the Elections Commission (EC), Ahmed Tholal, has alleged that his removal is related to his participation in a strike earlier this year which had questioned the impartiality of certain commission members.

Following his dismissal Tholal took to Twitter, suggesting that his dismissal was politically motivated.

“The reason for my dismissal is to retaliate because we protested, and also because votes cannot be rigged at 2013 Elections if we are there,” he tweeted.

“On March 20, the Elections Commission staff protested. I believe this is the reason for my dismissal,” he told Minivan News. “I received a chit saying  that I’ve been dismissed yesterday because I have another post.”

“I am President of the Athletics Association – that is not a job, that is a social responsibility,” he added.

Tholal explained that he had been on the executive committee of the Athletics Association since 2004 and had been promoted to chair of the committee in July this year.

The strike in question, which included 45 EC employees, demanded better remuneration for staff as well as the resignation of three of the five members of the commission who were accused of acting with bias and in violation of EC regulations.

“They have not been following rules and regulations,” said Tholal. “I fight for the right thing, always – I always tell them they have to follow the regulations.”

He noted that the three commissioners in question – Mohamed Farooq, Ali Mohamed Manik and Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed – were still on the commission.

Tholal also pointed out that other staff members who had taken part in the protest had faced repercussions. He noted that a fellow Director General had been demoted and the Human Resources Director dismissed.

“I will fight for my rights,” said Tholal.

The right to strike is protected by Article 31 of the Maldivian constitution.

Secretary General of Elections Commission, Asim Abdul Sattar, denied that Tholal’s dismissal was politically motivated, arguing that Tholal had acted against the rules of the commission.

“It is against the rules of the commission to have any other job, whether paid or not, it is a conflict of interest,” said Sattar.

Sattar also said that the March strike had mainly been about money and that the issue had now been settled.

He explained that the decision had taken one and a half months to be made, although Tholal has claimed his dismissal came without warning.

Independent institutions such as the EC have come under increasing scrutiny once more following the release of the Commission of National Inquiry’s final report (CNI).

This week has seen prominent members of both the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) question the ability of their own institutions to fulfil their mandates.

Transparency Maldives’ Aiman Rasheed suggested that weak and unassertive institutions must take some of the blame for the events of February 7 and the surrounding political crises.

“The independent institutions need to step up their game by standing for and protecting the values for which they were constituted,” said Aiman.

Although the EC was not specifically mentioned in the final CNI report, it has been mentioned as an institution in need of strengthening by prominent members of the government.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon told the BBC in April that the EC was too weak to withstand the rigours of an early election campaign.

This charge was dismissed at the time by EC President Fuad Thawfeeq and, when asked today about the need to strengthen the commission, Sattar was equally confident.

“We have a good system but we feel there is always need for improvement and capacity building,” he said.

“For any constitutional elections, we will be given two months – we will be able to do it,” said Sattar.

When asked the same question, Tholal suggested that the key to strengthening the EC was to change some of the body’s members.