Parliament sitting adjourned amid disorder

Today’s sitting of parliament was adjourned by Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed amid vociferous protests by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs over an amendment proposed to the parliamentary rules to require a vote ahead of debating bills and resolutions.

MDP MPs accused the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) of attempting to “silence the voice of the minority party” by blocking debate on resolutions.

The PPM together with the five MPs of coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) have a combined 48 seats in the 85-member house.

Under the existing rules or standing orders, bills and resolutions submitted to the People’s Majlis have to be tabled in the agenda and debated on the floor ahead of a vote.

If MPs decide to accept a bill or resolution following preliminary debate, it would be sent to committee for further review ahead of a final vote.

Previously, motions without notice – which opens the floor for a one-hour debate on matters of urgent public importance – submitted by MDP MPs have been defeated by the majority party.

In July, pro-government MPs voted against a motion without notice submitted by MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy to debate the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) controversial decision to clear Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed of misconduct over his appearance in a series of sex tapes.

Imthiyaz revealed to the press this week that Speaker Maseeh – a member of the PPM – had sent a letter on Saturday (August 16) to the general affairs committee requesting the revision.

Imthiyaz noted that a resolution he submitted in July calling for a parliamentary debate on the JSC decision regarding Justice Ali Hameed’s sex tapes has yet to be tabled in the agenda by the speaker.

Today’s sitting became disorderly during debate on a report (Dhivehi) compiled by the general affairs committee after evaluating the amendments proposed by the speaker.

The committee had rejected the amendment proposed to section 77(a) after MDA MP Ahmed Amir voted in favour of a proposal by Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ahmed Mubeen to keep the section unchanged.

The proposal was passed with five votes after Amir voted with JP and MDP MPs on the committee.

However, PPM MP Jameel Usman proposed the same amendment during today’s debate, prompting MDP MPs to object with points of order.

Several MDP MPs also sprang from their seats and surrounded Usman while he was proposing the amendment. Under the rules, once an amendment is proposed to a committee report and seconded, the speaker must put it to a vote.

MDP and JP MPs accused the ruling party of attempting to overrule the committee decision by using their majority in the full house floor.

However, Usman reportedly said later that he was not in favour of requiring a vote ahead of preliminary debates for bills and resolutions, claiming that he was going to propose giving each party and independent MP five minutes during debates but was shouted down.


Final election preparations proceed

Ballot papers are being transported to the atolls in preparation for tomorrow’s presidential run-off.

Police are working alongside the Elections Commission (EC) local media had reported. The EC announced that 6,299 voters had re-registered to vote in locations other than their home island.

Representatives of both the Maldivian Democratic Party and the Progressive Party of Maldives began signing the voter lists on Wednesday (October 14) in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines.

The EC also announced earlier this week that voters left-hand ring fingers will be marked in tomorrow’s election, with the right and left-hand forefingers having been marked in the two previous polls on September 7 and October 9.

Ballots will be cast into the 475 ballot boxes between 7:30am and 4:00pm tomorrow.


Comment: Voting for PPM is voting to never vote again

The board is set. The pieces are in play. Only the outcome remains to be determined.

This weekend, the people of the Maldives face the starkest of choices: democracy or a return to autocratic one-family rule and authoritarianism. The game of political chess that has ebbed and flowed for the past year and a half reaches its finale on 16th November. It is for each individual to decide what the endgame will be. They should cherish this opportunity to choose their president because, if they choose unwisely, it will be their last.

So what is the choice?

If you cut through the rhetoric, the claim and counter-claim that “we are for democracy” and “the other candidate is a dictator”, and look instead at actions over recent months, the choice is stark.

On one side of this political game of chess are arrayed the forces of elitism, the ‘deep state’, one-family rule; those who wish to maintain the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few, those who believe human rights are mere words on a piece of paper. These individuals, led by Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of the country’s old autocrat, are people who bribe judges to do their bidding, who beat up protesters and torture men and women with impunity, people who ignore Constitutional term limits as though they are a simple nuisance. This side – and let us be very clear on this – are enemies of democracy because, quite simply, they treat the will of the people, as exercised through democratic elections, with complete contempt. If they do not like the result, they ask people to vote again. If the timing of the election does not suit them, they ask their friends in the courts to delay the ballot. And make no mistake: if they do not like the result on Saturday, they will do exactly the same again.

On the other side are the forces of democracy, people who, while no more or less perfect than any other politician, nevertheless believe that the only way to govern is with the consent of the people as determined through regular free and fair elections. This side believe a judiciary should be independent in action as well as in law, that judges and the police should be there to protect everyone, not just PPM party members. They hold that the press and independent institutions must likewise be free and independent, and should work with the other ‘estates’ – the Majlis, the presidency and the judiciary – in a delicate balance of government power. They believe in the power of Islam to do good, to bring people together and to foster tolerance, not as a political tool to be wielded and to frighten. They instinctively understand the importance of human rights – the right of freedom of expression, the right of freedom of assembly, the right to food, the right to adequate housing, the right not to be tortured or be arrested arbitrarily by armed thugs calling themselves police. And, crucially, they believe that these rights should be applied equally, to everyone without discrimination.

At its most basic level, the choice is this: if on Saturday you vote for MDP and you don’t like how they govern, then in five years you will be able to vote them out. If, however, you vote for PPM and they seize the presidency, you will never again have a chance to remove them through the ballot box. They will be there, in one form or another, for the rest of your life. The Gayoom clan made the mistake once of allowing free and fair elections, and they lost. They will not make the same mistake again.

It is tempting to wonder how it came to this. How the brave hope of 2008 descended into this fight for the democratic life of the country. A large part of the blame lies with Mohamed Waheed, a man who PPM see as a Pinocchio, a marionette who dances to their tune, while the international community, particularly Sir Don McKinnon and Kamalesh Sharma, probably now view more as a Frankenstein, a monster they created then found they couldn’t control. It is Mohamed Waheed who time and again allowed his limitless ego and frustrated ambition (frustrated because he is as unpopular as he is inept) to get in the way of making the right choices and doing the right thing. He should have resigned in February 2012 and called fresh elections. He didn’t. He should have resigned again on Sunday. Once again he failed to do so. By taking this course all he has achieved is to give time and space for the forces of autocracy to more firmly embed themselves in the Maldives body politic.

Mohamed Waheed should forever be remembered as the man who took Maldives democracy to the edge of a precipice and then went on holiday.

However, now is not the time to look back. It is the time to look towards Saturday and to make the right choice.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


President calls for parties to cease attempts to obstruct election

President Mohamed Waheed has urged parties “not to act in a fashion that obstructs holding of the election and to prioritise national interest over personal interest”.

Waheed made the statement after the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) this morning failed to sign the voter registry by the Elections Commission’s sunrise deadline.

Signing of the registry by the candidates is a new demand contained in the Supreme Court’s guidelines for the election, following its annullment of the first round of polls shortly before midnight on October 7.

At a press conference this morning EC Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek said the JP and PPM had not sent nominees to sign the registry. Thowfeek said he had contacted Supreme Court Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz about the lack of response from the two candidates: “He told me to keep trying. Send people to their homes and keep trying. He did not say what else we should do.”

The PPM has subsequently demanded fingerprint verification of 10 percent of re-registration forms – nearly 7000, each with four fingerprints – a process the EC has said would take at least 20 days, missing the court’s October 20 deadline for the election.

President Waheed has meanwhile called on “all parties to cooperate and support the holding of a free and fair election as per the order of the Supreme Court.

“I call on the elections commission, political parties participating in the election and all relevant institutions together, to solve the challenges faced at the moment to create an atmosphere conducive to a free and fair election,” Waheed stated.

“It is also my request that arrangements of elections should be made in such a fashion that no citizen of the country has his right to vote undermined or deprived. On this occasion, I urge everyone not to act in a fashion that obstructs holding of the election and to prioritise national interest over personal interest,” he added.

Foreign Ambassadors and teams of international election observation are already present in the Maldives in expectation of an election being held tomorrow.

The nine-member Commonwealth observation team, led by former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi, has already been deployed across the Maldives.

I hope that all Maldivians will play their part to ensure that the 19 October election is conducted in a credible and peaceful manner, so that the people of Maldives can exercise their fundamental right to choose their President,” said Dr Gonzi in a statement on Thursday.

The Commonwealth Observer Group to the 2013 Maldives elections will submit its final report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the government of the Maldives, the Elections Commission of Maldives, Maldivian political parties and eventually to all Commonwealth governments.

The nine-member Commonwealth Observer Group has been in Malé since 16 October, and will stay until 23 October. It is supported by officials of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Besides Dr Gonzi the delegation includes South African Human Rights Commissioner Lindiwe Mokate, former Australian diplomat Hugh Craft, former Ghanaian minister Elizabeth Ohene, Jamaican governance expert professor Lisa Vasciannie, former Malaysian MP Yusmadi Yusoff, New Zealand MP Kate Wilkinson, UK elections expert John Turner, and Papua New Guinea’s Registrar of Political Parties, Dr Alphonse Gelu.


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.


Two arrested on Kulhudhufushi for allegedly printing ballot papers

Police have arrested two individuals from the island of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll for allegedly printing ballot papers.

A police spokesperson told Minivan News today that police could only confirm that a case involving the printing of ballot papers was under investigation.

“That’s the only comment we can give at the moment,” he said, declining to provide further information.

An island council member of Kulhudhufushi, who spoke to Minivan on condition of anonymity, said the printed ballot papers in question were bigger than the actual ballot papers and were also laminated.

“I heard they were printed by some pro-Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters to make people aware of what the ballot papers would look like,” he said. “Two men were arrested in connection with the case.”

One of them was arrested on Tuesday (September 10), the council member said, while the other was arrested yesterday (September 11). He also confirmed that they were taken to the island court, which extended their remand detention period to three days.

According to the council member, the ballot papers were printed at a major bookshop on the island which is owned by a pro-Adhaalath party supporter.

“They did not make it an issue at first but when they were defeated in the elections they reported it to the police as a complaint,” he said. “If the police arrested the people who printed it, the police will also have to arrested the people who helped them print it.”

He said that the case was reported to police by “anti-MDP people” on the island.

“They are trying to mislead people and claim that the elections result was not right,” he said, adding that he himself believed that the election was free and fair.

He added that there were no issues with the ballot boxes placed on the island.

The Elections Commission (EC) told local media yesterday that the commission would have been aware if fake ballot papers were cast and dismissed allegations of fraud.

“The ballot papers we printed has strong security features. If other papers were used in ballot boxes, we would know it very clearly,” EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Fayaz explained that the EC printed 2,407 extra ballot papers, which was one percent of the total number of ballot papers, and that Novelty Printers would bear witness to the number of papers that were printed. Each polling station was sent 11 extra ballot papers, he added.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy tweeted this afternoon that police have allegedly arrested a “third MDP activist in Kulhudhufushi.”

The party has also issued a press release strongly condemning the arrests.

“We believe that our campaign event manager Ahmed Athif was arrested based on completely false allegations for the purposes of bringing the party into disrepute, creating fear on the island, and intimidating senior campaign activists,” the statement read.

The party identified the second individual as Ahmed Abdul Raheem ‘Beney,’ an MDP youth activist. The MDP contended that the arrests were intended to divert attention from the defeat suffered by pro-government parties, calling on police to “cease intimidating the public with such uncivilised allegations.”


High Court rejects Jumhoree Party’s case contesting election result

The High Court has rejected a case filed by the Jumhoree Party(JP) seeking the release of the voters list and result sheets in the first round of presidential elections held on Saturday, in which its candidate Gasim Ibrahim polled third by just over one percent.

In a short statement, the High Court said the case did not fit the situations stipulated in article 64 of the Elections Act of 2008. Under provision 17(f) election regulations, the Elections Commission (EC) cannot release this information without a court order.

While local and international election observers have broadly praised the conduct of Saturday’s presidential elections, Gasim has contested the results and called for a criminal investigation of the Chair and Vice Chair of the EC for allegedly tampering with the outcome.

Gasim Ibrahim declared at a press conference yesterday that he would not accept the results released by the EC, contesting that the vote had been rigged and that his party’s officials had come across several discrepancies during the ballot.

The presidential poll showed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finishing at the top of the race, securing 95,224 votes (45.45 percent while Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen securing 53,099 (25.35 percent) to finish second.

Gasim Ibrahim finished the race at third place securing 50,422 votes (24.07 percent) while incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan received 10,750 votes, finishing last with 5.13 percent of popular vote.

The EC has maintained that the commission did not consider the complaints credible while Vice Chair of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz described the accusations levied against the commission as “ridiculous” and “baseless”.

In a press conference on Tuesday – shortly after filing the case at the High Court – Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Ahmed Ilham said that the party will not let the Chair of the commission Fuwad Thowfeek “do whatever he wants with the votes” while everyone had been talking about the importance of “nationalism and Islam”.

“We have our dogs inside Elections Commission. By dogs, we mean informers who inform as about what is going on inside the Elections Commission. Don’t you dare touch a single ballot paper inside there, we will chop off the hands of those who do so,” said Ilham.

Gasim’s spokesperson Ibrahim Khaleel told the press that the party will not back down and would do everything it can to seek justice “even if the commission goes on to hold the run-off election.”

“The Head of State must call for a nation-wide investigation in order to maintain the credibility of the entire electoral process,” said Khaleel.

Khaleel also lambasted the Vice Chair of Elections Commission Fayaz Ahmed, whom Khaleel alleged was sharing confidential information with personal friends.

“Following a meeting with us and the Elections Commission, this Fayaz had told his friends that we talked to the members of the Elections Commission very rudely. Does he have to tell his friends that? What kind of professionalism is this?” Khaleel questioned.

“How come the meeting minutes of Elections Commission are being shared among his personal friends? You don’t take matters of work to home,” he added.

Khaleel also alleged that Elections Commission have “begun a special operation to cover up their wrong doings and fraud”. He also appealed the police to intervene and “help the people get justice”.

Khaleel also echoed similar sentiments as his party leader Gasim Ibrahim, who claimed that he should have finished the race in first place, had the election been “not rigged”.

“We have a team of highly trained campaign experts who consist of PhD holders and other intellectuals who have been trained by Gasim Ibrahim. We also had international experts on our team. The team had estimated that Gasim would gain at least 68,000 votes even in the worst case scenario. We know there is something wrong. We will uncover the whole plot,” Khaleel said.

JP MP Ilham called on the members of Election Commission to “honourably resign” and allow police to intervene and investigate the matter.

“I urge all commission members who did not partake in this scandal to come out to media and tell the public that they are ready to allow police to intervene and investigate. If you don’t do so, you will forever be labelled as traitors who betrayed our beloved nation,” Ilham said.

JP’s alleged discrepancies

The discrepancies which the JP alleges include: double voting, votes cast in the name of people who died prior to the election, inaccurate voter registry, lack of transparency during ballot counting, election officials being biased and aligning themselves towards MDP candidate Nasheed and PPM candidate Yameen.

Speaking during a rally held last Monday, Gasim claimed that 20,000 people had bypassed the rules and regulations and cast their votes “unlawfully”.

The resort tycoon also said that he had obtained more than 70,000 votes during Saturday’s election, but claimed the EC had reduced the number to 50,000.

If the EC had not done so, Gasim  claimed, he would have been leading the poll and MDP candidate former President Nasheed would have been trailing behind him. Gasim alleged that the EC robbed JP of 20,000 votes and gifted them to the MDP.

“I will never forgive this atrocity carried out by the Elections Commission. I will never forgive them ever,” Gasim said, during the rally.

Gasim also called on the members of the EC to “resign and go home” if they were unable to execute their duties.

Reflecting on the court case, Gasim said that he hoped that the High Court and the Supreme Court would not refuse to give him and his supporters the justice they were seeking.

“My plea to the court is to speed up cases filed regarding these critical issues. To look into it and give a just judgement. I don’t believe the courts will decide wrongly on this matter,” Gasim said.

The JP leader also noted that it was too early to talk about coalitions, but the party would decide of this after the matter of its defeat was decided in the courts.

“Currently, there are no candidates that I should endorse,” Gasim said. “By the will of Allah, Gasim Ibrahim will be sworn in as the next president on November 11.”

Meanwhile, during the same rally, former deputy leader of PPM Umar Naseer – who backed Gasim in the poll – accused the commission of giving MDP members 30,000 additional ballot papers to tamper with the outcome of the election.

EC was “well prepared” for poll, say international observers amidst accusations

Despite the allegations, international observers have broadly praised the conduct of Saturday’s election, notably the peaceful voting throughout the day and preparedness of the Elections Commission.

“It is clear that the Elections Commission was logistically well-prepared for this election. Election material was distributed in time to the atolls and overall the process was well-administered. It was positively noted that significant majority of polling officials were women,” read a statement given by the former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi who led the Commonwealth’s observer group.

Meanwhile J M Lyngdoh of the Indian team of election observers stated that the “polling was orderly and unblemished by any notable incident. It was also an enjoyable experience for the voter.”

“The voters’ lists were accurate and prominently displayed. The ballot boxes were opened and closed as per the scheduled time. The discipline, patience and dignity of the voter and the sheer competence, industry and cheerfulness of the election staff were quite admirable. The police were ubiquitous but discreetly non-intrusive,” Lyngdoh noted in his statement.

The US also congratulated the Maldives on the conduct of the first round of voting with US State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf noting that “The very high voter turnout showed the strong commitment of the people of Maldives to democratic government”.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives – who ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – had earlier announced that none of the incidents reported on election day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.

Transparency Maldives Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said in 14.5 percent of ballot boxes where controversy occurred during counting, these would not have impacted the overall outcome of the first placed candidate.

As neither of the four candidates who contested in Saturday’s election were able to obtained the required ’50 percent plus one vote’ to secure a first round election victory, the Elections Commission has announced that a run-off election will take place on September 28.


Maldives Decides 2013 – Provisional results declared

Polls opened early this morning across the Maldives to long queues of people, urged by their parties to vote early so as to avoid potential disruption later in the day.

Polling will close at 4:00pm this afternoon, and provisional results are expected to be available at 11:00pm this evening according to the Elections Commission.

The Maldives’ second democratic multi-party presidential election has 239,593 eligible to vote, a 15 percent increase on the first election in 2008.

Voting will take place at 459 ballot boxes stationed on local islands, resorts, and overseas Maldivian High Commissions and embassies in Singapore, London, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and both Trivandrum and New Delhi in India.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who controversially resigned from office on 7 February 2012 amid a police and military mutiny, is contesting the election against incumbent and former Vice President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

Also contesting the presidential election are Abdulla Yameen – half-brother of former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom Gasim Ibrahim, a wealthy businessman and resort tycoon backed by the Islamist Adhaalath Party and the party of Waheed’s former Special Advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed.

To win the first round of the election a candidate requires more than 50 percent of the total turnout. If no candidate receives this many votes, then a second round run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on September 28.

Read more about the candidates, their policies and support bases at our 2013 Election Hub

For additional updates and pictures, see our Facebook page

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5:33 am – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has confirmed that the commission will hold a run-off election on September 28, between Nasheed and Yameen. He said the Commission’s complaints bureau was looking into those complaints that had been submitted, and would take necessary action where required.

Provisional results are confirmed:

Gasim Ibrahim – 50,422 (24.07%)

Mohamed Waheed – 10,750 (5.13%)

Abdulla Yameen – 53,099 (25.35%)

Mohamed Nasheed – 95,224 (45.45%)

4:30 am – The Elections Commission (EC) has yet to formally announce the provisional results as of 4:30am on Sunday morning, delaying its 11:00pm press conference by more than five hours. Provisional results available on the EC’s website suggest Nasheed will face a run-off election on September 28, most likely against Yameen.

However a the narrow margin separating Gasim and Yameen suggests the position of runner-up may be hotly contested. A small group of Gasim supporters have gathered outside Dharubaruge early this morning in protest over what they claim are discrepancies between votes counted and eligible voters for several boxes. It was unclear if this data was taken directly from the elections commission, or from local media outlets – some of which have reported erroneous figures throughout the day.

Elections officials were not responding.

Latest results on the EC’s website:

Gasim Ibrahim – 50,422 (24.07%)

Mohamed Waheed – 10,750 (5.13%)

Abdulla Yameen – 53,099 (25.35%)

Mohamed Nasheed – 95,224 (45.45%)

1:41 am – The Elections Commission has said it is recounting three ballot boxes and expects to hold a press conference to give provisional results at 2:00am.

1:38 am – Transparency Maldives Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said in 14.5 percent of ballot boxes where controversy occurred during counting, these would not have impacted the overall outcome of the first placed candidate.

“The incidents that have happened on election day will not have a material impact on the outcome of the election,” he said.

1:13 am – Transparency Maldives praised its observer network, stating that 95 percent of its sample was reported within three hours of the polls closing. TM confidently called Nasheed’s progression to the second round, but could not call the runner up due to a margin of error larger than the difference between the vote counts of Yameen and Gasim.

According to Transparency’s statement:

  • 99.5 percent of polling stations had closed by 5:00pm
  • Only 0.2 percent of voters complained that their names were not on the voter registry, and 0.05% complained that they were unable to vote at polling stations
  • Voting was temporarily halted at 3.8 percent of polling stations, half of these interventions by the presiding officer. The remainder involved “an unruly voter or two, or an enthusiastic political party member”
  • 1.4% has instances of violence, but largely peaceful
  • Police entered 18.8 percent of polling stations, 80 percent of the time at the invitation of the presiding officer
  • Candidates well represented – Gasim 73.7 percent, Waheed 29.6 percent, Yameen 74.2%, Nasheed 91.5%
  • Counting concluded without controversy at 85 percent of all polling stations, and only 0.22% of ballot papers were disputed by observers/candidates
  • 82.6 percent of polling stations reported assisted votes

12:26 am – Transparency Maldives is due to give a press conference soon.

11:44 pm – The Elections Commission will announce provisional results some time between midnight and 1:00am, said EC President Thowfeek. The final results of the first round will be announced on 14 September.

11:40 pm – The EC has yet to calculate exact voter turnout, as a lack of internet connection and the inability of some officials to use the new web system had resulted in a lower than expected figure, stated EC VP Ahmed Fayaz. “We expect a minimum 82 percent voter turnout.”

11:39 pm – EC President Thowfeek said results are still coming in: “We have not yet received the complete results as of yet. Currently we have got 315 boxes. None of the candidates has so far got the required 50 percent +1 vote, but a lot of boxes still need to be verified. After that we can say whether a candidate can win from the first round,” he said.

11:37 pm – The initial exit poll suggests over 200,000 people have voted, said Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz, a turnout of over 83 percent.

11:34 pm – The Elections Commission is holding a press conference. Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has said there have been no major problems, although has acknowledged the commission is having trouble closing two ballot boxes.

“What happened with the ballot box at Majeediyya School was dissent arising between some election officials and representatives from a candidate. Some people questioned the check marks on ballot papers, and had disagreed over whether some marks are to be counted as valid votes,” Thowfeek stated.

The second ballot box kept in Galolhu [ward of Male] “has been opened and counting is underway. We just got the confirmation,” he stated.

11:18 pm – Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef has advised Minivan News that police did not remove a ballot box from Majeedhiya School. Haneef said EC officials at Majeedhiya requested police presence at the polling station, but did not remove the ballot box. “The EC removed the box in a vehicle, not police,” stated Haneef.

11:02 pm – Jumhoree Party (JP) Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz has said that any possible decision on how the party contests the second round would be expected either late this evening or possibly tomorrow.

“We are still waiting at the moment,” he said, adding that discussions need to be held between JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim and the party’s council before finalising any possible alliance.

10:59 pm – Ballot boxes counted: Male – 93 out of 100; resorts – 38 out of 40; other areas – 7 of 9, reports state media MBCNews.

10:55 pm – The ballot box has been removed from Majeedhiya School in police vehicles. Police are now moving crowds away from the area.

10:54 pm – “We took so long because the EC wasn’t able to facilitate a meeting with the head EC official at this box,” Hassan Latheef has told media. “We have heard her side of the story.”

Latheef said the head official claimed that observers from all parties “may have moved away from their assigned places, and if this was the case, this might have been against the law.” He added that her report does not match those of observers, “and we will look into this detail.”

Latheef said that “if there are grounds for complaint we will do so with the EC at the earliest opportunity.”

10:44 pm – The Seenu Meedhoo ballot box, expected to have a large majority for MDP, has been sealed by police following observer objections to Elections Commission (EC) counting practices, Minivan News understands.

Observers and monitors raised procedural concerns with the head EC official Aishath Naseema when she allegedly miscounted votes, said one media monitor speaking on condition of anonymity. The source reports that the official refused to recount and continued to count, eventually ordering out all observers who were protesting her actions and announcing the results with police assistance.

Police have since sealed the ballot box without addressing the issues raised.

MDP lawyer and former youth minister Hassan Latheef is now meeting with Naseema at the ballot box. Approximately 150 individuals have gathered outside to observe proceedings.

10:36 pm – State television MBC News predicts a run-off election between MDP and PPM based on anticipated results from today’s polls: Nasheed 45%, Yameen 25%. Candidate Gasim Ibrahim is in a close third place with 24%.

At the time of the prediction, MBC News reported that there 26 boxes remain to be counted.

10:33 pm – Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan confirmed that senior officials from the party, including presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen and his running meet Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, are presently meeting in Male’ to discuss second round plans.

PPM will look to meet with potential allies in the second round, Nihan said, adding that every other candidate who stood in today’s election against Nasheed would be invited “to be on-board” in the run-off vote.
“It is quite clear we will be facing the MDP in the second round,” he said.

Nihan expects the PPM to make a statement on its support for the second round vote “sooner rather than later”, once talks were completed with other parties.

10:30 pm – The Elections Commission reports that all boxes in Male have been reported to its offices. Senior Administration Official Fathima Zuhuzhi said that boxes will arrive from the atolls with officials tomorrow, but the numbers are being reported through official software.

The Elections Commission does not count ballots. It’s primary task is to compile information, and only those with specific permits are allowed access to the compilation room.

10:25 pm – Ballot boxes in London – the latest-open polling site world-wide – are officially closed, Television Maldives has tweeted.

10:17 pm – The Elections Commission’s Ballot Progress Reporting System is updated for the final time, recording 170,686 voters out of a possible 239,593 eligible voters–reflecting a 71.28 percent turnout.

Figures from local media, however, put the number of votes given for all four candidates at over 184,000 with more than 35 ballot boxes still to count.

10:00 pm – President Waheed’s Senior Advisor Teresa Wells said the incumbent would not be releasing a statement tonight, but that a comment on his plans ahead of a run-off vote would be released tomorrow.

9: 58 pm – Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom hsa said that the party would be “considering its options” ahead of the second round after the “forward with the nation coalition” it was backing received a decidedly low percent of the popular vote.

Dr. Mausoom has told Minivan News that he does not wish to comment if the party’s stance would force its hand at lending support to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in a run-off election.

“I think the DRP as a party has very clear values and ideologies, we would look for the coalition that best represented these” he said, adding that the Elections Commission (EC) had executed a “beautiful” election.

“Although there were some reservations Maldivians have held a free and fair election, with Dr. Waheed also expressing his confidence for the EC. This was great to see,” he said.

9:56 pm – Ballot boxes are being delivered and checked in to the Elections Commission, where approximately 50 people have gathered.

9:02 pm – Former Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam has told Minivan News that the MDP are “preparing for a second round”.

“We didn’t get what we wanted from Male’,” he said outside Dharubaaruge.

Aslam anticipates that the MDP would face the PPM in the second round, saying that the party was not concerned about Gasim.

“Yameen is not an idiot, Gasim is an idiot.”

He noted that he had not seen a turnout this low, and anticipated lower figures for the second round.

8:56 pm – Initial results from Male’ ballot boxes show strong support for Nasheed in Galolhu and Henveiru wards.

8:52 pm – Preliminary ballot counting is now finishing at polling stations across Male’, with police remaining on duty at all stations. Residents remain indoors and clustered around radios to get the latest results.

8:28 pm – Male’ streets remain quiet while residents watch television indoors, anticipating the results of the final 100 ballot boxes.

8:04 pm – Ten police crowded into a Ahmadiyya School in Galolhu after a dispute between polling officials and an election observer over inaccurately marked ballots. The agitated observer had left by the time the police arrive, themselves leaving shortly after.

“Somebody called us, but I don’t know why – I don’t know why it’s necessary to come,” one officer said,

7:58 pm – Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that he was surprised by the way voting has been going in his Henveiru-south.

“We are not performing as expected – the race is very close,” he said, before comparing the Maldivian Democratic Party’s voting pattern to pro-Gayoom voting in this stage of the 2008 election.

6:45 pm – Nasheed is also proving popular among resort workers with strong majorities in most resort ballot boxes.

In Bandos Island Resort, owned by Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, provisional results show Nasheed leading with 136 votes, Yameen in second place with 81 votes, Gasim third with 39 votes and President Waheed in fourth place with 8 votes.

In Irufushi Resort, owned by MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel Shiyam, whose Maldivian Development Alliance party is in coalition with the PPM, Nasheed has 59 votes to Yameen’s 38 votes and Gasim at third place with 6 votes and Waheed at fourth with 1 vote.

In Kuredhu Island Resort owned by the government-aligned Champa family, Nasheed leads with 50 votes, Yameen in second place with 33 votes, Gasim third with 14 votes and Waheed fourth with 1 vote.

6:30 pm – Provisional results show former President Nasheed leading in overseas ballot boxes, suggesting strong support among the diaspora and students. Nasheed has 504 votes in Malaysia with Yameen in second place with 190, Gasim at 154, Waheed at 84 and 9 invalid votes. In Singapore, Nasheed secured the most votes with 67, and Yameen at second place with 28 votes, Gasim third with 19 votes and Waheed fourth with 14 votes.

5:42 pm – State broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) is tweeting live results at #MvElection13. So far:

Gasim 1608 (27%)
Waheed 203 (3%)
Yameen 1489 (25%)
Nasheed 2601 (44%)
Void 54 (1%)

5:33 pm – Latest from the EC’s site. Of 1574 votes counted (including 8 void), so far:

Gasim 19.35%
Waheed 16.28%
Yaeen 20.05%
Nasheed 44.32%

5:31 pm – The streets of Male are remarkably silent as people are glued to television sets watching the counting. Of the online sources of counting data the Elections Commission’s count site is the slowest to update, but the most official source of information. Haveeru News has a live infographic that is somewhat quicker.

5:09 pm – Counting is underway.

4:55 pm – Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom voted this morning at the CHSE.

4:52 pm – Voting on Inguraidhoo in Raa Atoll has been “calm” throughout the day, an island council source told Minivan News. Although the polls closed at 4:00pm, there is still a queue of people waiting to cast their vote. However, of 985 registered voters, 114 were “no shows”.

On Thulhaadhoo in Baa Atoll has also been “very calm”, according to an island source.

“Everything has gone pretty fine here, there have been no [negative] events,” a Kaafu Atoll, Himmafushi Island source told Minivan News.

4:35 pm – If it scores a win, the MDP in Addu Atoll will celebrate even at the risk of disturbances from opposing parties, reports Shahid.

“This is one and a half years of waiting, waiting, waiting and hard work,” he said, comparing the excitement around this election to the country’s first democratic election in 2008. “The people have got the taste of freedom, and of being proud to be a human being. They lost it, and now they want to regain it. That wasn’t there in 2008.”

4:25 pm – The majority of voters in Addu City have cast their ballot prior to the poll closing time of 4:00pm, and “in most cases it is almost done,” said former Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid, stationed in the southern-most atoll.

The community is now gathering near the polls for the ballot counting to see that the process is smoothly executed. As people – primarily party leaders and young men – gather near Addu polling stations for the ballot count, Shahid observed that they are “pretty cooked up – they are excited and anxious to see how things go.”

He added that police are noticeably present across the atoll, and have erected blockades on the causeway linking Gan and Feydhoo “to keep an eye out.” The military presence is minimal present, but soldiers have been spotted driving around to survey activities.

4:22 pm – Social media is on fire this elections. Passionate voters are posting pictures of inked fingers and long queues with messages of support for their candidates. While many are proud of voting, and not holding back in showing their excitement over social media,a considerable number of people are tweeting their resentment towards the political polarisation of the country and their justifications for boycotting the vote. Follow the elections buzz online #mvelection.

4:17 pm – Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek has said that there are no regulations prohibiting parties conducting exit polls outside polling areas.

Volunteers for the MDP have been carrying out such polls across the country today, leading to concerns from rival parties that they were campaigning in defiance of voting regulations.

4:15 pm – MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said the opposition was “comfortable” with the day’s voting.

“I voted first thing this morning and I must say the whole thing looked quite organised. I’m quite happy with how it has gone, there has been an amazing turnout,” he said.

Earlier today, a group of JP supporters outside Majeediyaa School raised concerns to Minivan News about a number of people wearing yellow t-shirts outside polling stations carrying clipboards, questioning whether such “campaigning” is allowed on voting day.

Ghafoor confirmed that the party had employed a ‘voter protection program’ that utilised volunteers as observers, while other people were conducting exit polls outside polling stations around the country to help draw up data on the day’s voting.

He rejected claims the party’s ‘voter protection program’ was campaigning for the MDP.

“They are not in branded [MDP] t-shirts, they may be wearing yellow, but we have been working on getting people out to vote. We also have a minimum of two people per vote box outside polling areas [conducting exit polls],” he said, adding that data was then being uploaded to a central system online. “The problem is the opposition do not have a thorough understanding of democracy. I do not wish to be disrespectful, but this is standard election practice.”

4:00 pm – The deadline for polls to close has passed. Voting on many islands has already finished, however queues remain at many polling stations in Male’.

3:59 pm – A group of 10-15 people waiting a few feet away from a polling station in Male’ told Minivan News they were waiting for a party to show up and pay them to vote. “If a party wants us to vote for their candidate, they will come and pay. Otherwise, we are not voting.” said one of the group members.

3:56 pm – According to Haveeru, a young man who went to vote at a ballot box for the mid-Hithadhoo constituency in Male’ and allegedly photographed his ballot paper with his mobile phone has been taken into police custody.

The local daily is also reporting that 1,915 out of 2,099 voters registered to vote in Sri Lanka has cast their ballots. Most voters in Fuvahmulah have meanwhile cast their ballots and there are queues only at a few ballot boxes.

3:48 pm – The Election Commission has confirmed that its online ballot counter does not account for many boxes on resorts or local islands with poor internet access. 70 percent turnout has already been recorded, say officials.

3:46 pm – A person who attempted to vote twice in a ballot box at the Kangaroo Kids School in Addu City was taken away from the area by police upon request of the head EC official, according to police media.

3:45 pm – 33 year-old Faithimath Irene told Minivan News near Male’ City Hall that she had “nearly missed my chance to vote, but am delighted I got here before 4:00pm. I hope this election paves our way out of this damned good democracy.”

3:44 pm – “Voting is going fine. It’s actually calm, we haven’t seen any issues and the situation is the same in the other wards,” an island council official from Fuvahmulah’s Dhiguvaadu ward told Minivan News.

However he said there have been some issues regarding the placement of campaign banners near to the Dhiguvaadu ward polling station. Allegedly PPM members posted five campaign banners just outside the polling station – within the 100 foot boundary – at midnight last night, after the 6pm campaigning deadline, alleged the island council official. The MDP has issued complaints with the Elections Commission (EC) district complaints bureau over the matter.

Meanwhile, EC officials who arrived on the island this morning took issue with an MDP campaign banner that the island council official claims was put up outside the 100 foot boundary on Thursday September 5.

3:35 pm – “Technical issues” with the EC website are being resolved, the EC said at the press briefing.

3:34 pm – With less than 30 minutes to go before polls close at 4:00pm, queues are still strong at Male’s polling stations.

3:23 pm – Some 136,236 people have cast their ballots so far, the Elections Commission (EC) has revealed at an ongoing press briefing.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek said there have been no serious issues with voting apart from delays caused by long queues at some polling stations. He added that arrangements have been made for inmates to vote.

Fuwad also said that the EC was aware that some campaign activities, such as phone calls, are still going on and that measures would be taken against those responsible.

The Deputy Chair of the EC revealed that turnout has reached 70 percent including those currently queued at polling stations.

3:16 pm – “I don’t think there have been any disturbances on Kulhudhuffushi [in Haa Dhaal Atoll], we haven’t received any complaints [of that nature],” said Rishan Nasheed, an Elections Commission Complaints Bureau official from the told Minivan News.

However there have been many complaints regarding voters names not included on the registry lists. “When we’ve re-checked, these voters are actually on lists for other polling stations on Kulhudhuffushi,” said Rishan. “This year voting boxes were placed in different locations and many people did not check to verify their polling station location.” She explained that this issue has not prevented anyone from voting.

3:13 pm – “The opening of the polls was smooth, and the administrative preparation and execution went well,” Transparency Maldives announced at its 1:00 pm press conference.

“99.5 percent of all polling stations [were] open by 8:30 am and 83 percent of polling stations [were] open within the first 10 minutes of the required opening time.”

Transparency Maldives has deployed over 400 observers over 20 atolls. It is one of four observer groups observing today’s presidential election.

Among indicators gathered, Transparency reported that queue controllers were absent from 4.1 percent of polling stations, and station controllers were absent from 7.2 percent of observed stations. 98.2 percent of polling stations met standards to ensure voter privacy.

Two or more candidate/party observers were present at 82.4 percent of all observed stations; one observer was present at 13.6 percent of polling stations. 4.1 percent of stations had not candidate/party observer. Police were present at 95 percent of the observed polling stations.

3:09 pm – Reports coming in from the islands:

On Thinadhoo in the country’s south, one of the islands flagged as a potential hotspot should voting go awry, a resident said “Everything is going very smoothly and voting is about 45 percent complete.”

“It is very peaceful [on the island] and voting is almost completed, we’re at about 90 percent,” Mox Fahumee, MDP Campaign Manager from Kanditheemu Island in Shaviyani Atoll.

“The voting process is going very quickly [this election] because people actually want to vote this time,” he said.

Voting has nearly been completed on most islands in the Kanditheemu constituency – Bilefahi, Noomera, Goidhoo, and Feydhoo – and the process has been peaceful on those islands as well.

Elderly voters have had some issues voting on Gan in Laamu Atoll, as many want help casting their ballot, however Elections Commission officials are not allowing any outside party to provide assistance
unless the voters are “blind or armless”, an Island Council official told Minivan News.

3:04 pm – Speaking to Minivan News while waiting to vote at Iskandhar School in Male’ this morning, an 18 year-old male voter employed in the Maldives Police Service (MPS) in a non-uniformed role said he anticipated voting would continue peacefully.

However, the first time voter did not rule out potential clashes between rivals once results were known: “Whichever party wins, it will be the other ones who will be causing trouble. This is politics after all,” he said.

3:02 pm – Mohamed Didi, a 54 year-old man from Addu Atoll who has lived in Male’ the last 20 years, said he did not anticipate violence on the strength of the large number of people peacefully casting their ballots across the capital.

“I do not think there will be violence, there are so many people out voting,” he said, while overlooking the line of voters outside Majeediyaa School, where he said a large number of re-registered voters originally from Addu Atoll would be casting their ballot.

2:39 pm – “Despite this unbearable heat I’ve been in this queue for at least three hours,” said 28 year-old Muhammed. “I will cast my vote and contribute to washing out baaghees.”

2:36 pm – 68 year old Mohamed Waheed told Minivan News in front of the Kalafaanu school polling station: “It is a good thing that we are having elections as due, despite the events of last year. But the EC should have better organised things, kept more counters at booths where more people vote. I share MDP’s ideology and have voted accordingly. However I am now giving away umbrella for shade for all citizens queued here to vote since the early hours.”

2:28 pm – A voter from the Machangoalhi North constituency who voted in CHSE told Minivan News that her aunt, who had voted before her, had her name on the EC list with a red dot next to it instead of being crossed out. Asked why, the EC official said a person with a face veil had attempted to vote under the name. According to the voter, her aunt does not wear the burqa. She said the EC official claimed not to recall the first voter, apart from stating that she wore the burqa, and said she and her aunt planned to lodge a complaint with the EC.

2:10 pm – Police have arrested four people in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo on suspicion of selling stolen ID cards, according to police media. The case is under investigation by the Thinadhoo Police Station.

1:48 pm – Ashraf Ibrahim, 30, from Gaaf Dhaal Madaveli: “As I see it this vote will end in the first round. The democratic party will have a sweeping win.”

Mohamed, 28, says, “Despite this unbearable heat, I’ve been in this queue for at least three hours. I will cast my vote and contribute to washing out the baaghees (traitors).”

1:43 pm – Jumhoree Party Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi has told Minivan News that presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim had cast his ballot around 7:45 am this morning at the Maafannu Madharusaa in Male’.

Dr Didi added that the party had been encouraged by what it believed had been a “high turnout” among the public – perhaps higher than in 2008’s election.

“We believe that some 80 to 90 percent of registered votes already cast on islands here,” he said. “In general, I think we have seen and fair election. The only thing [the party] has noticed is a few names are not appearing on the voter’s list.”

Dr Didi said the party was not presently certain if the difficulties had arisen due to an error on the voter’s part by re-registering to vote on a specific island, or whether it was an error by the Election’s Commission (EC).

Despite some concerns previously raised over the requirements of the re-registration process by political parties ahead of polling, the EC last month confirmed that more than 50,000 voters had successfully re-registered to cast their ballots today.

1:35 pm – Maldivian Absolute Security Advanced Pvt Ltd security firm officials dressed in black ties, dress shirts, and trousers have been seen by Minivan News outside polling places and driving around Male’ on motorcycles. One of the security guards told Minivan News they were hired by the government to provide general election security.

The situation at most polling places in Male’ is the same – very long lines and primarily Maldivian observers from various institutions assessing the situation. Minivan News has observed police stationed outside polling places in groups ranging from two to four officers, however none were observed within 100 feet of ballot boxes – unless they were casting their votes.

Some MDP volunteers at Jamaludeen School are concerned because only one Elections Commission team was present and as a result individuals are waiting for at least 45 minutes before casting their ballots. A polling station official at Thaajuddeen School told Minivan News that the queue to vote has been “nonstop since polls opened” at 7:30am.

“This is the most people I’ve ever seen [come to vote].” He noted that despite the large crowds there have been no disturbances and there are “no issues yet” with police, “they’ve been coordinating well.”

1:32 pm – “The police Quick Rescue Team has resolved a dispute between two families in Faafu Feeali and returned an ID card to its owner,” according to police media.

1:05 pm – MDP running mate Dr Mustafa Lutfi declared: “I have cast my vote. I’m happy with how the EC has organised matters regarding this election. My hope is that things proceed peacefully like this and are concluded in a fair and transparent manner.”

12:59 pm – Almost half of all eligible voters have either cast their vote or are queued to do so, according to Elections Commission statistics.

12:52 pm – An Australian surf instructor living on the island of Thulusdhoo, Tim Southall, told Minivan News polling day had so far been among the most peaceful 24 hours on the island this year.

Amber Coontz, a US teacher and surfing enthusiast also living and working on the island, said she had been given a similar impression. “No problems, drama or cursed coconuts to speak of,” she said, referring to recent international media coverage of the election build up.

12:48 pm – “Problems that occurred in the voting queue” that caused a disruption to voting in Gaaf Dhaal Nadella has been resolved and voting has resumed peacefully, according to police media.

12:43 pm – Hussan Shahid, a 33 year-old guest house operator on the island of Thulusdhoo in North Male’ Atoll has said that as opposed to the country’s first multi-party democratic vote in 2008, polling was being held peacefully this afternoon.

Shahid said that the island, which he described as being a very close community with an estimated population of 1,500 people, had been holding peaceful campaigning in the build up to today’s vote – claiming rival parties had even assisted each other in recent months.

“The island is very quiet and I think everyone is waiting for the result. We are a very close population, but there seem to be a lot of resort [workers] voting here too,” he said. “I hope nothing goes bad here, we are a quiet island. There are only two parties here – the yellow party (MDP) and the blue party (President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s) ‘forward with the nation coalition’.”

Shahid claimed that the island was believed to be largely in support of President Waheed.

12:41 pm – Voting has resumed in Gaaf Alif Maamendhoo following a minor disruption caused by a voter attempting to get to the top of the queue half an hour ago, according to police media.

12:37 pm – 24 year-old Mohamed Azmeel voted at Jamaluddeen School: “After two years of authoritarian rule this is the first time we get to have our say.”

12:34 pm – Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen called today’s election a “watershed” after voting near the National University in Male, the Times of India reports.

“Things have gone so wrong the last four-five years. It is absolutely imperative that we change for the better this time,” he said.

12:20 pm – Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek has told Minivan News that all polling is going to plan at present.

“As of now a total of 96, 318 have voted,” he said.

12:15 pm – The Human Rights Commission of Maldives has said in a press statement that 57 officials are observing voting at 25 ballot boxes in Male’ and the atolls.

11:50 am – The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has said on its website that voting has been “generally peaceful” in atolls across the country with no conflicts identified so far by division commanders.

Police have confirmed that voting was however delayed on the island on the island of Dhiggaru in Meemu Atoll and did not commence until 9:12am over allegations of individuals trying to break the queue.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef asked for any specific inquiries to be forwarded to the Elections Commission (EC).

11:53 am – Shaarih, 33, in line near the customs area: “Impossible to sum up so shortly this mix of sentiments I have. To put it best, what’s in my mind is: ‘Let’s do this! Let’s win back our country.'”

11:50 am – 19 year old Rauha Ahmed said: “I hate politics. I hate standing in queues. I’m only here because my mom was throwing a fit.”

11:43 am – Abdul Raheem, 67, is waiting in line: “I am voting who I have always voted for. We need to elect a man with experience in running the country. Youngsters took over for the past few years and look at how our social fabric has been torn to bits. If children as young as 18 are not allowed to vote, as they don’t have mature thinking yet, we’d have a better chance of maintaining a peaceful regime.”

11:38 am – Aisthath Sharafnaz, 35, is also in the queue outside the Customs Building: “I’m standing here a little worried, but hoping I’ll get to vote. It’s been over a year since we last had an elected government.”

11:35 am – 57 year old Abdulla Ali, waiting in line outside the Customs Building, said “I am very happy today as citizens are getting to exercise their right to elect a leader of their choice. I’ll accept the outcome regardless of who wins.”

11:33 am – Former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed has voted in Male.

11:23 am –49 year old Gasim supporter, Fathimath Zoona, said she is “feeling very anxious. I am heading to vote now, in the hope of being able to live in a peaceful society again after recent years.”

11:20 am – Sun Online has reported an incident between two families in between two families in Faafu Feeali after a man allegedly hid his wife’s national ID card.

11:16 am – Consular officials in Thiruvananthapuram, India, have expressed surprise at the high number of Maldivians who have registered to vote there, reports Rejith Balakrishnan for the Times of India.

“Consulate authorities said that citizens have started giving importance to politics since the peculiar political scenario is directly affecting their lives here. Most Maldivians come to Kerala for educational and medical purposes,”

Ibrahim Azeem, an attache at the consulate, told the Times that many people that voters had become less apathetic, becoming more keen to exercise their rights.

10:51 am – Observing voters outside Majeediyaa School in Male’ this morning, Jumhoree Party (JP) supporter Adam Naseer said he had not seen or heard any trouble in the capital today.

Naseer added that he did not expect a first round victory for any candidate n today’s polls, expressing hope JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim would then secure a second round victory in a run off election.

“We see this as a semi-final,” he explained.

A group of his fellow party supporters also raise concerns to Minivan News about a number of people wearing yellow t-shirts – the colour of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – outside polling stations carrying clipboards, questioning whether such “campaigning” is allowed on voting day.

10:30 am – The Elections Commission (EC) has said that voter turnout exceeds expectations, and projects that 80 percent of eligible voters will cast their ballots before the close of polls at 4:00 pm, reports Haveeru.

10:47 am – Progressive Party of Maldives vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed tolds Minivan News he was the first person to cast his vote at Arabiyya School in Male’ at 7:30am this morning

“I am very upbeat and hopeful that our ticket will go ahead and win this election.  The nation deserves a fresh pair to lead it for the next five years and fulfill the aspiration of our people” he said.  “I am sure that this nation will survive the challenges it faces both economic and social to take the country to the glory of development and economic success.”

10:46 am – Former Immigration Controller Abdullah Shahid voted at 7:30am this morning in Addu Atoll, where he reports that polls are functioning smoothly; “Almost 45 percent of voters have voted in some areas [of Addu]”, he said. “We are hearing that approximately 70 percent of Feydhoo constituency on Male has voted.”

After voting, men and youth are reportedly gathering in party camps and cafes in Addu.

10:45 am – “I don’t think any of these candidates are suitable, however I cast a valid vote for one of them. Let’s see if this brings any change for the better,” said 22 year-old Rooya Hussain, after voting at the Centre for Higher Secondary Education (CHSE).

10:41 am – Three hours after polling opened, and more than 27 percent of eligible voters have cast their votes.

10:40 am – PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen has voted in Male.

10:25 am – Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan has spoke of a “harmonious” atmosphere between rival in his constituency of Villimale’, where six ballot boxes have been stationed today.

“We held a coffee session with members of the MDP and JP, I can say there is much more harmony that in 2008,” he added.

However, Nihan said he had raised a complaint with monitors over allegations that voters queing to cast their ballot have continuing to receive recorded messages urging them to vote for Jumhoree Party (JP) candfidate MP Gasim Ibrahim – despite a deadline for campaigning having passed.

10:18 am – MDP supporters on Guraidhoo Island in Kaafu Atoll reportedly began lining up to vote at 2:00pm yesterday, after rumours began circulating of a buried fanditha (black magic) coconut buried at the front of the queue.

It is thought the candiate chosen by the first person standing over the coconut and then voting would have their chosen candidate picked by all remaining voters.

“We don’t believe in these things, but some MDP supporters waited just in case,” said a 25 year old Guraidhoo resident. “We will never let PPM [use black magic].”

10:18 am – Queues of up to one hour reported at polling booths as one fifth of the electorate have cast their ballot.

10:10 am – Rasal Taxis, a cab firm based in the ‘raalhugandu’ area of Male’ said all its drivers were working for the company today, and not any particular party.

One driver told Minivan News that the MDP had hired him for the entire day for MVR5000 (US$324) – saying he was paid MVR2000 (US$129) for the same service in 2008 during the last election.

9:55 am – Taking respite between polling stations at the Republic Monument in Male’, 33 year-old taxi driver Asif tells Minivan News that the election has meant good business for the capital’s cabbies.

“Today, parties are booking taxis to get their voters to the poll. They are making lots of money,” he said.

Asif, who started his shift at 7:15am – shortly before polling commenced – said he had not personally taken any money from a party today. He added that he would be driving up until 4:30pm once the days polling has finished.

Asif added that after a seemingly peaceful start to voting in the capital, he hoped the calm would continue into the night: “I don’t like to think there might be violence afterwards,” he adds.

9:45 am – “It’s my first time voting and I’m excited about it,” said a 20 year-old voter, waiting in line. “I think it’s a important I do my part for my country.”

9:40 am – Over 18 percent of registered voters have already cast their votes according to the Election Commission’s Ballot Progress Reporting System.

9:35 am – “I’ve been waiting for 19 f***ing months for this day, so I got here as early as I could. It’s my way of standing up to the coup,” said 39 year-old Ismail Shiyaz, ahead of casting his vote at a polling station in Male.

8:45 am – Two men in their mid-40s were proud of their right to vote in this election.

“[This election] is very important for our future,” said one man after voting at Ameeniya School. He observed that “2008 was a bit hectic, but this year is really calm.”

Another man who was waiting to vote said, “I need to follow my duties. I have to vote…this is important for the future of our country.” While he was wary of disruptions, he said that, “we think about the vote peacefully.”

8:30 am – President Waheed, Gasim and Defence Minister Nazim have voted. Nasheed is confirmed to be voting at 11:00am.

8:25 am – “I am excited about this election because it is quite challenging, and what we are expecting is support for MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party). We’re excited to see who is going to win,” said one 54-year-old male voter. He expects proceedings to be peaceful.

8:25 am – A 33-year-old woman who voted in the 2008 election said she hopes for a strong turnout at the polls. “I think more people will come out for this election because people were new to the concept of democracy [in 2008]. People are more aware this time,” she said, adding that she had her “fingers crossed” for a peaceful election.

8:20 am – The line to vote outside of Centre for Higher Secondary Education in Male’ stretched two blocks by 8:00 am this morning. Two 21-year-old first-time voters said they were “totally excited” to be voting in this election. Although they were not sure what to expect inside the voting area, they were “confident” that the proceedings would go as planned.

7:50 am – Queues of people snaked through Kalaafaanu School in Male as hundreds of people lined up to vote. Dozens of police were present – many voting themselves – and crowds were quiet and peaceful

7:30 am – Polls opened in Male’ to quiet streets, but long queues of voters.


MMC postpones appointing president after internal election stalemate

The appointment of a new president for the Maldives Media Council (MMC) has been postponed after an election held yesterday (July 27) ended in a tie between two candidates competing for the position.

In a statement, the MMC said that a date for a second election would be announced at a later date.

The election was held to appoint a successor to former MMC President Ibrahim Khaleel, who resigned from his post earlier this year.

Local media reported that MMC current Vice President Husham Mohamed and council member Abdulla Shinaan had both received the same number of votes yesterday.