The Elections Commission (EC) has “strongly condemned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) supporters for threatening officials, inciting discord, and obstructing EC officials’ ability to work”, and has notified the government that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) failed to remove the protesters from the registration section’s premises for five hours “despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance”.
A midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10 ordered the commission to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.
The 65,000 people previously registered to vote in locations other than their permanent addresses have to re-register because there was no thumb print on their registration forms, EC Chairperson Fuad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News earlier this week.
Speaking to the press tonight, Thowfeek said the PPM and MDA ruckus had caused a six hour delay in reregistration. The EC has accepted all reregistration forms, and will finish processing all forms by 8:00 am tomorrow (October 15). The EC has urged all eligible voters to check their reregistration status and submit complaints by 6:00 pm tomorrow.
A system crash around 2:30pm Sunday afternoon due to the large volume of data saw the EC begin manually entering data to continue processing while the system was restarted. An official told Minivan News yesterday the problem was fixed two hours later at 4:30pm, however some people reportedly became upset as the manual process meant they were unable to be immediately issued with a confirmation slip. 2500 tickets remained at the time of the crash, the official noted.
Boisterous PPM and its allied MDA supporters in the queue quickly accused the EC of attempting to rig the election.
After the EC began to manually process the registration forms “a group of people representing the MDA and PPM protested against the move, threatened the officials at the premises, incited discord in the premises and obstructed the work of the Elections Commission officials in an uncivilised manner,” the Elections Commission stated in a press release issued last night (October 13).
“Despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance the EC had to suspend its work of processing the re-registration forms due to the PPM/MDA led actions, which made it extremely difficult for the EC to provide its services to the public and caused a lot of people to endure great difficulties,” said the EC.
“An environment that allowed the Elections Officials to work without fear and threats was only created five hours later, after police removed supporters and activists of both the MDA and the PPM from the Elections Commission’s registration department,” the EC continued.
“In this regard, the incident was brought to the attention of President’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense and National Security, the Chief Justice, Speaker of the Parliament and the Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee,” the EC said.
“We disappointingly note that the events that took place [on October 13] caused huge derailment of the efforts being made by the Elections Commission to hold the presidential election as per the deadline given by the Supreme Court, and we strongly condemn these actions,” the EC added.
“We also call upon the political parties and political parties to not cause such hindrances to the commission in the future, and act in a responsible manner.”
Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News on Friday evening that the EC had received threats that the voter registration section would be attacked, and that “people would throw stones at the windows and burn things there.”
“When we received that information we wrote to the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) requesting protection of our office. It’s very sad. There are a group of people who want to block this [vote], those who know they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult. But I hope these things can be handled by the police and MNDF. The whole world is watching and wants this election,” he told Minivan News.
“The Elections Commission is tirelessly working to ensure that the Presidential Election is to be held before the deadline of October 20, given by the Supreme Court in its judgement (No. 2013/SC-C/42), amidst getting just 10 days to facilitate all the necessary arrangements,” stated the commission. “With regard to this, the opportunity to apply for voter re-registration was opened until 4:30pm October 12.”
Over 12,000 individuals were issued token numbers to submit their voter re-registration forms and as of 9:00am today the last person was served, EC Secretary General Sattar told local media today. As of midnight 23,000 forms had been processed and the EC is “continuously working” to process the remainder.
The EC will be able to present the final voters list to presidential candidates on Wednesday or Thursday this week, Sattar added.
The commission estimates that 65,000 individuals will re-register to vote outside of their home island, the same the number of people who re-registered on the ‘dhaftharu’ for the now annulled first round of the presidential election.
“Re-registration forms submitted by political parties were accepted in bundles, with each set containing 100 forms. In that regard, the Election Commission collected all re-registration forms submitted by political parties by 7:00am on October 13,” stated the EC.
“Individuals who personally wanted to re-register themselves at the commission were issued two different types of token numbers. A different range of token numbers were issued for individuals submitting less than five forms and individuals submitting more than five forms, but less than ten forms,” the commission continued.
“The secretariat of the Elections Commission had continuously given the service of accepting the forms to these token numbers without any interruptions… [until] approximately around midday, when the officials at the service counters of the Elections Commission secretariat had to process the forms manually [due to failure of its network],” the commission noted.
Disruptive protests by PPM and MDA supporters began shortly thereafter.
The Supreme Court issued another midnight ruling October 14 that ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to address the complaints of any individual who has the right to stand for election, “including the verification of fingerprints on re-registration forms through the Department of National Registration.”
PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen recently told local newspaper Haveeru that it “would be hard” for him to approve the voter registry – another recent requirement from the Supreme Court – should the EC not verify fingerprints.
However, the Elections Commission has not received any official complaints regarding the re-registration process and any questions regarding the validity of voter registration forms will be addressed in conjunction with the Department of National Registration (DNR), as ordered by the Supreme Court, EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told local media.
Complaints about the voter registry should be issued “sensibly before the election” scheduled to take place October 19, Sattar told Minivan News today.
Based on the Supreme Court order, “any form” could be subject to verification, including the entire voter registry, Sattar explained.
While the Department of National Registration (DNR) and Maldives Police Service (MPS) both have the capability to verify fingerprints on voter registration forms, neither institution can verify all the data, he added.
Despite the Supreme Court order requiring fingerprinted voter registration forms, the Elections Commission has said it does not have the technical capacity to verify if the forms have the correct fingerprints.
“There is no way for the EC to verify the authenticity of their thumbprints,” EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News earlier this week.
“The Supreme Court verdict does not say we have to verify [fingerprints]. We don’t have the capacity to do that. No institution does. But if we notice a problem, we can take those particular forms to the police for investigation,” Elections Commission member Ali Mohamed Manik previously noted.
Meanwhile, police would require approximately five minutes per form to cross-check information on the voter registration form with the DNR database and then verify the validity of fingerprints. With over 60,000 re-registration forms to process, it would take a minimum of six months to complete, the MPS told local media today.