The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has restarted voting in 18 parliamentary primaries after polls were cancelled yesterday following administrative and voter registry issues.
Minivan News observed large and orderly queues at Dharubaaruge today where voting for 12 constituencies is currently proceeding. Ballot boxes for the remaining 6 constituencies have been placed at Malé City Hall and party offices in Hulhumalé and Villingili islands.
Candidates and voters complained of fluctuations in the voter register, but MDP Chairperson and primary candidate ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said he did not notice significant changes in his own constituency.
According to MDP media official and MP Ali ‘Alibe’ Mohamed, voting was cancelled yesterday due to “unmanageable” large crowds, with the MDP having scheduled voting for 58 constituencies at Dharubaaruge for all party members registered in Malé. Voters also took issue with their names not being present on the party registry, he said.
“The MDP has a very large membership. We were unable to accommodate such a large number of people at Dharubaaruge all at once yesterday. Many voters also complained over their names not being present on the voter list,” Alibe said.
The MDP is the largest political party in the Maldives with 43,277 members registered at the Elections Commission.
Eyewitnesses described the scene as a “bureaucratic nightmare” and accused ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) members of disrupting the vote.
A 10 member committee – which includes former President Mohamed Nasheed and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih – has been set up to oversee polling.
Candidates in 27 of the 85 constituencies have won the MDP ticket without a primary. They include Eva Abdulla for Galolhu Uthru, Ali Azim for Henveiru Medhu and Imthiyaz Fahmy for Maafannu Uthuru in Malé.
Voting was completed for Kulhudhufushi North and Dhuvaafaru constituencies yesterday. The party hopes to schedule polls for the remaining 38 constituencies in the upcoming week, Alibe said.
Candidate for Machangoalhi Uthuru Aishath Velezinee described the large crowds at Dharubaaruge yesterday as “suffocating.”
“There were too many people, too many ballot boxes. Even I left without voting. People were really cheerful yesterday. Quite a few are elderly and some of them were sick. So they got tired and left without voting. I’m hoping all of them return today,” she said.
Ahmed Hameed, 29, said his name was not present on the voter registry despite having submitted a membership form in February 2012. He also claimed he saw PPM members at Dharubaaruge to disrupt the vote.
“We know faces. Very well known PPM members were there. They were pushing and shoving people. MDP members are not like that. There was so much aggressiveness,” he said.
Polls had originally been scheduled from 2:30 pm to 8:00 pm, with ballot boxes set-up in every island and in Malé. At 4pm, however, the MDP announced it was cancelling the vote and rescheduling polls for 12 constituencies between 9:00 pm – 12:00 pm in Malé. The party was subsequently unable to proceed with this vote, eventually rescheduling a new vote for 18 constituencies today.
These 18 constituencies include 10 Malé City seats and eight atoll constituencies – Addu Meedhoo, Addu Hulhudhoo, Nilandhoo Meedhoo, Mahibadhoo, Hithadhoo Uthuru, and Hoarafushi constituencies.
According to the MDP, voting had proceeded smoothly in only these eight constituencies yesterday, and today’s polls would allow constituency members residing in Malé to vote.
Despite the cancellation of polls yesterday, MDP members remain positive. Zubaidha Mohamed, 29, said the experience was a learning process for the MDP.
“We are the only party in the Maldives to hold primaries on such a large scale. This is a learning process. I think today’s voting will go well,” she said.
Ahmed Ikram, 22, said voting was proceeding smoothly, but expressed concern over the voter registry.
“Things are going well today. But there are still several complaints regarding names not being present on the voter registry. Some people who voted in the primaries for local councils say their names are not present on the list,” he said.
The MDP had published an updated voter registry on January 10, which included all membership forms submitted to the party offices up until December 19.
A press release at the time said the party had received 10,518 new membership forms in the period between December 10 and 19. Of that number, 5,464 forms were received on December 19. The final list was published on the party’s website on January 10.
The party opened up a ten-day window from January 7 – 15 to allow voters to register. According to the MDP’s election committee member Ibrahim Waheed, members were required to register if they were voting in a location different to the one registered for the nationwide local council elections held on January 18.
After members complained of their names not being present on the voter registry, the MDP has now opened up voting for all MDP members without registration
Election committee member Ali Niyaz has expressed concern over room for double voting, but said he hoped candidate’s representatives at polling booths would monitor repeated votes.
The MDP will also crosscheck lists of those who voted in their constituencies and in Malé to ensure no double voting took place, Niyaz said.
Candidates and members alike have complained of frequent changes to the party registry.
“I have been carrying out a targeted campaign. I initially received a list with 588 members. Now there are 846 members on the list. There are entire households on the list who told me they are not MDP members when I visited them,” Velezinee said.
Meanwhile, MDP member Ahmed Hameed said he believed several candidates had submitted new membership forms to manipulate the vote in order to win the party ticket.
“Many MPs have submitted forms just to win the party primary. That is not good for the party. The party membership will not be genuine or healthy. I think the vote should be delayed until all issues are resolved. Otherwise people may question the validity of the vote,” he said.
However, MDP Chairperson and primary candidate ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said he did not notice significant differences in the voter registry.
Candidate for Machangoalhi Dhekunu Noorban Fahmy said she did not want to comment on the registry, but said she hoped voting would proceed smoothly today.
Minivan News was unable to reach MDP’s membership committee chair Ali Shiyam at the time of press.