Elections Commission unable to reach PPM and JP leaders to sign off on electoral register

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidates have demanded fingerprint verification of the finalised voter registry, with police refusing to support the election without the candidates’ signatures.

After submitting letters submitted to the Elections Commission (EC) after midnight, the party’s leaders have been unreachable.

The EC is ready to hold the re-run of the presidential election’s first round tomorrow (October 19) as soon as the candidates approve the voter registry.

The Supreme Court’s controversial annulment of the presidential election’s first round held September 7 gave the the EC less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll, and mandated the commission adhere to 16 guidelines, which included obtaining every presidential candidates’ signature on the finalised voter registry and having the police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers.

The EC has been unable to reach JP’s candidate Gasim Ibrahim or the PPM’s candidate Abdulla Yameen or their representatives to sign the lists.

The commission told a press conference this morning (October 18) that it has called, texted,  and sent officials to individual’s houses – as well as to the homes of JP representatives Umar Naseer and Hassan Shah – but has received no answer.

“We are trying our best to have the election as per the verdict of the Supreme Court,” said EC Vice Chairperson Ahmed Fayaz. “But with all the hard work of the last 11 days, now the process has almost been halted.”

“Although we’ve invited all the candidates to sign the voter registry, so far we have not been able to reach PPM and JP. However, MDP sent their representatives and signed the registry,” he noted.

Minivan News understand that certain PPM MPs have expressed their determination to prevent Saturday’s election from taking place.

“Without their signatures, the Maldives Police Service is not willing to support us. They will not give protection to conduct the election and if we hold polls it will be invalidated by the Supreme Court,” explained EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek.

“The police need signatures of all three candidates or their representatives [before they will allow elections officials to depart to their respective polling stations with the printed ballot papers and voter lists],” said Thowfeek.

Thowfeek noted that he had spoken to Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain about the difficulty of meeting the deadline immediately following the October 8 ruling.

“I spoke to Faiz again today about the lack of response from two candidates regarding approving the voter lists. He told me to keep trying. Send people to their homes and keep trying. He did not say what else we should do,” said Thowfeek.

Fingerprint verification demands

After midnight last night the EC received letters from the PPM and JP demanding fingerprint verification of the voter registration forms.

“PPM wants fingerprint verification of 10 percent of reregistration forms, which is over 7000 forms,” said Thowfeek.

“It will take at least 20 days,” added EC Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “PPM also asked for rejected forms to be resubmitted. PPM said they will only sign list when these requests are attended to.”

“JP’s letter asked for verification of 5 percent of forms, which is over 3500 forms,” Thowfeek continued. “Each form has four people’s fingerprints, the voter, witnesses and the bearer’s fingerprint.”

“We asked if there are any suspicious forms submitted by specific people, so we can send those forms for verfication, but neither PPM or JP has provided a list like that,” he noted.

“This is not really practical at all, even the police only have fingerprints for some people, not everyone [eligible to vote],” Thowfeek added. “The Department of National Registration (DNR) says they don’t have the technical expertise, it’s not possible [to verify fingerprints].”

“This is going to take many days. We don’t have that many days. This is the last day to finish updating the forms [with candidate’s signatures], after that there is only one day to do everything, like sending personnel and materials.”

“It is an impossible demand they are making again,” lamented Thowfeek. “I don’t know why they don’t understand we don’t have time to do all these things [and adhere to the Supreme Court’s verdict].”

“We have not yet given a deadline. By giving a deadline it may make things more difficult,” he continued. “For example, if deadline of 12:00pm is given, and they don’t sign, then it may cause problems. The EC is willing to wait until last minute for signatures.”

“Up until today, we hoped Gasim and Yameen will cooperate with us. We have very little time. There is doubt if we can proceed without solving these problems,” stated Thowfeek.

“We urge [Qasim and Yameen] to sign the lists. The election is now in their hands.”

“We want to work until the last minute. We do not want to create a hopeless situation,” he declared.

Overseas vote and party responses

“Fortunately, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz gave his approval for us to send election officials and materials to Delhi, India this morning on the condition that the EC sign a letter stating we will not allow polling to take place without signatures of all the candidates,” explained Thowfeek. “Instead the EC will send a PDF copy of the approved registry.”

This afternoon the elections officials need to depart for evening flights to London and Singapore, Thowfeek continued. The EC may need to seek approval from Riyaz to send officials and materials to these locations under the same conditions.

“We have not yet come to a situation where we cannot hold an election. We hope now and we continue to hope that the election proceeds. We are just trying to reach the candidates and their representatives,” added Commissioner Manik.

The opposition MDP announced yesterday (October 17) that it had accepted the modified voter registry despite finding some minor irregularities contained within, to ensure the re-run of the annulled 2013 presidential election goes ahead as scheduled on Saturday (October 19).

Ghafoor accused both the PPM and JP of deliberately trying to avoid a vote without giving sufficient reasons for their reservations.

“The situation is ridiculous, they have run away from the vote,” he said.

After attempts to contact senior JP leadership, Minivan News was advised to call party Spokesman Ibrahim Khaleel whose phone was switched off at the time off press.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen told Minivan News this morning that the party still had not seen the amended voter registry, while questioning why the MDP had signed the list ahead of Saturday’s scheduled vote.

“I fail to understand the MDP’s readiness to sign the list before seeing the list,” he said today.

In a correspondence obtained by Minivan News that was sent by Yameen to Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek this morning, the PPM expressed concern that it not even seen or had the chance to verify the registry.

“Please allow us 72 hours to verify [the list] and please comply with our request to authenticate the sample specimens of thumb prints,” stated the message. Today, a PPM team will visit you and request to physically see the 71,000 re-registered forms.”


MDP will sign voter registry ahead of polling, rival parties undecided

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will accept the modified voter registry despite minor irregularities in order to ensure the re-run of the annulled 2013 presidential election goes ahead as scheduled on Saturday (October 19).

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of the presidential election held September 7, the Elections Commission (EC) had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll.

The Supreme Court ordered the EC to discard the commission’s voter registry and use the Department of National Registration’s (DNR) database to compile a new registry. In an additional midnight ruling on Thursday (October 11), the court ordered the EC to re-start the entire voter re-registration process.

Despite the expedited timeline, with a window of less than one day to re-register, more than 60,000 people submitted the new fingerprint forms to vote in the first round – just 5000 short of the 65,000 who re-registered ahead of the annulled September 7 poll.

The EC is still in the process of re-registering voters and has repeatedly extended the deadline for complaints with the newest deadline being 4:00 pm today.

The EC has said the final voter registry will be sent to political parties tonight and representatives will be given until sunrise on Friday to approve the registry.

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

In a statement released today, the MDP noted  a decrease of 395 names in the October 19 registry when compared to the September 7 list. The 7 September registry contained 239,593 names, while the October 19 registry contains 239,198 names.

The MDP highlighted 62 instances of repeated names and the addition of 789 new voters who had come of age. The party said the DNR had issued 2258 new identity cards, and when the new eligible voters are deducted from the number, there were 1469 people added to the voters list in “unclear circumstances.”

“Despite noting the aforementioned matters, since the margin of error (0.61%) is negligible and because the Constitution of the Maldives states that there must be an elected President on 11 November 2013, the MDP has decided to accept the list and go ahead with the Presidential Election scheduled to be held on 19 October 2013,” the statement read.

MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed – the frontrunner of the now defunct poll held on September 7 – warned that a failure to hold on election on October 19 and to swear in a democratically elected head of state by November 11 would invalidate the constitution.

“We believe the voter registry is correct and we are ready to vote with that list,” he stated.

Rival candidates representing the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) have meanwhile expressed concern about the accuracy of the new voter registry, despite accepting the need for an election to be held as soon as possible.

JP and PPM still concerned

The JP yesterday raised concerns about re-registration, with the party’s own representative on the EC Advisory Committee accusing the MDP of being able to access the commission’s servers and directly register its own candidates – compromising the system.

The party said it had filed a complaint with police over its allegations, demanding law enforcement officials address the concerns it had raised, according to local media.

Police have confirmed that an investigation was being conducted into allegations raised by the PPM and JP, though Police Spokesperson Chef Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.

JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi and spokesperson Moosa Ramiz were not responding to requests for information on the allegations at time of press.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan today said the party was committed to doing “everything possible” to ensure the re-run of the 2013 presidential election scheduled for Saturday (October 19) goes ahead.

He argued that the PPM nonetheless remained concerned over “lots of issues” that had arisen as a result of the short timeframe given to the EC to amend the eligible voter list.  He pointed to a system crash that occurred during registration on Sunday (October 13), said to have resulted from a large volume of data provided.

The technical issue, which had resulted in data having to be manually entered into the system for a two hour period, led to the EC accusing some supporters of the PPM and its coalition partners of obstructing its work during the day, with police criticised for failing to help remove protesters for at least five hours.

Nihan accused the EC of failing to correctly address issues of double voting and deceased and underage voters included in the registry ahead of the now defunct polls held September 7, but said that the EC had shown this week it did have the capacity to deal with alleged issues in the voter registry.

“If the election that is held next Saturday October 19 goes ahead, we believe the percentage of rigged votes would be far less,” he stressed.

However, Nihan said that with EC once again extending the deadline to receive complaints about the recomposed registry, a decision by the PPM on whether to proceed with Saturday’s polls would be held was expected in the next 24 hours.

Speaking at a PPM press conference yesterday (September 16), Mohamed Tholal, a party member on the EC’s advisory board questioned the capability of commission to address issues raised with re-registration this week leading to a number of deadline extensions.

“If the forms were not processed because of the seven hour delay, then they should be done by now” he said.

The PPM also accused the EC of rejecting some forms it had submitted without providing an opportunity to address issues.

Both the PPM and coalition party the Maldivan Development Alliance (MDA) meanwhile on Tuesday (September 15) questioned whether an election could go ahead as scheduled on Saturday due to a lack of time to finalise the list.

“I believe the security forces have to take action. If they do not abide by the Supreme Court [verdict’s] spirit to allow every citizen the right to vote, this issue must be looked into,” the MDA’s Ahmed Amir was quoted as saying in local media at the time.

Ali Ahmed Manik of the EC meanwhile said he hoped that the three candidates representing the MDP, PPM and JP in Saturday’s election would agree to sign the registry for polling to commence on schedule.

“We have already sent a list to all the candidates,” Manik was quoted as saying in local newspaper Haveeru. “Re-registration will be added to that. So they can check our list even now. We will be able to submit a final list when [re-registration] is completed. I think the presidential candidates will do this for us.”

Despite the allegations, Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has expressed confidence polling would go ahead as scheduled on Saturday, despite not everything being within the commission’s control.

“We are giving our maximum effort to reach the deadline. No rest, no sleep, two hours [maximum]. We were working 24 hours straight, then 36, now 48. Our officials are doing everything humanly possible. International observers are even surprised [at the intensive effort put forth],” said Thowfeek.


“No rest, no sleep” until deadline: EC Commissioner

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii

“We are very certain the election will be held as scheduled, but not everything is within our control,” Elections Commissioner (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek told a press conference tonight (October 16).

“We are giving our maximum effort to reach the deadline. No rest, no sleep, two hours [maximum]. We were working 24 hours straight, then 36, now 48. Our officials are doing everything humanly possible. International observers are even surprised [at the intensive effort put forth],” said Thowfeek.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Currently, the commission is primarily working on processing voter re-registration forms and entering the information into its database, Thowfeek explained.

With the commission not yet having completed the process, it has extended its complaints filing deadline to 2:ooam.

“We are receiving complaints and will correct the mistakes based on the voter re-registration forms,” said EC Commission Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “The problem is that a large number of people want to be registered to vote at different locations [other than their home islands].”

Whether the EC can finish processing the re-registration forms by its goal of tomorrow morning has not yet been confirmed.

Deadline looms

Thus far, 56,243 forms have been processed and the EC expects over 60,000 people to have re-registered – leaving approximately 10,000 forms remaining. After this process is finished, the commission hopes to begin printing the final voter registry tomorrow morning.

The EC has already provided political parties with the voter lists and will give them the finalized voter registry once it is completed.

“We hope the candidates will sign the voter registry, as responsible people. If they don’t then we will determine what to do at that point in time,” said Thowfeek. “We do not know what to say if they do not sign the registry. We don’t know whether the election can be held or not if that occurs.”

Meanwhile, the EC has completed printing the ballot papers – with candidate number two, President Mohamed Waheed having been removed – and is in the process of verifying and checking the ballots.

However, the commission cannot seal the ballots for transportation until after the voter registry has been finalised.

Additionally, all the elections officials have been selected and trained, however they cannot be sent to the polling station locations until the voter list is finalized, noted EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar.

The EC is aiming for officials to depart to polling station locations on the islands tomorrow.

“If elections officials do not leave for London tomorrow night, there will be no ballots in London,” said Manik.

“For example, it would be really strange if you were asked to build a 10 story building in 10 days and then hand over the keys, but such a thing we are doing,” he continued. “This is not something we have ever experienced, we apologise for everything.”

“Last time we formed a timetable and followed it, but now we have minimal time, so we are trying to finish things as fast as we can,” he noted. “We are doing everything as per the Supreme Court guidelines.

“We need to consider the ongoing Cambridge O’Level examinations – that is also why we will hold the election Saturday,” he continued.

Ongoing challenges

The EC noted that the holiday period had made their task even more difficult.

“Some temporary officials took leave for Hajj and Eid, however we cannot hire new staff because it each person requires two hours of training,” said Thowfeek.

“The government is giving a lot of assistance, which is the only reason the EC can keep going,” he noted. “We are working around the clock to hold the election on October 19.”

The Department of National Registration (DNR) provided the EC with the details of their database, however they have since amended some of the information and still need to provide their updated registry to the commission, explained Manik. We are still talking with the DNR to resolve the issue.

He also noted that the EC is working with the DNR to verify individuals’ records and address complaints the commission has received.

“For example, according to the DNR, Moomina Haleem [the country’s first female cabinet minister] is deceased, however we met with her and determined it was actually her husband that died. So we have to make sure people like Moomina Haleem do not lose their right to vote, explained Thowfeek.

“Now an individual can only cast their vote if all their personal information is correct [in accordance with the DNR’s database,” he noted.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We are following the Supreme Court guidelines; we are doing everything as they’ve said,” Thowfeek emphasised. “We will take action against those who conduct fraud.”

“By the will of Allah we will do everything we can to hold the election on October 19,” he added.


Deceased people in voter database result of difficulties obtaining information: Department of National Registration

The Maldives’ Department of National Registration (DNR) has said there is a possibility names of deceased people could be included in the electoral register as it “faces difficulties in obtaining information” to maintain a more current database.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We have removed the names of deceased people from our database whose information hasbeen shared. But we cannot remove a person from the database if we can’t officially confirm their deaths,” DNR Director Fareeda Yoosuf told Haveeru.

For the annulled first round as well as past elections, the EC compiled its voter registry by collecting current data from island council and city council offices, which was cross checked with the DNR database, and then updated after the commission publicly published the list and provided voters with an opportunity to amend any incorrect information.

“It has been very hard work over the last five years to come up with a voter registry of this standard,” Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News in a previous interview.

Meanwhile, the EC emphasised today that it has not made any changes to the information obtained from the DNR database when compiling the voter register for the presidential election scheduled for Saturday, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s order.

The commission will forward all complaints regarding the voter registry to the DNR, local media reported.

Complaints submitted thus far have primarily focused on the delayed re-registration process, according to local media. Other recurring issues are due to individuals being registered to vote under incorrect addresses or in the wrong location altogether.

The commission accepted complaints submissions until 6pm today. Additionally, as of this afternoon, the EC had processed over 52,000 – of the estimated 65,000 – re-registration forms for individuals voting outside of their permanent residences.

The entire re-registration process, including the complaints procedure, was delayed after supporters of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) “threatened officials, incited discord, and obstructed EC officials’ ability to work” at the voter registration department.

The commission 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.


Voters, monitors, media banned from taking phones, cameras, files into polling area as per Supreme Court guidelines, advises EC

All eligible voters who wish to vote on Oct 19 somewhere other than their permanent address must re-register using the new fingerprint forms.

Voter re-registration will close at 4:30pm today. Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, diplomatic missions and at www.elections.gov.mv. In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration status online, or by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, or call the hotline on the same number.

Voting will begin at 7:30am on Saturday, October 19 and polls will be closed at 4:00pm, the Elections Commission (EC) announced at a press conference last night. Those in the queue at 4:00pm will be allowed to vote, said EC Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.

Two ballot boxes will be placed in Sri Lanka and one each in India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The previous requirement for more than 100 voters to register for a ballot box to be kept overseas would not be enforced this time, Thowfeek said, adding that ballot boxes would be placed in resorts and industrial islands whether or not the registration exceeds 50 persons.

The re-registration deadline for persons voting outside their home islands is 4:30pm today, after the Supreme Court ordered the EC to restart the registration process in line with the court’s guidelines.

Thowfeek explained that while forms submitted on October 9-10 with fingerprints in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines would be valid, re-registration forms processed before the annulled September 7 presidential election as well as for the postponed second round scheduled for September 28 would be invalid.

Among the 16-point guidelines imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court judgment annulling the first round of the presidential polls was a requirement to include fingerprints of persons submitting re-registration forms as well as the fingerprints of two witnesses, if the form was submitted by a third party.

“Registration by forms submitted in September have been invalidated now. So until registered, a person’s name will be under his or her permanent address [on the voter registry]. Until a person registers elsewhere they have to vote in the place of the permanent address,” Thowfeek said.

“We do accept that this is a very short period we are offering to citizens. But as you know, because of the Supreme Court verdict we cannot provide a long period for any process. The verdict states that the first round of the presidential election must be held before the 20th of this month.”

In line with the Supreme Court guidelines, Thowfeek said voters would not be allowed to take phones, handbags or any other item into the polling station, advising voters to keep phones at home.

“The Elections Commission and relevant authorities should make it illegal for any person (including officials) who enters the polling station to carry phones, handbags, files or any item (excluding pens) that could be considered to infringe upon the rights of candidates and ensure that no such action takes place,” reads point 10 of the Supreme Court guidelines.

To abide by the guideline, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik revealed that media monitors would not be allowed to bring cameras or phones into the polling station.

“We sincerely apologise to you for this because in the past monitors took cameras and phones but we have to abide by the [Supreme Court] judgment,” he said.

The EC was given legal advice recommending that “any persons” stated in the guideline included media monitors as well, Manik said.

As elections officials would not be allowed to carry phones either, Manik said a communications official would be stationed outside each polling place.

In addition to a communications official, a second official would be added to supervise the handing out of tokens.

Asked if the EC could provide assurances that the voter registry would not include underaged citizens or the deceased, Thowfeek explained that in line with the Supreme Court judgment, the main source of the registry would be the database at the Department of National Registration (DNR).

“The department is tasked with maintaining [records] of births and deaths. So if they are maintaining the list correctly, I believe it shouldn’t include the names of any deceased,” he said.

In the past, Thowfeek said, the EC sought lists from the DNR and island councils, which were cross-checked to compile the voter registry.

The DNR has provided regular access to its database as well as identity card (ID) photos for the EC, Thowfeek said, adding that the ID card photos would be used along with the voter lists at polling stations.

Regarding the recent resignation of EC member Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed, Thowfeek said Waheed informed the commission that he was advised to resign by doctors as it was “not advisable to work in a stressful environment” due to his health.


First round of new presidential election scheduled for October 19, with one day for re-registration

Additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer

First-time voters, or eligible voters who wish to vote on Oct 19 somewhere other than their currently-registered location, must re-register.

Voter re-registration is open from 6:00pm-12:00am Wednesday Oct 9, and 9:00am-12:00am Thursday Oct 10. Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, diplomatic missions and at www.elections.gov.mv. In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, or call the hotline on the same number.

With the Elections Commission (EC) rapidly preparing to re-hold the presidential election’s first round October 19 in accordance with the timetable established by the Supreme Court verdict, Maldivians will have only 15 hours for re-registration.

The Supreme Court late Monday night (October 7) annulled the first round of the Maldives presidential election in a 4:3 decision. Citing a secret police report on alleged electoral irregularities, the court ordered fresh elections by October 20 with enhanced police and government involvement.

The Supreme Court verdict was issued despite unanimous positive assessment of the polling by more than a thousand local and international election observers, while the police report on which it was supposedly based has not been made public and was not shown to the EC’s defence lawyers.

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the EC has decided to hold the presidential election on October 19, the commission announced yesterday.

“The commission is concerned and regrets the inconvenience that people might have to face because the election is close to the Eid holidays,” the EC noted.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing to shut down from October 11 until October 19 for the Eid al-Adha holidays.

In order to have the elections in the duration given by the Supreme Court, the EC can provide only one day for re-registration, said the commission.

The EC has appealed to all citizens who wish to re-register to do it as soon as the re-registration process is opened, which the commission announced would begin this evening.

Maldivians can re-register to vote from 6:00pm to 12:00am today and 9:00am to 6:00pm tomorrow, EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told local media.

Individuals who do not re-register during the allotted period will remain registered to vote in the location finalised in the second round’s voter registration list, said Sattar.

The EC will be accepting grievances and complaints, however they will not be able to provide a specific window of time to do so, he noted.

According to normal procedure the EC is legally required to provide a time-frame for complaints to be lodged prior to the re-registration process, however the commission’s dates are restricted due to the Supreme Court’s verdict, he added.

Re-registration is necessary for those intending to vote at a polling station other than that listed with the Elections Commission, such as a worker based on a resort island or student in Male. Similarly, Maldivians residing abroad are also required to re-register in order to vote in the country of residence.

Presidential candidates

Presidential candidates who ran in the first round of polling September 7 will not be asked to re-file their candidacy and no new candidates will be allowed to compete in the election,  the EC Secretary General told local media.

Since presidential hopefuls cannot withdraw their candidacy, the order candidates will appear on the ballot paper will remain the same for the re-running of the first round.

“The candidates cannot withdraw their names once they are arranged [for the ballot paper],” said Sattar.

President Mohamed Waheed, who received 5.13 percent of votes in the September 7 election, has made no indication of a decision to change his participation in the re-run, Sattar noted. If President Waheed decides to recall his candidacy, the commission will make a decision after consulting with its legal department.

Waheed’s vice presidential running mate, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, announced yesterday (October 8 ) that he intends to maintain his new alliance with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) going into the re-scheduled presidential elections.

Thasmeen and his DRP announced their decision to support former President Mohamed Nasheed in the run-off, previously scheduled for September 28, days after Waheed received just five percent of the popular vote.

Repeat first round presidential candidates – in order of their ballot placement – are Gasim Ibrahim, Incumbent President Mohamed Waheed, Abdulla Yameen, and former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Election funds

The Finance Ministry had agreed to provide MVR 30 million (US$1,939,230) to hold the election, EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told local media.

The commission’s calculations show that it will cost MVR 30 million (US$1,939,230) to print ballot papers, pay the officials and cover other costs, said Sattar.

The Finance Ministry had also agreed to provide MVR 27 million (US$1,747,575) for a second round runoff, if necessary.

The ministry will provide funds for the election as legally mandated, but some state-funded programs will have to be sacrificed to do so, Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad said yesterday.


EC providing 473 ballot boxes for 239,868 eligible voters during presidential election runoff

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced 275 new eligible voters will be added to the registry and 4 additional ballot boxes will be needed for the presidential election’s second round runoff scheduled for Saturday (September 28), reports local media.

The addition of newly turned 18 year-old voters and the subtraction of individuals who the EC has confirmed recently died has brought the total number of registered voters nationwide to 239,868.

Additionally, three ballot boxes will be placed on resort islands in the Maldives, while a ballot box will also be stationed in Medina, near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia for Maldivian Hajj pilgrims, EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told local media. However, a ballot box will not be available on Lily Beach Resort, as it was during the first round of polling.

Thus, ballot boxes stationed in the Maldives and in various locations worldwide will total 473.

During the presidential election’s first round, held on September 7, 470 ballot boxes were needed to accommodate 239,593 eligible voters. Ultimately voter turnout totalled 88.44 percent, with 211,890 people having cast ballots.


Q&A: Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek

The Maldives’ Elections Commission (EC) is preparing for the presidential election’s second round run-off amidst the Jumhooree coalition’s refusal to accept its first round defeat, triggering a barrage of judicial, political, media and civil society actions against the commission.

The Jumhooree Party (JP) – in conjunction with the Attorney General (AG) and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – has led a Supreme Court case to annul the election, whilst the party’s High Court case against the commission was conducted in tandem. In response to the JP’s vote fraud claims the police barricaded the EC secretariat and searched its garbage, while multiple protests and threats have targeted  the commission and its members and local media has broadcast unsubstantiated information about the commission and electoral process.

The EC has emphatically dismissed allegations of vote rigging as “baseless and unfounded”, highlighting its transparency and extensive preparations – conducted with international support – to ensure a free and fair polling process. International election observers have unanimously commended the first round of polling, calling for losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled.

With the September 28 run-off less than a week away, Minivan News discusses some of the challenges faced by the commission with Fuwad Thowfeek, Chairperson of the country’s first independent Elections Commission (EC).

Supreme Court case

Leah R Malone: Considering the politicised nature of the Supreme Court – as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul – is there a risk the Supreme Court’s order to hand over the EC’s only original copy of the voter list could lead to it being tampered with? Specifically, given the lack of material evidence or witnesses presented against the EC thus far, is there a potential opportunity for names to be added to the original voter list to substantiate the JP’s claims?

Fuwad Thowfeek: Thursday (September 19) the Supreme Court ordered the Elections Commission provide the original voter list, so we’ve been making color copies. EC members sat down and discussed [the situation], the constitution and presidential election laws, as well as met with our legal team. Since it’s a Supreme Court case they can order anything be given, so it’s best to follow that order [and provide the list].

However our legal team advised us to take very accurate color copies of each page before sending the originals. We are keeping the duplicates and in case any changes are made [to the originals] we will very easily be able to recognise them. It is the best solution we have at the moment.

As of about 3:45pm or 4:00pm Friday (September 20) we sent 120 lists to the Supreme Court. 200 will be sent Saturday and the day after the remaining lists. We are sending the original documents as the copies are being made.

LRM: If the Supreme Court rules to annul the presidential election’s first round, what will the Elections Commission do?

FT: That’s a big question because according to the constitution and even elections law there is nothing said [about whether the Supreme Court can take that action]. We have to ask the Supreme Court to give a timetable or something [for the presidential election]. Other than that there’s nothing we can do.

We won’t be able to fulfill the time requirement set forth in the constitution [if the run-off isn’t held on schedule]. 120 days before the end of the current president’s term a presidential election must be held. If there is no election then the [democratic] constitution, presidential and general election law will not be satisfied.

The strangest, funniest thing is that they are still not able to identify a single person who has voted fraudulently. For example, they have not been able to show anyone who is younger than 18 has voted, but they have been claiming many underage people fraudulently voted. If there are many [that voted fraudulently] they should be able to verify and show at least one person. They are also claiming that dead people voted, and when they submitted the list of seven names to the High Court, the court gave us the list to check. So we reviewed the voter registry and voter list, found phone numbers on record for four people and when we spoke with them, the individuals verified they were indeed alive and had voted. We are sure we will be able to find the remaining three people.

The other thing is if a dead person voted, someone should be able to show that this is the person who voted under the deceased’s name. Also, the JP is claiming 50,000 fraudulent votes have been added. The strangest thing is none of these ballots have been identified. No ballot boxes were found to have more votes cast than voters registered. Only one ballot box – located on a resort island – was found to have exactly 100 percent voter turnout. The average voter turnout was 88.44 percent nationwide.

LRM: Has Attorney General Azima Shukoor been in contact with the Elections Commission?

FT: That was another surprise to us actually. She has not been in contact with us and then suddenly appeared in the Supreme Court case. The funniest thing is the AG is supposed to support government institutions, but in this case the AG is speaking against the EC. She is supporting JP without evidence or witnesses, just saying there were errors in the voters list, but is not able to cite what those specific errors are because she has not seen [or requested to see] the list.

When I heard the AG was going to participate in the Supreme Court case, I thought it would be on behalf of the EC and she would tell the court [the vote rigging allegations are] simply not possible and the court cannot give any room to cancel the first round and re-hold it. [However,] when the AG came out and spoke against the EC – just like any political party supporter of JP – we released a press statement stating that the commission regrets this action by the AG. Both the AG and the JP have not provided any evidence or witnesses to support their allegations.

The government has spent over MVR 30 million (US $1,949,310) on the first round, there is no budget remaining [to hold both rounds again]. If it’s difficult for the government to provide the additional budget for the second round, there will be so many difficulties if the [results are annulled and] voting rounds are held again.

[Prior to the Supreme Court case] we hadn’t had much contact with the office of the AG or the AG. Last year after the change of government, in March or April, the EC met with the AG and spoke about changes that were required in the election laws, but nothing has materialised so far. She told us at the time that there were so many laws requiring revision.

Before the end of the last Supreme Court session, the Chief Justice ordered the EC to submit the original copy of the voters’ list. They are probably going to check the list to see whether people below the age of 18 voted. If they want to check for that, it’s fine. We are 100 percent sure they will not find anyone below 18 who voted.

Accessing the voter list

LRM: Following the High Court order for the EC to allow JP access to the voter list – under the guidelines determined by the commission – what were the exact protocol guidelines the EC enacted during the JP representative’s visit? What other political party representatives were present?

FT: Tuesday (September 17) the High Court ordered the EC to show the voter list to political parties. We have only one original [copy of the voters list] and had to make arrangements to follow the High Court’s order to show JP [the list], so we made the arrangements for Thursday (September 19).

This was because the EC needed time to prepare, seek advice from our legal team, and to hold a discussion meeting with our members. At the same time, arrangements for other candidates to see the voter list were also made. We invited all four political parties to send representatives to see the original voter list.

The viewing started at 10:00am. A team from JP came and GIP, but no PPM – even in court they said they did not want to see the voter list. An MDP representative came, but he said he did not want to see it.

We asked the other two – representatives from JP and GIP – what they wanted to see. Then again they wanted more people [from their parties] to come and for the EC to make copies [of the list for them]. But we couldn’t make that arrangement because we have to be very careful with our only copy [of the list], so our own official would show it to one representative at a time. There were arguments from the political party representatives [about these guidelines].

[However,] the lawyer, Dr Hassan Saeed [JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s running mate and head of JP’s legal team] said that now he does not need to look at the voter list anymore because he would prefer for the EC to hand it over to the Supreme Court.

(JP’s Legal Advisor Mohamed Haleem told Minivan News last week that the party would seek an additional High Court order for unrestricted access to the voter list).

LRM: With the ‘leaked’ police intelligence report – which the AG is citing in the Supreme Court – alleging there were “some opportunities for fraud” and “illegal voting”, the AG arguing for the Supreme Court to order the police to investigate the EC, and the police barricading and searching the EC’s garbage, do you think the police are politicised and acting against the EC?

FT: I don’t think anything will happen. I heard the AG demanded the PG issue an order to the police to investigate some of these allegations, but so far the commission has not been contacted by the police or the PG. But we don’t know anything about this. The AG should have met and spoke with the EC before making such a decision and then advising another institution [to take action].

LRM: What has been the outcome of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC)’s investigation into Villa TV (VTV) broadcasting programmes to incite hatred and create an uprising against the EC? Have any substantive actions been taken by MBC against VTV?

FT: We don’t know about the [outcome of the] MBC investigation. They said they will be taking actions against those broadcasting untruthful content. We know that VTV has stopped broadcasting the ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ (‘fraud in the name of the vote’) programme. But for a very long time they have been showing ‘Fasmanzaru’ (‘five horizons’), where various JP political party members or supporters just talk against the EC or against the election’s first round. Although what they have to say has no substance.

Saturday or Sunday we have to send a complaint letter to MBC. Again I have called MBC’s President Mohamed Shahyb and by phone have spoken to him about ‘Fasmanzaru’ [and the unsubstantiated claims its spreading].

LRM: How will the EC provide more timely information to media during the second round run-off to avoid the confusion created by inaccurate local media reports of polling station figures during the first round?

FT: We have not yet decided. I think we need more frequent refreshing of figures and will try to have more frequent reports from the EC on the 28th. If everything does not go well it may be difficult… we may not be able to go to the Dharubaaruge [convention centre in Male’]. We will try to have better updates through the internet, but will be focusing on communicating directly with the media.

Threats and protests

LRM: The ‘National Movement’ has announced they will raise their voices in protest if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule against the EC. They are calling for the EC to be reformed – with yourself, the Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz, and commission member Ali Mohamed Manik resigning. Have previous JP protests and planned National Movement protests caused any problems for the EC? Why are they targeting the three of you?

FT: Even JP supporters – except the 20 or 30 people shouting on the streets – have accepted the first round results and are not causing any problems.

Thursday night around 10:30pm 20 or 30 protesters came near the EC Secretariat, shouted for 30 minutes and left. They were demanding my resignation and saying ‘thief of votes’ and that type of thing, they wanted the [first round] results cancelled and a fresh election to be held. Sometimes they ask for myself and the Vice Chair to resign, sometimes different EC members, and sometimes the entire commission.

These are a few unsatisfied people paid by somebody – who has the money – but they know they’re not shouting for any solid thing. They get on a loudspeaker [and protest] after somebody asks or pays them – they are doing it for that reason alone, not based on anything reasonable. If it was a public thing then I’d be more concerned. But this is just a few people and most are not educated. They don’t know what’s going on [with the election] or how the voting process works.

There are five members of the EC and all decisions are made by the five members. [However,] the Vice Chair Fayaz, member Manik, and I are the three members interacting the most with the public, on TV etc  – that’s why they are going against us.

LRM: What kind of threats have been made against EC members and/or staff?

FT: Some of us are getting threats from unknown people. I have received SMS messages saying ‘be careful when you come out on the street, you’ll be stabbed in the stomach’. We [commission members] have security provided by the police and we move around with them.

My wife has been scared. Two times people went near our home shouting [and protesting], but the police protected our home and stopped the people from coming too near.

LRM: Do you think the MPS can provide adequate security for EC members?

FT: Yes, the MPS is fully capable. I’m sure nobody can harm me. They have to look at a distance but can’t touch me. Of that I’m fully confident, I’m not scared. I’m confidant know what I’m doing is right and I have the support of the people and the whole international community – observers and monitors. They’ve seen the electoral process [during the first round], which they have commended, praised, and complemented. I’m very happy and am moving ahead with my duties. My work cannot be stopped by a few people. I have full confidence in myself and am moving ahead.

LRM: The JP, some of their supporters, and the National Movement have claimed the EC, its members and staff are biased toward MDP – will you clarify for the public whether there is any truth in this accusation?

FT: There’s no truth to that, it’s some kind of story that some of the opponents wanted to spread. This commission, all its members and staff, do not belong to any political party or align with any political party.

We have staff who are married to people from different political parties – PPM, MDP, DRP, etc – and police officers. Staff members’ spouses may belong to a political party, but that is their own interest and has nothing to do with the duties of our staff. I have full confidence in our staff, they are very faithful to their duties and this commission and would not do anything unjust. I’m confident in my staff and that none are aligned with the MDP.

If they [a particular politician or political party] don’t get the result they want from a particular institution, they tend to claim that institution is opposition-aligned. The MDP got the best result [Nasheed secured 45.45 percent of the vote], so this time the EC is accused of being MDP aligned. If Yameen won then the EC would be accused of being PPM aligned.

In another instance, right after the change of government [in February 2012] some said the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) was PPM aligned, because most of the decisions made were more likely to the advantage of PPM. That’s just the kind of talk that happens.

Run-off preparations

LRM: What kind of support are local and international partners providing the EC for the second round? Is anything additional needed prior to the run-off scheduled for the 28th?

FT: We are getting a lot of support from international and local partners. The Commonwealth has expressed their satisfaction with the EC’s professionalism and their continued support for the commission. They will be sending another observer team for the run-off. The EU sent different observer teams – from various countries – on the 7th and will most likely send more for the 28th. Observers from Japan, Thailand, India, UK, US, and a Pakistani Elections Commissioner were present during the first round and expressed their interest in observing the second round. They will most likely send more teams for the run-off. I think they will come before the 28th to see the place, visit other islands, and see how ready we are for the second round.

Transparency Maldives sent the observers nationwide and their report praised the electoral process. The HRCM also observed the first round and praised us on our work and confirmed everything during the election went well. The Maldivian Democracy Network also expressed their support and commended the work the EC has done.

LRM: How have EC members, staff, and their families been impacted by the controversy the commission has faced since the first round? How has this impacted run-off election preparations?

FT: Right now there is very heavy work we have left to do before the 28th. We are so busy we are working 24 hours a day and the EC staff works in shifts, half are sent home to sleep when the other half report in.

For example, in addition to the 470 ballot boxes necessary for the first round, the second round will require an additional box be placed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and two more on tourist resorts that have applied to keep ballot boxes this round.

Everyone of us has to spend so much time in the office. We go early in the morning and stay until late at night, even on weekends, while our families are alone at home. Our families suffer, but they fully support us so we can fulfill our national duty.

It’s a very difficult job but I’m lucky to have the confidence of the people and [political party] leaders – even Gasim’s close people, President Waheed and President Nasheed know me well, and the honorable Yameen and Gayoom know and trust me. Even those who speak against me only speak for political gain or just to control their supporters.

I know what I’m doing is right and everything will be fine for elections to take place the 28th. We are fully ready for the second round. If we are able to hold on until the 28th then we will know the next president of the country.

LRM: Given the barrage of judicial, political, media and civil society actions against the EC, is the electoral environment still conducive to holding a free and fair presidential election on September 28?

FT: I think on the 28th of September the second round will go ahead as we have planned and have been working toward. There has been very little or no change [in the electoral environment] that would require we make any changes to our own program. Compared to last week, this week things have very much improved. I’m very confident things will calm down.

I’ve spoken to different people [representing political parties] and the most interesting thing is even those against us in the Supreme Court, they know there was nothing wrong with the election. Gasim’s employees, senior political party members, are trying to just give him a perspective that they did so much to cover up their failure to get Gasim the required number of votes [to proceed to the run-off]. They know the cases submitted in the High Court and Supreme Court are not going to give them any recount. Nothing will come out in their favour. They just want to go as far as they can go.

A lot of energy has been wasted by everyone – their people, our people, the Supreme Court.

I’m very hopeful the country will be ready for the run-off. We cannot keep this second round [from happening on schedule]. Particularly for the benefit of the country, to maintain the peace and harmony of our home [nation], we have to hold the second round.

If we fail, we will likely face more and more problems as the time passes. It will be in the interest of the government, all political parties, and all thoughtful citizens of the country to hold the run-off. Anybody trying to obstruct the election is unpatriotic.


Elections Commission rejects PPM’s calls for “lenient” voter registration

The Elections Commission (EC) has denied receiving any formal complaints over its capability to ensure a fair election in September this year, after rejecting requests by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) to make voter registration more “lenient”.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News no “official complaints” had been filed with the commission over its ability to capably oversee the upcoming presidential election, despite the PPM alleging in local media that it was incapable of ensuring a fair vote.

Thowfeek said the PPM have previously requested the EC not to reject voter registration forms missing details such as the name of a voter’s parents or a phone number, that could not be verified during random checks.

PPM Council member and Youth Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef was quoted in newspaper Haveeru this week calling for “major reforms” to the commission, which he alleged lacked the capacity to oversee fair voting.

The government-aligned party reportedly alleged that concerns over the false registration of voters in previous elections and discrepancies between the previously gazetted registry and the documents used by the EC itself on polling day had not been addressed.  The claims were dismissed by the EC today.

Shareef’s concerns included fears about the false registration of voters, as well as allegations of discrepancies between the gazetted registry and the final document used by the EC on voting day. Unspecified issues were also raised about how national identity cards were being used.

Minister Shareef and PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Nihan were not responding to calls at time of press, while the party’s vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was travelling and unable to answer queries on the allegations.

PPM meeting

While aware of Minister Shareef’s allegation in local media, EC President Thowfeek said he held a meeting with PPM representatives on Sunday and that no formal complaints had been been raised by the party over the EC’s competency.

He added that Shareef was among five PPM members who met with the EC during an hour and a half discussion over its work “safeguarding” the voter registry.

Thowfeek claimed that as with other parties fielding candidates for this year’s voting, the EC discussed measures it had taken to improve prevention measures for voter registry fraud, while also trying to deal with key errors that had arisen since the country’s first multi-party election in 2008.

“We have worked to rectify these mistakes and in the last council elections there were hardly any complaints raised with us by political parties,” he said. “More than that, we have worked hard this year to get the registry up to date.”

According to Thowfeek, the EC has also run campaigns on state media requesting the public update their details to ensure voters and their families were correctly registered ahead of voting.

“I can assure everyone that we are using the best system available right now,” he said. ” Even if someone is to die [in the lead up to voting], their name cannot now be changed from the list of registered voters that has [been published in the government gazette], but it will still be a very accurate voter registration.”

Thowfeek said the PPM during the meeting had requested more “lenience” in voter registration.

He said that aside from requesting for an extension to the August 7 deadline for voters to re-register if they wished to cast their ballot somewhere other than their home island, the PPM had also requested that the EC accept applications that failed to include details such as the name of a voter’s mother or father, or a phone number that could not be verified.

Thowfeek said the commission was unable to oblige the party’s requests as random verification of phone numbers and names of parents were a central part of efforts to combat potential voter fraud.

“The phone number and the mother and father’s name have to be correct on any application or we cannot accept it,” he said. “The name of a voter’s parents are not included on the ID card and are important to ensure that if an ID is stolen, it cannot be used to register a voter incorrectly.”

With the PPM reportedly requesting an inquiry by parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee, rival election candidates such as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ today claimed the EC did have the capability and staff to oversee fair polling.

The president’s coalition presently consists of his own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) and the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Coalition view

Coalition Spokesperson Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said despite having some concerns over the EC’s ability to deal with complaints regarding campaigning and alleged bullying of candidates, the coalition had few issues with the commission’s capability to ensure voting was fair.

“The only concern we have raised [with the EC], is that when complaints are registered concerning treatment of candidates while campaigning, we have not seen these complaints attended to,” he said.

Nafiz told Minivan News that during several recent key votes such as the local council elections, he had been aware of formal complaints being sent to the EC about the behaviour of rival supporters when out campaigning.

In the build up to this year’s election, he added that both President Waheed, his running mate DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and their spouses had been subject to “disturbing” behaviour from supporters of rival parties.

Nafiz said complaints had been officially registered with the EC over rival supporters heckling them with derogatory remarks as they tried to campaign.

“I was myself recently with the president as he went to get 1,500 signatures door-to-door in Male’ [to support his successful attempt to register as an independent presidential candidate],” he said. “I personally witnessed people passing on vehicles and shouting abuse such has ‘baaghee (traitor) Waheed’ at the president. These concerns have been raised with the EC.”

Nafiz said he had hoped that the EC would respond to this behaviour by making an announcement calling for the public and supporters of parties to refrain from such acts, or even reviewing legal options to prevent future incidents.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and Jumhoree Party (JP) Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz were not responding to calls at time of press.