Over 1,500 complaints lodged over voters list

More than 1,500 complaints have been filed at the Elections Commission (EC) concerning the eligible voters registry for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

According to the EC, the Progressive Party of Maldives submitted 1,385 complaints while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party made 66 complaints.

A further 120 complaints were lodged by individuals, the EC said.


National Complaints Bureau investigating 181 complaints concerning council elections

A total of 181 complaints were submitted to the independent National Complaints Bureau concerning yesterday’s local council elections.

Bureau Chief Ali Azim informed the press yesterday that none of the issues raised could have a material effect on the outcome of any local council contest.

“Of the 181 complaints submitted so far, we have not identified any that could impact the outcome. But we are looking into it,” he said.

The most common complaint concerned the Elections Commission’s (EC’s) decision to display national identity card photos in the voter lists placed outside polling stations, Azim said.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told reporters yesterday that photos were included in the voter lists as a safeguard to prevent fraud.

In addition to a number of phoned in complaints, two women submitted complaints in cases where ID card photos were taken before they wore face veils, said EC member Ali Mohamed Manik.

Following complaints from women who wear the hijab, Azim said the complaints bureau brought the matter to the attention of EC members and “informed [polling stations] to cover with a piece of paper the photos of people who insist on taking it down.”

The decision to display photos also drew criticism from some religious scholars, with NGO Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem calling to punish those responsible.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla contended that the practice was contrary to Islamic principles and infringed on the rights of veiled women.

Meanwhile, Azim revealed that complaints submitted through official complaint forms included 78 cases of voters registered for the wrong ballot box, one case of a voter’s name missing from the list, three cases of alleged illegal campaigning, six cases of ballot boxes transferred to a different location, three cases concerning assisted voting, two complaints concerning inmates, one case of a voter displaying a marked ballot paper, and seven complaints about the EC.

Phoned in complaints included 27 complaints concerning voter registration issues, two complaints from voters registered for the wrong ballot box, 11 complaints of deceased citizens in the voters list, one complaint of gender mismatch, three complaints of illegal campaigning, three requests to transfer ballot boxes, two complaints about the EC and 28 complaints about displaying identity card photos.

In addition, a complaint was made alleging that two pens with fading ink were used in a polling booth.

“Concerning that complaint, we have seized the two pens through the Maldives Police Service. We are considering verifying through forensic investigators in the country or abroad,” Azim said.

According to the police, three men aged 38, 42, and 48 were taken into custody in Addu City for allegedly displaying their marked ballot papers. All three have since been released.

Two men from Faafu Nilandhoo were also briefly taken into custody after attempting to prevent the closing of the ballot box.


MDP suspects electoral fraud in presidential election, says Nasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suspects electoral fraud using fake national identity cards in last year’s presidential election, former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

Speaking to reporters after voting in today’s local council election, Nasheed referred to the Elections Commission (EC) including ID card photos in voter lists used at polling stations.

“We now have photos of all eligible voters. [But] we can see people without photos in the eligible voters list. We suspect very strongly that those without photos are non-existent people. However, they voted in the presidential election,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed explained that all candidates were sent the marked voters registry after the election, which identifies those who voted.

“So we are very certain now that there was serious fraud in the presidential election,” he said, adding that there were discrepancies between the voter registry used in the presidential election and the one used today.

Nasheed said he believes that non-existent people were added to the database at the Department of National Registration (DNR) as part of “efforts to rig the election through the Supreme Court.”

On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round of the presidential election on September 7 based on a secret police forensic report despite international and domestic praise of a free and fair vote.

Subsequent attempts to conduct the polls were obstructed by the police after the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) refused to sign the voters registry – a requirement from a 16-point guideline imposed by the apex court judgment.

Nasheed was narrowly defeated by PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen in the second round of the presidential election that eventually took place on November 16.

Yameen received 51.39 percent of the vote (111,203) whilst Nasheed polled 48.61 percent (105,181) – a difference of just 6,022 votes.

Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round.

Nasheed meanwhile told the press today that discussions were taking place within the MDP on a course of action concerning the suspected electoral fraud.

“I believe we have to go to court, too. We have to raise our voices about this. We have to clearly find out what happened with this vote. We always suspected there was fraud committed through the Supreme Court. Now, God willing, we will be able to confirm with this information,” the MDP presidential candidate said.

He added that the party could not accept the results of the presidential election if allegations of fraud were substantiated.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee on Thursday (January 16) that the first list with ID card photos provided by the DNR was missing photos of more than 5,400 people.

However, the DNR provided photos of about 4,000 voters two weeks ago, Thowfeek told MPs, which left the final voter lists without the photos of 1,176 people.

Asked if photos could have been repeated in the DNR list, Thowfeek said the EC could not check and verify the information.

Speaking to press following the closing of polls today, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik addressed the allegations of phantom voters on the DNR list.

Manik said he personally did not believe that the DNR “as the institution responsible maintaining information of all Maldivian citizens” would provide fraudulent lists to the EC.

He added that the EC has not attempted to verify the authenticity of the photos provided by the DNR.

Thowfeek noted that the commission was legally responsible for compiling the eligible voters registry prior to the annulled presidential polls on September 7 last year.

However, the Supreme Court ordered the EC to consider the DNR list as the only source in compiling the registry, Thowfeek explained.

He added that the EC was forced to consider the DNR list as legitimate despite errors, such as citizens deemed deceased while alive.

“So it has become difficult for us to say anything about the validity of the list,” he said.


Voter lists put up at polling stations with ID card photos

Voter lists for today’s council elections have been placed at polling stations for the first time with national identity card photos, prompting complaints from women with face veils.

Speaking at an Elections Commission (EC) press conference this afternoon, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said photos were included in the eligible voters registry placed outside each polling station as a safeguard to prevent fraud.

“Even though this is something new that we introduced, in most countries, photos of voters are included in the voters list,” Thowfeek said.

Photos of all eligible voters were provided by the Department of National Registration (DNR) from its identity card database with the exception of 1,170 photos, Thowfeek said.

The voters list used in previous elections only included name, address, ID card number and date of birth.

EC member Ali Mohamed Manik said the EC decided to make the lists with ID card photos in the interest of ensuring transparency.

“There are a lot of foreigners living in the country. As there could be a chance for foreigners to vote using ID cards, this was done to prevent that and facilitate the right to vote for Maldivians,” he said.

Manik said the commission has officially received two complaints so far from women in cases where the ID card photos were taken before they wore face veils.

The official in charge of the Elections Complaints Bureau noted that a number of women who wear the hijab were also phoning in complaints about their photos being made public.

“Concerning these complaints, we brought it to the attention of the commission’s members and informed [polling stations] to cover with a piece of paper the photos of people who insist on taking it down,” he said.

He added that voters had an “individual responsibility” to update photos at the DNR after wearing the hijab.

Local media outlet CNM has meanwhile reported that some religious scholars have objected to the photos of women with face veils made public by the EC.

NGO Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem told the news website that making the photos public was demeaning to the women in question and called to punish those responsible.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla also contended that the practice was contrary to Islamic principles and infringed on the rights of veiled women.

Among other complaints submitted to the EC included two cases where marked ballot papers were displayed, complaints regarding pens with fading ink and complaints over the conduct of election officials.


MDP condemns Attorney General’s intervention in JP’s Supreme Court effort to annul election results

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the intervention of Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor in the Jumhooree Party’s (JP’s) case at the Supreme Court seeking annulment of the September 7 presidential election, expressing concern over the AG’s support of the JP’s stance at Tuesday’s hearing.

In a press release on Tuesday night (September 17), the MDP accused Azima Shukoor of advocating against “the interests of a state institution or the state and in favour of the Jumhooree Party’s self-interest.”

As the Attorney General represents the state, the MDP contended, Azima Shukoor should advocate on behalf of the state and protection of the public interest.

“Therefore the party calls upon the Attorney General – appointed by Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, who got only five percent of the vote – to cease advocating on behalf of the state to nullify the votes cast by the people in the first round of the presidential election, and annul the election to dis-empower the people and the constitution,” the statement concluded.

Azima meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru today that article 133(d) of the constitution allows the Attorney General to intervene in such cases. The article states, “The Attorney General shall have authority, with the leave of the court, to appear as a friend of the court in any civil proceedings to which the Government is not a party, where in the opinion of the Attorney General the interests of the State or the public interest dictate.”

“The government decided that we have to say something for the sake of public interest since we can see all this information,” Azima was quoted as saying.

Azima also denied seeking annulment of the election at yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing. She had however asked the apex court to order the Prosecutor General and the police to investigate alleged electoral fraud as “serious issues” had been noted.

The AG told the court that her office had uncovered discrepancies in the voter registry, including underage people listed as eligible for voting, and the mixing up of voter information – including gender, address, and date of birth.

High Court ruling

Meanwhile, in its judgment (Dhivehi) yesterday in the JP’s case against the Elections Commission (EC), the High Court ordered the commission to allow the JP supervised access to the voter lists in lieu of ordering the EC to release hard copies of the list to the party.

The JP had claimed that the registry included hundreds of ineligible voters (underage citizens), names of voters doubled or repeated, and thousands of people registered to houses without the home owner’s knowledge.

The High Court ruling however stated that the JP was unable to offer any evidence to substantiate the claims of electoral fraud.

The ruling stated that election complaints “should not be submitted based on suspicion,” noting that the EC’s lawyer, former Attorney General Husnu Suood, had addressed each of the JP’s arguments.

Of the seven people the JP claimed were deceased but had voted, the EC proved to the court that four were alive.

On the JP’s complaint regarding people registered to houses in Male’ allegedly without the home owner’s knowledge, the EC explained that people who were originally on the Male’ Municipality’s Special Register – a special registry of people residing in the capital without owning homes – were registered to vote in ballot boxes closest to their current residence. They were registered upon written request, the EC lawyer noted.

Moreover, Suood said that the EC depended heavily on data provided by the Department of National Registration (DNR) in compiling the voters registry. The 170 names that the JP claimed were doubled on the list would have different identity card (ID) numbers and dates of birth, he noted.

DNR Director General Fareeda Yoosuf insisted yesterday that there was no chance forged IDs could be used to vote.

Each individual identity card is unique and does not change even when renewed and, even in cases where lost IDs are replaced, the same identity number is used, Yoosuf noted.

“The card number will remain the same for each individual no matter how many times the card is renewed,” she explained. “We haven’t issued identity cards with two different numbers to the same person, so I’m certain that can’t be done.”

“When each person has a unique number and is allowed to vote based on that number, there is no chance a person can vote more than once by using different ID numbers,” she continued.

No complaints of forged identity cards have been received by the DNR so far, she noted.

“Vote Rigged!”

According to the official results of the first round of voting, MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed finished top with 45.45 percent (95,224 votes) of the vote, followed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate MP Abdulla Yameen in second place with 25.35 percent (53,099).

JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed out on a place in the second round run-off on September 28 with 24.07 percent (50,422 votes). The JP coalition however disputed the results at both the High Court and Supreme Court and launched a “Vote Rigged!” campaign of rallies – complemented by special programmes on Gasim’s Villa TV – alleging that the EC rigged the polls.

“God willing, it will be Gasim Ibrahim who will be the President of the Maldives on 11 November. Allah willing, do not doubt this. I tell you, do not doubt this,” the business tycoon declared at a recent rally.

Early on Monday morning , police acting on a tip-off from the JP, barricaded streets around the EC and took its garbage into custody. The JP accused the commission of disposing of evidence, though police later reported that the rubbish contained nothing affecting the outcome of the election.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek has emphatically denied allegations of vote rigging, pointing to the commission’s transparency, ongoing complaints investigations, and praise from a broad spectrum of election observers.

The UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, Tony Lisle, issued a statement yesterday encouraging “all presidential candidates to respect the results” of first round of presidential elections – in line with those of all other observers on the September 7 polls including delegations from the Commonwealth, UK, India, Australia, Malaysia, US, EU, Japan and Thailand.