EC disputes allegations of discrimination from both MDP and PPM

The Elections Commission (EC) has hit back at criticism from several political parties, rejecting claims of discrimination against the parties.

In a press conference on Thursday, EC members and department heads claimed that the commission fully abides by laws and regulation, while undertaking the tasks mandated to the commission.

“We do not favor or provide any advantages to any political party,” EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz contended.

EC made the comments following claims by both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) that the commission was discriminating against the parties.

Speaking at the press conference, EC Director General Ahmed Tholal refuted claims made by MDP, which has complained that that the EC discriminates against the party when processing forms of party membership.

He clarified that the commission was processing the party membership forms based on the date of submission and assured that all the parties are treated equally.

“All the forms are processed as soon as they are submitted,” Tholal said, irrespective of which party it comes from.

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq meanwhile restated that the commission was not discriminating against PPM, while making an inquiry into the recent claim made by its leader Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom that “vote results does not turn out the way people want”.

Fuad noted that the issue has been resolved as Gayoom had later clarified in a letter to the EC that he did not imply that the commission is responsible for it.

However, PPM alleges EC of tarnishing peoples’ confidence in Gayoom and discriminating against the party.

PPM’s media committee president Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef has pointed out that court orders calling for a re-count of votes and deeming results of the first parliamentary elections under the 2009 constitution were false and suggest major flaws within the commission.

However, Shareef said that political parties have been asked to support the assumedly independent commission in carrying out certain duties.

“The delay in passing the political party bill is causing difficulties for EC, they have requested us (political parties) to expedite it, and EC also admitted having administrative problems,” he was quoted as saying to local media.

MDP Deputy Chairperson Mohamed ‘Inthi’ Imthiyaz meanwhile told local media that “some important decisions are made without discussing with all the parties and this is now how the commission should function.”

Inthi added that the EC had admitted its shortcomings and intends to resolve them.

MDP has also expressed concern that former secretary general of People’s Alliance Ahmed Shareef is inappropriately entrusted with EC’s administrative duties.

However, EC members countered that the commission is transparent, and functions do not discriminate against any party and are not subject to party influence.

All elections are free and fair and is conducted in the presence of political parties, independent observers and the media, they asserted.


Elections bill blocks 25% from voting if not amended, warns Transparency Maldives

The Local Council Elections Bill, adopted by parliament on May 4, will potentially exclude one fourth of the population from voting unless it is amended, according to a statement from Transparency Maldives (TM).

The bill, which has been sent back to parliament by the president and is now being reviewed by committee, required people to vote in their home constituency and contained no capacity for remote voting. With many islanders working in the capital Male and other locations around the Maldives such as resorts and industrial islands, TM warned that nearly 55,000 people could be restricted from voting.

“Our basic concern is that 25 percent of the voting population will lose their right to vote unless this bill is amended,” said Aiman Rasheed from TM.

People had the option to travel, he acknowledged, “but pragmatically speaking that is not going to happen. If everyone in Male’ left to go vote, entire operations would shut down.”

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan explained that the sheer scale of the Local Council Elections, with potentially upwards of thousands of candidates across the many island councils, was a logistical and administrative challenge the independent Elections Commission (EC) would be unable to deal with.

“I strongly believe the EC does not have have capacity to conduct such an election with thousands of candidates. Their budget for holding elections in 2010 is around Rf 22 million,” he said.

“We are genuinely concerned about this election because our constitution says we have to hold it – on July 1 last year – and we are far behind. If government is genuine, we should do everything to make it as inclusive as possible.”

Nihan noted that the government had put forward the bill at the same time as the decentralisation bill, and criticised the ruling MDP for miring it in “many other amendments”. DRP had passed the Local Council Elections Bill “just as the Attorney General sent it.”

MDP MP Eva Abdullah observed that “MDP proposed an amendment but DRP shot it down because they had the majority at the time. Now the opposition has conceded the voting issue, we are hoping this will be quite speedy.”

Nihan however said “it was a DRP idea to make it more inclusive.”

Rasheed from TM said he would not comment on the politics of the bill, but noted that “Both major parties want to remove the restrictions on people’s ability to vote.”

“We understand the administration and logistical challenges, but there are alternatives like postal ballots. During previous elections the EC has been proactive in finding a solution,” he said.

The EC said it would not comment, other than to say it was “prepared to run the election however the Majlis decides.”


UK electoral system “not corrupted, but certainly corruptible”, say observers

A team of Commonwealth Election Observers have released a report claiming that the UK electoral system is corruptible “and open to fraud.”

While believing the recent UK election was undertaken in a free and fair manner, this was a success based on “trust” rather than “controls and deterrents.”

The observers suggested improving the identification of voters at registration and polling stations, better verification of postal ballots to close certain loopholes, centralisation of electoral roll records to prevent multiple registrations in more than one constituency, and more staff at polling stations to ensure people can vote in a timely manner.

This last issue caused widespread condemnation following the day of the election, with thousands of voters queuing outside venues turned away when the ballot boxes closed at 10pm. Many people in London reported waiting in lines for several hours, with many office workers struggling to vote in time.