The Elections Commission reversed a decision to keep ballot boxes in only seven Maldives resorts following a backlash from political parties, civil society and NGOs.
It insisted the dramatic drop in number of ballot boxes – from around 55 to seven and only on resorts with more than 250 local employees – would not interfere with anyone’s right to vote.
But in a decision published late Wednesday, the EC said ballot boxes would now be kept in resorts with at least 100 local workers for the September 23 presidential election.
“Out of resorts where more than 100 locals are employed, EC has decided to open re-registration in resorts where the management agrees to keep ballot boxes for the 2018 president election,” it tweeted after days of sustained fury from all quarters.
The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives gave the news a cautious welcome.
“The reversal of the previous decision means this is almost how the process was in the previous election,” secretary general Mauroof Zakir told the Maldives Independent. “TEAM welcomes this move, but we do not believe that the resort management has to permit the keeping of ballot boxes.”
Ahmed Akram, an EC member, previously said the decision was made after requests from resort managements. Some resorts had asked for ballot boxes to be removed halfway through voting in the 2013 presidential election, he told local media.
TEAM statistics show that most of the country’s resorts have more than 100 local staff and the NGO urged resort workers to re-register to vote as soon as possible.
“We believe that, with this decision, ballot boxes will be kept in around 80 resorts,” Mauroof added.
The EC’s announcement came after the even ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives criticised the EC’s decision.
Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the party’s deputy leader, also called on the EC to reverse it.
There are 27,837 Maldivians working in resorts, representing around 14 percent of the total workforce, according to the last census. In the most recent 2013 presidential election, ballot boxes were kept in around 55 resorts.
With over 263,000 Maldivians eligible to vote the EC will set up 446 ballot boxes, with five ballot boxes set up in four countries.
Photo: Bandos Maldives