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Anger, u-turns and losing the right to vote in the Maldives: A timeline

There has been anger over changes to how and where Maldivians can vote in September.



Recent weeks have seen dramatic changes to how – and where – Maldivians will be able to vote in the September 23 presidential election. These include how many resorts will have ballot boxes for local workers, and who can help the disabled on polling day. Following is a timeline of changes, reactions and U-turns.

July 2 – The Elections Commission (EC) advises people not to change their registered island between July 1 and September 23 as they could lose the right to vote in the presidential election.

July 3 – The EC announces the voter list will not have photos.

July 4 – Housing Minister Mohamed Muizzu says there will be no obstacle to voting if people change their registered island on the dhaftharu* as there will be no effect on the voting list. He encourages people to choose the Malé dhaftharu, with promises of social housing opportunities.

July 15 – The EC publishes ballot box locations and it emerges that just seven resorts – out of the country’s 132 – will have ballot boxes. It is accused of ‘denying’ votes to local resort workers.

The Housing Ministry says islanders who register as residents of Malé will have their name on the dhaftharu after September 23, so there is no interference with the voter list for the presidential election.

July 17 – The EC announces its staff will help people with disabilities to vote, drawing a backlash and even the threat of a lawsuit. It clarifies “false allegations” in the media about the resort ballot box move.

July 18 – The EC reverses its decision to keep ballot boxes at only seven resorts, saying resorts can register as a voting centre if they have over 100 local employees.

July 22 – An additional 28 resorts register for voting, increasing the number of resort ballot boxes to 35.

July 22 – The Department of National Registration says it will not take responsibility if people lose their right to vote over information changes to their ID card, after it is revealed that those renewing their ID card have to sign a consent form saying they have no objection to losing their right to vote when changing their full name, permanent address or birthday.

A DNR spokesman adds people are changing their ID card information after dhaftharu registration.

July 22 – The EC makes its second U-turn – allowing people with disabilities to choose their own helpers on voting day.

Ministries and state companies ask employees who need to re-register for voting on their island of residence to do so through their companies, under the supervision of political appointees. The re-registration forms are then handed over to the ruling party. The joint opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Solih expresses concern: “I ask that things are not done that will narrow the right to vote. Every citizen has the right to re-register at their own convenience.”

Prison staff are ordered to vote in jails or detention centres.

July 23 – The EC publishes the Presidential Election Regulation. It says photos will be on voter lists.

“Thank God. I thank @ElectionsMV for amending the regulation so that the voter list at polling stations, the candidate list outside polling stations, and the voter list sent to political parties must have photo and ID card number. Amend all such issues that create suspicion,” lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof says.

An EC spokesman says there is a publication mistake in the regulation and that the voter list will not have any photos due to multiple complaints from “people who wear the niqab.” It says the regulation will be re-published after removing the item about photos on voter lists.

“The Elections Commission cannot say it was a mistake after the regulation was published following discussions with president’s office, PG and EC’s legal teams. [They] can’t say it’s a mistake in fear of Yameen’s order. [They] can’t change regulation again before elections,” says Mahloof.

Police break up an opposition protest in Malé calling for EC boss Ahmed Shareef to be sacked and for a free and fair election to be held.

The DNR says the service to renew ID cards with amended information will be suspend so that people do not lose their right to vote.

*Dhaftharu is an official list for people to register as a resident of an island of their own choosing.

Photo: @JenniferAishath