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Council elections turnout at 66 percent

Contrary to media reports and claims by ruling party lawmakers and ministers, the turnout in the capital was 42 percent and voters turned out in much higher numbers in the rest of the country.



Voter turnout during the May 6 local council election was 66 percent of 255,987 eligible voters, according to the Elections Commission.

The turnout in the capital was 42 percent, but voters came out in much higher numbers in the rest of the country.

The turnout in the January 2014 council elections was 64.5 percent, down from 70 percent in the first local council elections in February 2011.

According to results published by the EC, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party took more than 300 seats, winning 21 out of 23 seats from the Malé, Addu and Fuvahmulah city councils and securing majorities on most atoll councils.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives won 191 seats and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance won 18 island council seats. The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, part of the ruling coalition, won the Henveiru North seat in the Malé city council after the MDP candidate endorsed his opponent a week before the election.

A day after the polls, Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer and Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan downplayed the significance of the PPM’s heavy losses in the city council races by falsely claiming that turnout in the capital was 17 percent.

President Abdulla Yameen also said Monday night that only three out of ten voters turned out in Malé, contending that the majority felt the city council was redundant since the government has been providing municipal services.

Other lawmakers and ministers also contended after the election that the low turnout was reflective of the public’s unfavourable view of the opposition-dominated city council, which was stripped of powers and responsibilities after Yameen assumed power.

The parliament transferred most municipal services to government ministries and left the Malé and Addu city councils with providing registration services and issuing birth and death certificates.

During a campaign rally in early March, Majority Leader Nihan declared that the parliament will restore the city council’s powers if PPM candidates are elected. He also pledged to reverse a 50 percent pay cut for Malé and Addu city councillors.

The PPM campaigned heavily for its Malé city council candidates with First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim attending campaign launch rallies and deploying teams for door-to-door visits.

But the MDP’s council candidates won by large margins, taking between 55 to more than 70 percent of the vote in 12 out of 13 constituencies in Malé.

The PPM also lost in four constituencies held by its lawmakers – including Nihan’s Vilimalé constituency – suggesting either a loss of support or inability to bring out the base.

In the Maafanu South constituency, the MDP candidate secured 56 percent with 850 votes while PPM MP Abdulla Rifau was elected with 967 votes. The MDP candidate for the mid-Maafanu constituency was elected with 1,153 votes while PPM MP Asma Rasheed won her seat with 1,008.

The losing PPM candidate in Mahchangoalhi south won 264 fewer votes than PPM MP Mohamed Sinan.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s press briefing, EC member Ahmed Akram announced a second round of voting Saturday on the islands of Komandoo in Shaviyani atoll and Madifushi in Thaa atoll.

A run-off election will take place between two MDP candidates tied in third place with 518 votes in the Komandoo island council race.

The EC decided to call a re-vote in Madifushi after considering a complaint about a person whose name was not on the registry casting a ballot.

“We decided that there are valid reasons the results might be compromised in regards to Madifushi island election,” said Riffath Abdulla, head of the EC’s national complaints bureau.

Four candidates with the highest votes – PPM candidates Abbas Ahmed (389 votes), Ali Haseen (389 votes), and Ismail Hilmy (387) and MDP candidate Hassan Abdulla (388 votes) – will compete for the three seats on the Madifushi council.

Riffath said the complaints bureau has attended to all but one of some 116 complaints that were submitted.

“After the investigations, we have requested the Prosecutor General to try three people who are accused of committing election-related crimes. We have also forwarded a case related to the elections to police,” he said.

The police have also been asked to investigate one case, he added, refusing to disclose details despite repeated questions from reporters.

Asked about the high number of invalid votes, EC member Akram pinned the blame on political parties.

“This election was held after the largest voter awareness campaign held in the commission’s history. However because of the way political parties campaigned for the election the number of invalid votes surged,” he said.

Akram also stressed that the election was conducted fairly and smoothly without major incidents. The majority of complaints concerned vote counting but none of the complaints was serious enough to affect the outcome, he said.

The EC verified results from 26 boxes and recounted a ballot box from the island of Kuribee after complaints.

The commission also faced criticism over the slow roll-out of the results. After completing the announcement of provisional results a week after the polls, the official results were also announced the following day.

The Local Council Elections Act mandates the commission to announce official results within 14 days.

The newly-elected councillors are meanwhile due to be sworn in on June 3, more than three months after the three-year term of the present councillors expired.

The municipal election was first scheduled to take place on January 14, but was postponed after the PPM petitioned the civil court for a two-month delay citing the loss of its database and membership registry.

The decentralisation law required new councillors to be elected 30 days before the three-year term of local councils expired on February 26.

But the civil court said councillors will remain in their posts until successors are elected, referring to “a state of necessity,” a principle previously invoked by the supreme court to legitimise former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s continuation in office after the end of the presidential term on November 11, 2013.

The elections were delayed for the third time to May 6 with the commission claiming that the situation in the Maldives was not conducive for campaigning due to a flu outbreak.

But a week after the commission’s announcement, the education ministry announced that public schools will reopen as the seasonal outbreak of the flu and viral fever was under control.