The Elections Commission has started announcing provisional results from Saturday’s local council elections amid confusion over contrasting results reported by opposition-aligned and pro-government media outlets.
At a press briefing Tuesday morning, EC secretary-general Ahmed Ali said the commission is “working day and night” to check and verify results announced at polling stations.
He assured that the results will be announced throughout the day. But a commission staff only announced results from three small islands, after which the secretary-general said the media will be invited back later in the day.
As of 4:45 pm, the commission is yet to inform the media when the next batch of results will be released.
The electoral body has faced stringent criticism over the delay in announcing provisional results. The media was previously told that results will be announced on Monday.
With no official information from the commission, conflicting results from the media also caused confusion and uncertainty over the outcome.
However, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan, the parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, has since conceded defeat.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Nihan said the PPM will identify reasons for the loss and take corrective measures. “The PPM’s members will have the courage and energy to win [the 2018 presidential election]. God willing, we will win in the first round,” he tweeted.
Until 3 pm on Monday, the state broadcaster Public Service Media and the pro-government outlets Avas and Channel 13 showed the PPM leading with 210 seats to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s 203 seats.
Citing results from Avas, Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee also congratulated President Abdulla Yameen and government supporters shared graphics showing the PPM with more seats than the opposition alliance.
Avas later acknowledged that it was mirroring results from PSM, which suspended its coverage Saturday night and did not resume until Monday evening.
The state media’s results now show the MDP with 294 seats and the PPM trailing with 208 seats.
Results from Sun Online – owned by MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed, leader of the PPM’s coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance – meanwhile matched the numbers from Raajje TV.
The opposition-aligned broadcaster dispatched staff to polling stations across the country and used data sheets to tally results.
Based on results from 414 of 422 ballot boxes, Raajje TV’s latest figures show the MDP has 315 seats, followed by PPM with 185 seats, independent candidates with 102 seats, the opposition Jumhooree Party with 20 seats, the MDA with 17 seats, and the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party with one seat.
The DRP only contested for the Henveiru North seat on the Malé city council and won narrowly after the MDP candidate endorsed his opponent a week before the election.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Anas Abdul Sattar, the MDP’s secretary-general, criticised the EC’s failure to announce provisional results three days after polls closed.
“I understand that with some far-flung islands it is difficult to get the information to Malé. However, the commission could have started announcing results for the boxes in Malé without any delay,” he said.
“Today, they announced three island council results with small populations and it looks like they did it to say that they started announcing the results today.”
Anas said the MDP collected results from candidate representatives and observers at polling stations. The election law requires the result of each ballot box to be announced after votes are counted in full view of representatives, observers and monitors.
The party’s figures are similar to Raajje TV, Anas said.
Concerned by the delay, some opposition figures have accused the commission of planning to falsify results. Exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed, the opposition leader, urged the EC to respect the will of the people.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) May 8, 2017
Fuwad Thowfeek, a former EC president, meanwhile told the Maldives Independent that he failed to see any reason for the delay.
“The compiled results for the constituencies in the form of the provisional results should be announced within 24 hours. I don’t think there is any reason for the silence of the EC for this long,” he said.
Fuwad was also critical of the EC for extending voting hours by two and four hours for all polling stations.
“I don’t agree with it. Low turnout is not at all a reason to extend the voting time,” he said.
Some 563 councillors have now been elected to 179 island councils, 67 councillors to 18 atoll councils, and 23 councillors to three city councils.
A three-member council is elected in islands with small populations and a five-member council for islands with more than 3,000 people.
City councils are elected in Malé, Addu, and Fuvahmulah with one councillor for each of the 23 parliamentary constituencies.
In the rest of the country, one atoll councillor is elected for each parliamentary constituency. In atolls with only two parliamentary constituencies (Alif Alif, Vaavu, Meemu, Dhaalu and Faafu), three atoll councillors are elected from the whole atoll.