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Maldives election body denies hiring ruling party activists

Most officials in charge of polling stations are ruling party members, the opposition claims.



The Elections Commission on Saturday strongly denied allegations that ruling party officials have been hired as officials in charge of polling stations for the September 23 presidential election.

At a press briefing, EC chief Ahmed Shareef said applicants were vetted to make sure they were not members of any political party.

“We can guarantee that no official is a member of a political party. There is no one else who can make sure of this as we also keep the registries of political parties,” he said.

Some 3,895 officials were hired from more than 8,000 people who submitted applications, all of whom were interviewed, according to Shareef.

On Friday, Mihaaru reported that officials on several islands were hired despite not applying for the positions. Most of the temporary staff were activists of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, the newspaper found.

Opposition figures have also been sharing photos of alleged election officials openly campaigning for President Abdulla Yameen.

But Shareef dismissed the photos on social media. Complaints should be submitted to the commission through official channels, he said.

“I can guarantee that no one who did not apply to become an official was hired. If you tell me it is this person, I will find out where that official’s application form is and I can even share that information with the media,” he assured.

MP Ahmed Mahloof, the joint opposition spokesman, told the Maldives Independent that it was clear from the evidence the opposition has seen that PPM activists have been appointed as officials.

Island communities in the Maldives are small enough to identify people and their political allegiances, he suggested.

“People on the islands know that the officials who will be working in their ballot centres are hardcore PPM activists,” he said.

The opposition is preparing official complaints.

The five-member electoral commission, led by a loyalist of the president, has long been at loggerheads with the opposition coalition, which alleges collusion and fraud to favour the incumbent.

But the EC denies the allegations and assures that the voting process would be exactly the same as in past elections.

The EC also announced Saturday that the design for the ballot paper has been finalised with added security features. Officials will ensure the authenticity of each ballot paper before counting votes in front of observers, media monitors and candidate representatives.

Shareef said that the commission was planning to finish counting at all polling stations before sunset on voting day.

Fewer than 1,000 people would be voting at each of the 470 ballot boxes. Polls will close at 4 pm.

The EC has also invited candidates to sign off on the final registry of voters before a deadline of 6 pm on Wednesday. The candidate’s signature on each list used at polling stations was a requirement imposed by the Supreme Court for the 2013 election.

Shareef said candidates could assign up to 25 representatives to sign the lists.

MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, the opposition candidate’s spokeswoman, told reporters Saturday that the candidates would sign the EC’s list after cross-checking with lists kept by the coalition parties.

She accused the EC of refusing to let representatives take the party lists to the venue arranged for the signing process.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and running mate Faisal Naseem were ready to sign off once assured of the legitimacy of the voter registry, she said.