The Maldives election body Monday denied it would be counting votes in secret, as a local NGO said new problems and concerns had emerged in the country’s electoral environment.
The Elections Commission has been under pressure for months, especially since a ruling party loyalist was appointed its chief. It has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the re-registration process, the allocation of ballot boxes and how the votes are to be counted.
Its latest denial of vote-rigging follows concerns from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party about voter fraud after leaked documents appear to show the EC will be using tablets to collect information from polling stations on voting day, and about changes to electoral procedures.
“Entering the votes on the tablets gives the EC far greater control over the announcement of the results from each polling station, as well as an opportunity to change the results from each ballot box before they are publicly announced,” the MDP said.
EC spokesman Ahmed Akram dismissed the allegations.
“On election day, everything will go according to the regulations,” he told the Maldives Independent. “We will not be counting the ballots in secret, we will be showing the observers, monitors and party representatives the ballots.”
The September 23 poll is the first multi-party presidential election in the Maldives where the winner will be decided in the first round. Around 260,000 people are eligible to vote.
Anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives said it had travelled to 20 atolls and trained about 400 observers and volunteers.
It said the new problems and concerns in the country’s electoral environment included the leaking of confidential personal information of voters from EC servers to the ruling party; a lack of equal campaign opportunities for the opposition; the use of state institutions to intimidate the opposition and hinder its campaign, and the abuse of state resources and employees by the government for its campaign work.
“While the main objective of an election is to envisage the choices of the people, Transparency Maldives calls upon the Elections Commission to immediately remove all impediments to exercise that choice through a free and fair election.
“We believe that unless these issues are resolved, it is very likely that the outcome of such an election will not be accepted by the people,” it said.
Photo shows Elections Commission staff awareness programme from April