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Maldives election body denies voter registration fraud

Candidate numbers were assigned on Saturday.



The Elections Commission denied allegations of registration fraud as lots were drawn Saturday to assign candidate numbers for the September 23 election.

President Abdulla Yameen will be candidate number one and joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be number two on the ballot paper. Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer and lawyer Hisaan Hussain drew lots on their behalf.

Speaking at the ceremony, EC chief Ahmed Shareef denied fraudulent registration of people who did not seek to vote outside their island of permanent residence.

It emerged last week that several people – including at least 87 from Gaaf Alif Villigili and 22 from Kolamaafushi – were re-registered elsewhere despite not applying. Some people were registered to vote in Sri Lanka and England.

“Unless a form was submitted for re-registration, we have not registered that form,” Shareef said.

“If there was fraud, it was done by the people who submitted the form, political parties or those who came with the forms.”

The verification process has been completed and re-registration details will be revealed next week, he added.

“We know who submitted the forms, we have the fingerprint of the person who submitted, which party it was, and the address of the person,” he said.

He vowed to seek criminal prosecutions over the fraudulent applications.

Shareef, a loyalist of the president, slammed “misleading” information in the press and on social media that cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process. Complaints about media that publish allegations without seeking the commission’s response will be forwarded to regulatory bodies, he warned.

On rumours of a South African IT firm called Laxton Group helping with the election, Shareef said the EC has not sought the advice or facilities of any foreign firm.

The EC invited all political parties for a meeting with Laxton Group to discuss e-voting in future elections, but the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s response was to demand the resignation of the commission’s five members, he said.

– ‘Deliberate and illegal acts’ –

On Thursday, the local chapter of Transparency International warned that allegations of fraud “to favour the incumbent leads to further deterioration of the low levels of trust in the electoral systems.”

While the scale was unclear, “the widespread complaints against the process of re-registration indicates the possibility of disenfranchisement of significant number of voters,” Transparency Maldives said.

“Complaints that have emerged include allegations that the ruling party scrutinised the re-registration forms of civil servants and selectively submitted forms of their supporters for re-registration, thereby denying the suffrage of possible opposition supporters.

“Additionally, Transparency Maldives has received complaints including personal accounts of individuals whose expired identification cards have recently been renewed without their knowledge. These deliberate and illegal acts could disenfranchise voters and deprive them of their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.”

As the current environment “provides room for the public to disregard the election results”, TM called on state institutions to address allegations and “to immediately ensure an environment of transparency and inclusiveness in electoral processes.”

Last week, the joint opposition accused the EC of conspiring with the incumbent to “steal” the election, questioning the EC’s figure of 95,000 re-registrations forms.

The figure is unrealistically higher than the 62,000 people who re-registered for the last parliamentary elections in 2014, the opposition says.

According to Raajje TV, 20,000 forms were repeated or double forms from the same people.

About 263,000 people are eligible to vote this year.

The joint opposition has submitted 40 complaints about people who were fraudulently re-registered.

Asked for the number of re-registration complaints, EC member Ahmed Akram said Saturday: “We have all the figures, but as we’ve said before we’ll release all the information within next week.”

The EC spokesman refused to comment further and hung up when the Maldives Independent tried to ask follow-up questions.