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Maldives ruling party denies offering bribes to back election challenge

The company that printed ballot papers alleged its staff were offered bribes for false testimony.



The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives has denied offering bribes in exchange for false testimony to back President Abdulla Yameen’s challenge of his election defeat.

M7 Print, the local company that won the bid to print ballot papers, alleged last week that its staff were offered bribes by PPM MPs and senior government officials to testify at the Supreme Court.

The alleged bribery was reported to the police last Sunday, M7 managing director Mohamed Abdul Sattar told the media. Staff have since faced threats and intimidation, he said.

According to reports, the ballot printing process was filmed and took place in the presence of police officers.

In a statement Thursday, the PPM condemned the bribery allegations as intended to “bring the party into disrepute” and accused M7 of trying to divert attention from its role in alleged vote rigging.

The company, which has Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s children and a party official among its shareholders, was awarded the ballot printing bid unfairly despite proposing a price much higher than its competitor, the ruling party contended.

With the Supreme Court due to begin hearings into the election challenge on Sunday, M7 told the press that it has hired a security firm after threats of arson against two shops and printing press in the capital.

After conceding defeat, President Yameen asked the apex court to order a police investigation into alleged tampering with ballot papers.

Citing vote rigging by officials who used a ring with a pen, he petitioned the court to annul the September 23 election.

According to the PPM, its complaints were examined by legal experts and submitted to the police. The decision to challenge the 2018 results “was taken in accordance with the response by the [Maldives Police Service].”

Yameen lost with a record margin of 38,653 votes. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the joint opposition candidate, was confirmed as the winner with 134,705 votes (58 percent).

The Elections Commission has been adamant that there were no complaints or irregularities that could affect the outcome, dismissing the PPM’s “unsubstantiated allegations” of fraud and vote rigging.

Voting and ballot counting took place “in the presence of a record number of representatives of candidates, local and international observers and monitors,” the EC said.