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MDP primary continues as police snatch ballot boxes

The Elections Commission has already threatened to dissolve the MDP, saying that former president Mohamed Nasheed does not qualify as a candidate.



Policemen snatched ballot boxes and intimidated people as they followed a court order to block the main opposition’s presidential primary Wednesday.

Reporters from the Maldives Independent witnessed uniformed officers clear out voting stations and squaring up to the general public and members of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

The Elections Commission had ordered police to stop voting, saying the primary was unlawful, and a court warrant was issued.

There was a raid on the MDP’s main office in Malé’s Sosun Magu, with ballot boxes and voting papers confiscated, and police vehicles were briefly hemmed in by the capital’s notorious traffic.

Maldives Independent reporters saw police push and shove people to clear a path and heard officers use obscenities against MDP members, pedestrians and drivers.

The EC has threatened to dissolve the MDP because it maintains that former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13-years in prison after a controversial and widely criticised trial, does not qualify as a candidate.

But the MDP says it is not the EC’s duty to determine the candidates and primary processes of political parties.

– Jerry cans and concrete mixers –

Police fanned out across the Maldives to disrupt voting.

But party supporters found novel ways of casting their votes after ballot stations were shut down, with people using concrete mixers, plastic bags, empty freezers, wells and disused jerry cans.

Local media also showed people going to door to door, with the votes collected in a plastic crate or counted in the back of a van.

Police threatened action against media outlets covering the primary.

Spokesman Ahmed Shifan told reporters that “all necessary measures” would be be taken to stop the primary and that those who obstructed police would also face action.

He said some TV stations and websites were showing unlawful content that had been highlighted in the Civil Court warrant.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission and police had already advised some TV stations to stop their coverage, including giving airtime to Nasheed, he added.

Earlier the president’s office said police officers were tasked with law enforcement and not wondering who would next be in power.

– ‘Pretence of impartiality’ –

Nasheed is running unopposed, hoping the primary will act as a show of strength and support that will help secure his candidacy.

Human Rights Watch called on the EC to end its “politically motivated” exclusion of opposition parties ahead of September’s election.

HRW Asia director Brad Adams condemned the EC in a statement Tuesday.

“The Maldives’ Election Commission has shed its pretense of impartiality and independence with its rejection of opposition candidates,” he said. “The commission’s threats not only to oust candidates but to shut down entire parties pose a new risk to the country’s already jeopardized electoral freedoms.”

Nasheed’s campaign manager, MP Mohamed Aslam, told reporters that an exit poll showed more than 11,000 votes had been cast by 4:30 pm and that a final count would be announced later.

This is a developing story and will be updated.