The opposition is up in arms over a video of First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim saying that voter registration forms from civil servants and state-owned company staff are sent to the ruling party.
The video of the first lady and President Abdulla Yameen at a campaign office was uploaded live by a Progressive Party of Maldives social media account. It has since been removed.
“[Forms from] civil service and companies will come tonight…They will be registered,” she is heard saying in the video. “It is now being entered.”
The video was later uploaded by opposition MP Ahmed Mahloof, prompting allegations of fraud and concerns over the fairness of the September 23 polls.
President’s office spokesman Ibrahim Muaz Ali declined to comment.
Adhlee Ismail, a campaign manager who appeared in the video, told VFP that the first lady was referring to forms collected by campaign focal points at government offices.
There is no legal problem with the PPM re-registering supporters in the civil service, the CEO of the state-owned fisheries company insisted.
On Sunday, opposition spokesman Mahloof expressed concern that “a lot of these re-registration applications will not be submitted and it will be too late when people realise they have not been re-registered.”
Thousands of voters who live outside their native island, including resort workers and Maldivians residing overseas, will have to register to vote in new locations. Nearly a quarter of voters re-registered for the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Elections Commission member Ahmed Akram told the Maldives Independent that the commission has decided to verify all forms after “receiving a lot of complaints with all political parties accusing each other of trying to commit fraud by re-registering voters to wrong locations.”
The EC has since consulted with the police over the verification process.
Briefing the press Monday morning, MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, spokeswoman of the opposition candidate, said complaints have been lodged with the police, the EC and anti-corruption watchdog over the misuse of state resources.
The authorities were asked to probe PPM deputy leader Abdulla Abdul Raheem’s declaration last week that the president will win re-election by using state resources and employees.
According to the opposition-aligned Raajje TV, scores of government staff have been given paid leave to work on the re-registration drive and Yameen’s campaign.
But in a press statement last week, the Civil Service Commission strongly denied ordering civil servants to help with re-registration efforts. No such complaints have been lodged either, it said.
According to media reports, ministries and companies have been asking their employees to submit voter re-registration forms to political appointees of the ruling party.
There are 35,155 people working in government offices and independent institutions, while 31,475 work in companies.
Prison staff have also been ordered to vote in jails or detention centres.
On Sunday, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party briefed a visiting UN delegation about “how the government and EC are manipulating voter re-registration process and using state apparatus to intimidate the opposition.”
“A free, fair and inclusive election is impossible with the current EC,” MP Abdulla Shahid tweeted.
The MDP has also filed a complaint about a requirement for resort workers to get their re-registration forms stamped by the resort management.
There are 27,837 Maldivians working in resorts, representing around 14 percent of the total workforce, according to the last census.
More than 40 resorts will have polling stations this year.
Today, MDP has submitted a complaint with regard to Resort employees voter registration issue. The @ElectionsMv is requiring from employees to get their forms stamped by their employer while they accept forms collected through the ministries, SoE's without their stamps.
— Anas Abdul Sattar (@anasabdulsattar) July 30, 2018
Irrefutable proof that civil servants’ re-registration forms are being taken to Yameen’s campaign headquarters.
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) July 29, 2018
— Ahmed Shaheed (@ahmedshaheed) July 29, 2018
Civil servants who submitted forms submitted them to employer; someone with the political authority & will to seriously influence their jobs.
They did not know the forms will be going to the PPM campaign.
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) July 30, 2018
First Lady admits the completed re-registration forms from state owned companies and the Civil Service are sent to PPM campaign office instead of the Elections Commission.
— Mickail Naseem 🎈 (@MickailNaseem) July 29, 2018