Thousands of people queued up outside an election centre in Malé over the weekend as they scrambled to re-register ahead of a midnight deadline.
Maldivians living outside their island of permanent residence – like those who have migrated to the capital – have to re-register so they can vote in the current place they are living in on polling day. A presidential election is scheduled for September 23.
People were waiting in queues as late as 2am Sunday, after the Elections Commission extended a Saturday afternoon deadline due to a surge in late applications.
The gates to the election centre were shut at midnight but people already inside the building were allowed to re-register, according to VFP.
EC member Ahmed Akram told the press that more than 30,000 forms were submitted on Thursday and Friday.
He said the commission would take three to four days to finish processing all the forms since many of them had been submitted in bulk.
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives submitted 10,000 forms on Thursday and Friday, he said.
A total of 86,000 forms had been submitted as of Friday night and the number would likely reach 95,000 by the deadline, Akram told Mihaaru.
It is a record high in re-registration applications but does not represent the actual number of re-registrations, according to the EC.
Akram said 60,000 to 70,000 re-registration forms were submitted last time, but only 58,000 people were re-registered.
“It is likely that this includes invalid forms and repeat forms,” he said.
Former EC chief Fuad Thaufeeq said he thought 100,000 was a very high number for re-registration.
“My estimates show that re-registration should be not above 85,000, based on the proportion of people added due to reach 18 and more migration minus deaths during the period.
“The only the explanation I can think of is the possibility where 15,000 people submitted their forms twice or more,” he told the Maldives Independent.
– ‘Cannot be careless’ –
Ali Niyaz, chairman of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, also said the high number of forms was likely to be the result of repeat forms as state employees submitted their own forms after the government failed to submit them on their behalf as the deadline neared.
“Many civil service staff, employees of state-owned companies, the MNDF (Maldives National Defence Force) and police officers were forced to fill in forms through the government, but their forms weren’t submitted even until yesterday,” he told the Maldives Independent.
“So a lot of them came to our focal points, we submitted forms for them, so that is likely the reason for that figure.
“We were informed that the government submitted these forms at the last minute, so that is probably the reason for the 100,000 forms, it includes repeat forms.”
Niyaz estimated around 45,000 to 50,000 forms were submitted through the opposition’s focal points. An accurate number would be available after the opposition had all the data, he said.
The opposition would demand that all details of re-registration be shared if the actual number exceeded 75,000, he added.
The opposition’s presidential candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, also expressed concern about the high number of registrations.
“It might be correct too. But given how things have gone, we cannot afford to be careless. So I urge everyone, even if you have not re-registered, to make sure that your name is at the (ballot) box where you are going to vote,” he said Friday night.
But Akram said the commission remained “positive” about the election process.
“The voting population has gone up by a lot since the last election, the number of migrants to Malé has also gone up,” he was quoted as saying by local media.
Voters can check their registered polling stations by sending an SMS with the National ID number to 1414. (VR<space>Axxxxxx).
Aiman Rasheed from Transparency Maldives said that while it was too early to comment on the number of re-registrations, there were concerns surrounding the process.
“For example the role of state institutions in the re-registration process, and complaints from people who submitted forms through offices not being re-registered need to be resolved,” he said.
“The EC also needs to clarify the reason for the jump from 58,000 during the last election.”
There are 263,000 eligible voters in this year’s presidential election.
Photo shows queue outside the Elections Commission centre in Malé on Friday.