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PRESS RELEASE – May 07, 2017

Transparency Maldives thanks its observers deployed across the country to observe the Local Council Election held on 6 May 2017. With the support of 25 observers and volunteers, TM observed 19 ballot boxes in 10 atolls: Haa Dhaalu, Baa, Kaafu, Alifu Dhaalu, Vaavu, Laamu, Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani and Seenu Atoll.  

In observing the Local Council Election, Transparency Maldives assessed both the election-day proceedings as well as the larger electoral and political environment. Transparency Maldives would like to express its gratitude to state institutions, civil society organisations and political parties for their contribution.

The following are the key findings we highlight based on our observation of 19 polling stations.

  • For various reasons, in several of the ballot boxes, voting began later than 08.00 am, as announced by the Elections Commission. In 17 out of the 19 ballot boxes observed, voting commenced between 8.10 and 09.00 am.
  • All necessary personnel and equipment were on site when voting began.
  • Except for two, all ballot boxes had the presence of one or more representatives from political parties or candidates when polling started.
  • Out of the 19 ballot boxes observed, one was placed at a  different location from where it was initially assigned.
  • Closing of polling was scheduled to 04.00pm, however close to this time, Election Commission announced to delay closing of polls to 06.00pm where polling started by 08.00am and to 08.00pm where polling started after 08.00am.
  • Out of the 19 ballot boxes observed, a total of 12 voters were not able to vote because due to administrative issues such as their names not being on the voter registry.
  • Out of the 19 ballot boxes observed, a total of 172 voters were assisted voters.
  • The ballot boxes observed by Transparency Maldives did not encounter any disturbances, neither was voting process disrupted for any reason.
  • Except for one, all ballot boxes had the presence of one or more representatives from political parties or candidates during the counting.
  • Out of the 19 ballot boxes observed, 15 ballot papers had extra marks, and three voters showed their ballot paper before casting the vote. Studies conducted in the Maldives suggests that similar acts are measures to ensure that those offered money or gifts vote to the candidate/party who offered money or gifts.

The following are our key observations of the larger political and electoral environment.

  • We note with concern that the 2017 Local Council Election was delayed on three occasions. While the first delay was the result of a Civil Court ruling following a case filed by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the election was further postponed a second and third time by the Elections Commission. A key feature of democratic elections is for it to take place regularly according to a predetermined schedule. Failure to hold elections as specified in the law, and the decisions by the Elections Commission to delay the elections will affect public confidence in the institution and in the electoral process.  
  • This election took place amidst political turmoil, with all opposition political leaders either currently in jail, in exile or facing criminal charges. This hindered opposition political parties’ ability to freely campaign in the run up to the election. 
  • Following the first postponement of the election, in February 2017, the fast-tracked amendments to the Local Councils Elections Act changed the requirements for candidacy in the election. This amendment allowed persons with previous criminal records to compete as candidates in the Local Council Election. Election delays coupled with such arbitrary legislative changes serve to undermine the credibility of elections.
  • Transparency Maldives and previous observer missions have repeatedly noted the problem of high level of vote buying in the Maldives. This continues to be an unchecked nationwide electoral issue that affect the credibility and integrity of elections.
  • We also note with concern that there were instances of misuse of state resources. For example, the Public Service Media (PSM) while denying coverage of opposition political campaigns, disproportionately covered political campaign events of the ruling party. Such actions not only undermine the integrity of PSM but also serves to provide the ruling party with an unfair advantage and precludes a level playing field.
  • Unfair restrictions on freedom of assembly  hindered the Opposition’s ability to campaign. Opposition parties expressed concern regarding arbitrary restrictions on leasing out public venues and allowing opposition street rallies while similar restrictions were not placed for ruling party candidates.
  • The Anti Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act passed in August 2016 placed severe limitations on media freedoms and restricted their ability to scrutinise election campaigns.
  • As with previous elections, Transparency Maldives notes a disproportionately low number of female candidates contesting in this Local Council Election. We also note the lack of efforts by the State and political parties to increase female political participation in elected leadership positions.

In light of our findings we observed that the administrative processes during election day was marred by the the questionable decision by the Elections Commission to arbitrarily extend the voting time. We urge the Election Commission to undertake serious confidence building measures to  strengthen the electoral process.  Moreover, significant problems exist in the larger electoral and political environment which include; the lack of a level playing field for opposition political parties, severe and arbitrary restrictions on media freedoms, freedom of assembly and expression, all of which restrict political and campaign activities; vote buying and the misuse of public resources for political campaigning.

We call on state institutions to lead the efforts to create a pluralistic political environment, work inclusively and with sincerity to address these issues and to create an enabling environment, conducive to a free and fair presidential election in 2018.

We offer our congratulations to all the newly elected councilors..

ENDS

Download the press statement in English and Dhivehi

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Download Election Observation Report here

SUMMARY: The Presidential Elections in September 2013 was held under an extremely uncertain political backdrop. However, the elections presented an opportunity for moving forward the democratic transition that got off track because of the controversial change of power in 2012, half way into the term of the first democratically elected government in 2008. The pre-election environment, including campaigning, was largely peaceful. All parties and candidates generally enjoyed the prerequisite freedoms for fair and free elections ahead of the elections. Transparency Maldives’ Long Term Observers (LTOs) deployed throughout the country reported that there were a few cases of obstructions to campaigning and several, mostly minor, cases of vandalism to campaign materials.

The legal framework for elections provides minimum standards for democratic elections. Problematic areas do exist. The current legal framework, enacted in a constrained timeframe ahead of the 2008 Presidential Elections, is in need of reform. Most importantly, the loopholes and gaps in political finance regulations created a black hole when it comes to campaign expenditure. There are also no comprehensive rules or procedures for electoral dispute resolution.

As a consequence of the lack of such rules and because of buckpassing between institutions and because of jurisdictional confusions, investigations into allegations of bribery and abuse of state resources were hindered. As TM’s LTOs reported, there were several cases of abuse of state resources for campaigning and cases of vote buying during the elections. None of these cases were successfully investigated or prosecuted.

Some institutions, including the Elections Commission, the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, and Transparency Maldives engaged in voter information and education activities. However, voter education on issues such as vote buying was found to be another area that required more attention.

The pre-existing political fault lines only re-surfaced after the announcement of the results of the round of elections of September 7th. Jumhooree Party (JP), the party of the candidate who placed third, contested the results at the Supreme Court as a constitutional 7 matter, bypassing the electoral complaints mechanism at the EC that were available under the electoral legal framework. The complaints were mainly regarding the voter register that JP alleged had allowed extensive election fraud through double-voting, ghost-voting, and underage voting. Street protests in Malé, a smear campaign against the Elections Commission via TV (mainly VTV affiliated with JP), death threats to election officials, and general lack of focus on campaigning, mired the prevailing electoral environment.

The JP case resulted in unprecedented court interventions in the electoral processes. Delay over a decision on the JP case at the Supreme Court resulted in the postponement of the run-off election beyond the constitutional timeline of 21 days given for run-off election. The Supreme Court finally ruled in favour of JP and ruled that the first round of election was invalid. Along with the verdict, the Court issued a new guideline to conduct elections, which highly constrained the role of Elections Commission. The Supreme Court subsequently intervened in the electoral processes resulting in further delays beyond the constitutional deadline to elect a president and beyond the presidential term limit stipulated in the Constitution.

The first round of the new election took place on 9 November 2013. The runoff election was finally concluded on 16 November 2013 – five days after the presidential term limit and 35 days after the constitutional deadline for electing a president.

Despite the challenges faced during all rounds of elections, the Election Commission delivered well administered, generally transparent and peaceful elections.


Article 4 of the Constitution of the Maldives stipulates that

all the powers of the State of the Maldives are derived

from the citizens and remain with the citizens. The power

to elect representatives through elections ensure that the

powers of the state do remain with the citizens. Direct and

elected representatives at island and community level will

help improve local governance and the democratic system.
The purpose of this position paper is to bring to the

attention of the public and relevant institutions some of the

major systemic issues within the electoral framework and

advocate for changes to the system.

Download
Local Council Election 2014 – Position Paper


Article 4 of the Constitution of the Maldives stipulates that all the powers of the State of the Maldives are derived from the citizens and remain with the citizens. The power to elect representatives through elections ensure that the powers of the state do remain with the citizens. Direct and elected representatives at island and community level will help improve local governance and the democratic system.

The purpose of this position paper is to bring to the attention of the public and relevant institutions some of the major systemic issues within the electoral framework and advocate for changes to the system.

This paper highlights critical and fundamental issues in the local governance and council election systems. Transparency Maldives hopes that this paper creates discussion on these issues and paves way for the implementation of the recommendations to strengthen the local governance and council election systems.

Click to view/download full position paper in English

Click to view/download full position paper in Dhivehi


9 and 12 January 2013

The National Advisory Committee (NAC) for Elections for the Local Council Elections was first convened on 9 January 2014 with a subsequent meeting held on 12 January 2014.

Updates by the Elections Commission
  • For the first time in Maldives, the voter registry will include photos of voters to ensure easier identification of the voter.
  • Deadline for candidates and parties to sign copies of photo voter registry concluded on 11 January. All political parties except PPM have signed all the lists.
  • Training of polling officials are currently underway in the islands.
  • Elections Commission is facing difficulties in carrying out activities due to budgetary constraints.
Other Points of Note
  • The Elections Commission informed the NAC that the Supreme Court guidelines are an impediment to proper conduction of the elections. Issues such as the requirement for all candidates to sign the voter lists before being dispatched are issues that remain unresolved. As it stands, the Elections Commission will be sending out ballot papers to the islands without the signature of some of the candidates or their representatives.
  • Two cases regarding candidacy currently underway at Supreme Court may affect the election being conducted on 18 January.
About the National Advisory Committee for Elections

The National Advisory Committee for Elections is convened by the Elections Commission and is the highest statutory advisory body for elections. The committee comprises the five members of the Elections Commission, a representative of each political party fielding candidates, a member of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Maldives Media Council and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, a representative of the Maldives Police Service, civil society and the Department of National Registration.

Transparency Maldives’ (TM) Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed sits on the National Advisory Committee for Elections as the civil society representative.


13 October 2013

At the meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Elections (NAC) held at the Elections Commission’s (EC) headquarters on 13 October 2013, Transparency Maldives (TM) sought clarifications, made comments and observations and provided advise. Following is a summary of the discussion.

 

A representative of the Department of National Registration shall participate in the National Advisory Committee for Elections meetings, from 13 October 2013 onwards.

Updates by the Elections Commission
  • The registration system is currently down. However, the EC will continue to receive registration forms.
  • 30,000 registration forms have so far been processed, as of 2pm 13 October 2013.
  • The EC will be hiring an additional two polling officials for each of 7 and 10 member teams -a Communication Official to communicate with the EC as the officials are not allowed to carry in mobile phones, and an additional official who is tasked with ensuring that the voters list (not to be confused with the voters registry) is marked correctly at each polling station- to comply with the Supreme Court (SC) verdict number 2013/SC-C/42.
  • EC expressed gratitude towards the Maldives Media Council (MMC) for lodging a case at the SC that resulted in a SC Order (no. 2013/SC-SJ/08) that lifts the ban on media monitors to carry in equipment necessary for their media functions. The Order also allows observers to carry in equipment and materials necessary for observation. Candidate agents, however are not covered under the Order and can only carry in pens into the polling area.
Other Points of Note
  • DNR informed the NAC that as per the SC Order, in instances where citizens whose permanent address on their ID card and voters list do not match, will not be allowed to vote. DNR is yet to receive a list of the 2,830 persons mentioned in the SC verdict, whose permanent address on their ID cards do not match with the voters registry and hence are unable to verify the authenticity of the number. DNR is of the opinion, that based on their records, it is extremely unlikely that addresses of 2,830 citizens are mismatched. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), the Maldives Media Council (MMC), and Transparency Maldives all expressed concern that these 2,830 citizens may be deprived of their right to vote if their ID cards are not renewed to reflect the address on the voter registry.
  • PPM requested the EC to verify the registration forms and the finger prints, possibly by conducting a random verification of 10 forms per 1,000. The EC responded that it is not possible provided that state institutions do not have the capacity, records or the set up required to conduct such a verification process.
About the National Advisory Committee for Elections

The National Advisory Committee for Elections is convened by the Elections Commission and is the highest statutory advisory body for elections. The committee comprises the five members of the Elections Commission, a representative of each of the four candidates contesting the Presidential Elections 2013, a member of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Maldives Media Council and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, a representative of the Maldives Police Service and civil society.

 

Transparency Maldives’ (TM) Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed sits on the National Advisory Committee for Elections as the civil society representative.


9 October 2013

At the meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Elections (NAC) held at the Elections Commission’s (EC) headquarters on 9 October 2013, Transparency Maldives (TM) sought clarifications, made comments and observations and provided advise. A summary of the details follow.

Updates by the Elections Commission
  • Re-registration for the election scheduled for 19 October to begin at 6pm on 9 October 2013. Re-registration will conclude at 11:59pm 10 October 2013.
  • Ballot papers will be given to print today, 9 October.
  • Elections Commission has not received the details of the Supreme Court verdict (number 42) regarding the discrepancies in the voter registry and in the records of citizens who voted (eg. ID card number mismatch, permanent address mismatch, name mismatch) on Election Day.
  • An additional 7 ballot boxes will be added to the 470 ballot boxes of the annulled 7 September 2013 elections.
  • The Elections Commission informed the National Advisory Committee for Elections that the Elections Commission will not be able to guarantee the right to vote for people with discrepancies in the voter registry and their ID cards.
About the National Advisory Committee for Elections

The National Advisory Committee for Elections is convened by the Elections Commission and is the highest statutory advisory body for elections. The committee comprises the five members of the Elections Commission, a representative of each of the four candidates contesting the Presidential Elections 2013, a member of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Maldives Media Council and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, a representative of the Maldives Police Service and civil society.

 

Transparency Maldives’ (TM) Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed sits on the National Advisory Committee for Elections as the civil society representative.


12 September 2013

At the eleventh meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Elections (NAC) held at the Elections Commission’s (EC) headquarters on 12 September 2013, Transparency Maldives (TM) sought clarifications, made comments and observations and provided advise. A summary of the details follow.

 

The meeting was convened at the request of Jumhooree Party.

 

1. Jumhooree Party made three requests: 1. Recount of all 470 ballot boxes; 2. Provide JP the voter registry with ID card information; and 3. Copies of lists of all citizens who voted at each of the 470 polling stations.

 

1.1 Recount of all 470 ballot boxes

 

The EC informed the committee that counting all 470 ballot boxes is a huge challenge provided the limited time frame; and that the legal framework does not allow for opening of envelopes containing ballot papers for recounting without a basis.

 

The EC however stressed that the all members of the commission are willing to conduct a recount of any ballot box where credible evidence of fraud is presented to the commission.

 

All of the representatives of the candidates present at the meeting, except for MDP representative advised the EC to recount all 470 ballot boxes.

 

1.2. Provide JP with the voter registry, including the ID card information

 

The EC informed the committee that the EC is unable to do so as the ID card information is private information of citizens.

 

1.3 Copies of lists of all citizens who voted at each of the 470 polling stations

 

The EC informed the committee that the EC will provide the copies of lists of all citizens who voted at the 470 polling stations only at an order of the court as the legal framework prohibits the EC from handing over the information.

Other points of note
  • EC informed the committee that the final results of the first round of Presidential Election 2013 will be made public at 3pm, 14 September.
  • JP informed the committee that from their investigations, they have so far located on the voter registry: 659 deceased persons; 1,800 non-existent entrees that do not correspond to Department of National Registration data; 6,000 people who have been moved or put under households without their knowledge; 100 repeated names; and 20 reports of underage or children whose age were increased and then voted on 7 September 2013.
About the National Advisory Committee for Elections

The National Advisory Committee (NAC) is convened by the Elections Commission (EC) and is the highest statutory advisory body for elections. The committee comprises the five members of the Elections Commission, a representative of each of the four candidates contesting the Presidential Elections 2013, a member of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Maldives Media Council and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, a representative of the Maldives Police Service and civil society.

 

Transparency Maldives’ (TM) Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed sits on the National Advisory Committee for Elections as the civil society representative.

Links to previous NAC meeting updates are given below.


Transparency Maldives met with local media yesterday, for a briefing on our upcoming election observation.

 

Transparency Maldives is the only non-partisan organisation conducting a nationwide, extensive and systematic observation of this presidential election using a large network of over 400 observers and volunteers.

 

This observation is based on random sampling which will enable Transparency Maldives to make generalised statements on the quality of the elections for the entire country. Our methodology is based on established sampling techniques that have been used in many elections worldwide.

 

On Election Day, Transparency Maldives will be making two press statements: One, earlier in the day on Sep 7, reporting on the opening of polling stations; And the second, later in the day, reporting on the quality of the elections, throughout the election day itself.

 

Furthermore Transparency Maldives hopes to have the support of media in disseminating this information to the public, as public participation is essential to the democratic process.

 

Please call Transparency Maldives Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed (+960 790 8967) for media queries.


25 August 2013

At the fifth meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Elections (NAC) held at the Elections Commission’s (EC) headquarters on 18 August 2013, Transparency Maldives (TM) sought clarifications, made comments and observations and gave advice. Citizen concerns raised through social media were conveyed to EC. A summary of the details follow.

 

1. EC will be signing an MoU with the Maldives Police Service and the draft of the MoU is currently being circulated for comments. EC expects the MoU to be signed with MPS in the next few days. Transparency Maldives has in the past Advisory Committee meetings, advocated for and advised the EC to come to an understanding with the MPS that clarifying the roles and responsibilities of MPS and EC as regards security, communication and emergency intervention protocols

 

2. The issue of early announcement of results at polling stations in Malaysia and Singapore negatively affecting voting in Maldives were discussed. Delay in announcement of results was suggested by a member of the NAC. Transparency Maldives advised the EC to proceed as planned as delay of results may create suspicion and will also be in conflict with the electoral legal framework.

 

Outcome: EC will inform the Committee of their decision.

 

3. NAC members queried the EC regarding their voter education programs and their impact. NAC members felt that the EC should be doing more to educate voters. TM advised EC to conduct additional voter education on aspects of voting to ensure invalid ballots are minimized and citizens are clear regarding valid and invalid ballots.

 

4. The issue of Commissioner of Police, Riyaz broadcasting a short message via twitter that is widely believed to be a partisan message was brought forward for the consideration of the committee. EC informed the the committee that appropriate measures will be taken by the EC and has since requested the Police Integrity Commission to investigate the case. MPS representative informed the committee that the MPS has internal mechanisms to deal with alleged breaches and misconduct.

 

5. MDP raised the issue of 91 people being registered twice. The Committee was informed by the EC of internal mechanisms instituted such as sending accompanying notes with the voter registry where such double entries have occurred. The 91 entries had occurred primarily due to 200 persons with double ID card numbers in the system.

 

Other points of note

MDP informed the Committee that the party will conduct an exit poll on election day.

 

Updates by the Elections Commission

Voter lists have been dispatched to island offices. These lists will not include ID card numbers and birthdates to protect the privacy voters.

 

Ballot papers have been printed. The total number of printed ballot papers equal the total number of registered voters plus 1% of the registered voters.

 

EC has decided to publish a list of voters following the election day, and see no legal barriers preventing the publishing of such a list.

 

EC implores voters to utilize formal complaints mechanism (the Complaints Bureaus) for submitting complaints instead of informal mechanisms such as calling up EC’s hotlines.

 

About the National Advisory Committee for Elections

The National Advisory Committee (NAC) is convened by the Elections Commission (EC) and is the highest statutory advisory body for elections. The committee comprises the five members of the Elections Commission, a representative of each of the four candidates contesting the Presidential Elections 2013, a member of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Maldives Media Council and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, a representative of the Maldives Police Service and civil society.

 

Transparency Maldives’ (TM) Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed sits on the National Advisory Committee for Elections as the civil society representative.

Links to previous NAC meeting updates are given below.


18 August 2013

At the fourth meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Elections (NAC) held at the Elections Commission’s (EC) headquarters on 18 August 2013, Transparency Maldives (TM) sought clarifications, made comments and observations and gave advice. Citizen concerns raised through social media were conveyed to EC. A summary of the details follow.

 

1. Mohamed Aslam, the representative of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) to the NAC, requested EC to reconsider its decision to not work/collaborate with the MBC in implementing Article 30 of the General Elections Act pertaining to provision of equal opportunity for candidates to campaign on broadcast media.

 

Transparency Maldives also requested EC to reconsider the decision as cooperation and coordination between relevant institutions is key in implementing the spirit of the relevant Acts, provided the confusions and lack of clarity in the legal framework. For additional information on the issue, see Chapter 2.1.3, Media section, page 18-19 of the Pre-Election Assessment 2013 by Transparency Maldives.

 

Outcome: EC informed that the commission may consider the advice of TM and others.

 

2. Transparency Maldives and Maldives Police Service (MPS) requested for clarity on the decisions made by the EC on issues raised by the members of the NAC. MPS specifically raised the issue of the proposals for an MoU between EC and MPS regarding clarification of roles and responsibilities and protocols of intervention by MPS on election day for the purpose of maintaining security during and on election day. (See Transparency Maldives’ blogpost on the 2nd meeting of the NAC).

 

Outcome: EC informed the NAC that the NAC meeting is scheduled for Sunday of every week so that the issues raised at the NAC can be discussed at the EC meeting the following day, every Monday of the week.

 

3. Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) raised the issue of the integrity of IT systems of the EC, with regard to EC’s databases and softwares, and that the party implores the EC to conduct an independent expert review to guarantee the integrity of the systems. The EC had earlier publicly stated that no party can have access to it’s softwares citing potential hacking and compromise of the security of the systems.

 

TM advised the EC to allow as much transparency as possible without compromising the security of the softwares as trust in electoral systems is key to prevention of potential conflict. TM noted that the fears raised by PPM can be allayed without compromising the integrity and security of the IT systems. TM also noted that the issue originally arose due to the failure of the EC to communicate the work of the EC. TM advised the EC to proactively communicate it’s work to prevent suspicion and confusion.

 

Outcome: EC said that commission may consider the advice by the TM.

 

Other points of note:

  • Voter registration issues were discussed at the NAC. EC provided updates on current issues including the change of location of ballot boxes for reasons of security, convenience and finance.
About the National Advisory Committee for Elections

The National Advisory Committee (NAC) is convened by the Elections Commission (EC) and is the highest statutory advisory body for elections. The committee comprises the five members of the Elections Commission, a representative of each of the four candidates contesting the Presidential Elections 2013, a member of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission, Maldives Media Council and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, a representative of the Maldives Police Service and civil society.

 

Transparency Maldives’ (TM) Advocacy and Communications Manager, Aiman Rasheed sits on the National Advisory Committee for Elections as the civil society representative.

Links to previous NAC meeting updates are given below.

 

Meeting 3

Meeting 2