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Maldives Elections Commission admits Thimarafushi ballot box results sheet illegal

Elections Commissioner - Mohamed Ibrahim

Maldives Elections Commission today admitted in High Court that the elections results sheet of the Thimarafushi ballot box was not in accordance with the Elections Regulation. A court hearing was held today for judges to obtain clarifications of issues in the ongoing High Court case of the Thimarafushi parliamentary vote. Today’s hearing, called for by the High Court, dealt with only matters relating to statements by the Elections Commission.

High Court Judge Ali Hameed specifically questioned the Elections Commission on irregularities in signatures on the elections results sheet, irregularities in the handover process of the ballot box to Elections Commission officials and on the issue of 115 ballot papers that were missing from the box. On all three issues, the Elections Commission admitted that violations of the regulations had occured.

On the first issue, the Elections Commission admitted that the elections results sheet was in contravention of the Elections Regulation, as it only contained signatures of only two officials. According to the regulations, it must be signed by three officials.

On the second issue too, the Commission admitted that the ballot box had not been sealed when it was handed over to Elections Commission officials in charge of delivering it to the Commission. The law and regulations requires that the ballot box must be sealed in the presence of officials and observers at the ballot counting station after ballot counting had finishes. Today, the Commission admitted that a) the box had been open when it was handed over its officials for transport, b) it had not been at the ballot counting station but at the Thimarafushi Island Office; and 3) that when its transport officials went to collect it, only one individual had been with the open ballot box.

When questioned by the court judge as to whether these were against the law, Deputy Elections Commissioner Hussain Siraj replied that the regulations did not state that more than one individual should look after the ballot box. However, when questioned further, Siraj was forced to concede that indeed the issues raised by the court were indeed against the law.

Upon close questioning, Hussain Siraj was also forced to admit that the 155 ballot papers missing from the ballot box had disappeared before the ballot box had reached the Commission. Hussain Siraj is one of the lead lawyers of President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party. Siraj has represented the MDP in several court cases. He was recently appointed to the Elections Commission, in place of Commissioner Shahid. Commissioner Shahid, a top official in the MDP, resigned recently saying that his wife, President Nasheed’s cousin Eva Abdulla, was contesting the parliamentary elections as an MDP candidate.

The court questioned whether the Elections Commission had made any effort to find out what had happened to the 115 ballots that were missing. The Commission lawyer replied that the Maldives Police Service was investigating the matter and that the investigation had not yet finished. Previously, Commisioner Siraj had testified in the High Court that the missing ballots would not change the elections results. However, another Commissioner, Mahir, had given a statement to press that since the ballots were missing it was clear that there needed to be a fresh vote in Thimarafushi. A third Commissioner, Fuad Thowfeeq, had given a statement to press that the missing ballots were empty ballots but could not clarify how the Commission knew this. Fuad Thowfeeq too is a leading MDP member who previously headed a MDP technical committee.

In the provisional results announced by the Commission for Thimarafushi, the MDP candidate Thimarafushi Musthafa lead DRP candidate Ghassan Maumoon by about 100 votes. Submitting evidence such as above, Ghassan Maumoon has requested the High Court to declare the Thimarafushi result invalid and to order the Elections Commission to hold a fresh vote in his constituency. Witnesses who testified in favor of Ghassan Maumoon have been victimized with arson attacks and personal attacks. One witnesses house was burned down immediately after she gave testimony in Ghassam Maumoon’s favour. The MDP candidate Thimarafushi Musthafa is the well known gang lord and loan shark who ran the notorious Mercury Light CafĂ© the hideout of MDP thugs in Male’.

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