Starting off small, let’s begin with an island in Haa Alifu Atoll, where interested individuals applied to become an official for the upcoming presidential elections slated for September 23.
The Elections Commission (EC) had rejected all applications, reasoning that none of the individuals met the requirements set by the commission.
However, when the electoral watchdog announced officials for the ballot boxes set in the island, the designated officials reportedly had not sent in applications to the commission.
The only evident information is that all the designated officials are activists of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Pictures of the designated officials during PPM campaign events have since been circulating on social media.
According to a Haa Alif Atoll councillor, the individuals chosen by EC; PPM activists and employees of Fenaka Corporation, had not applied to become election officials and were only informed of their designations by a phone call from the ruling party campaign office.
Whilst this is the case of the scene behind the curtain for a single island, local news media Mihaaru reports that the situation has occurred in islands of Raa Atoll, Baa Atoll, Vaavu Atoll and capital city Male’.
Out of the 12-6 officials stationed at each ballot box, the majority reportedly represents PPM and state companies.
Evidently, this has become a major concern for the citizens of Maldives. Prior to opening applications, Elections Commission had set requirements for the posts of election officials. Any individual registered at a political party is deemed ineligible to apply.
Upon opening applications for officials to over 470 ballot boxes, across the archipelago and abroad, a total of over 7,000 applications were sent in to the commission.
According to EC, all applicants were interviewed individually before designating 3,700 applicants as officials for the upcoming presidential election.
Therefore, members of PPM being appointed as election officials without an official application has certainly raised an eyebrow or two.
Meanwhile, opposition parties continue to claim that the officials list for the upcoming elections was sent to EC by a ruling party campaign office.
“Around 95 percent of the officials are members of PPM. We have proof. PPM campaign office notes down the names under the election officials list and calls the PPM members to inform their designated ballot box,” stated Member of Parliament for Galolhu-South constituency Ahmed Mahloof, in criticism of the Elections Commission.
"Applications of degree holders and civil servants who are not involved in any political activities have been rejected by the commission in order to appoint PPM members as officials of the election. These are facts that cannot be concealed”, stated Mahloof.
In the view of the opposition-aligned parliamentarian, these actions are part of a bigger plan to influence the bigger picture, the upcoming presidential elections.
Mahloof maintains that the ruling party and Elections Commission, together, will pave ways to ensure a smooth win for PPM presidential candidate and incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
During past presidential elections, officials of the election were intellectuals who held high-positions in islands and in the civil service and held an even higher degree of trust among the public.
Whilst EC declares that all applicants were interviewed before appointing election officials, how will the commission account for the majority in PPM members among the officials? What applications or what list was referred to when the officials were appointed?
In response to the questions that are heated among the public, EC member Ahmed Akram started off by again refuting the claims that appointed officials did not send in applications to the commission.
“Election officials were not appointed without an application and an individual interview. There is no truth to the claims that officials were appointed in violation of the regulations by EC”, assured Akram.
The EC member further denied allegations by the opposition that the list of officials for the upcoming election was sent into the commission by a PPM campaign office.
However, Akram did not comment on the evident truth that the majority of election officials were members of the ruling party. In attempts to counter-weigh the situation, Akram stated that the commission will ensure no officials are involved in any political activities hereinafter and added that necessary action will be taken if any official defied the regulations.
“With that, file a case over any accusations towards an official with substantial evidence. The commission will investigate into the matter and take action”, expressed Akram.
Is running after the electoral watchdog of a country the only solution to a public who has doubts over the legitimacy of the upcoming presidential elections?
The public has already put up a fight for their electoral right once during this election period. The public has brought a change to the decision by EC to limit the ballot boxes set in resorts; a decision that strips several local employees at resorts of their electoral right.
The majority of officials during a presidential election being members of the ruling party, again, screams red flag. The commission presumed to work in all fairness of the public, are failing to prove their loyalty to the public. Failing to fight against allegations of undue influence by certain parties.
The commission must ensure a free and fair election to the people. Elections Commission, be it coincidentally or deliberately, must be accountable for the majority of PPM members appointed as officials for the upcoming presidential elections slated for September 23, 2018.