In the aftermath of the Maldives’ presidential election held last Saturday, both the Elections Commission (EC) and the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have voiced disagreements over various aspects of the electoral process. 

Mariya Ahmed Didi, the Defence Minister and Spokesperson for the MDP campaign, has strongly criticised the Elections Commission for declaring more than 4,000 votes as invalid. Speaking at a party rally on Chaandhanee Magu Tuesday evening, Mariya asserted that even minor errors, such as an elderly man making multiple check marks due to poor vision, resulted in votes being invalidated.

On the other hand, the Elections Commission Chief Fuad Thaufeeq responded by stating that the gap between the candidates who received the most votes exceeded the total number of invalid votes. “Therefore, I don’t see any reason to make such noise,” Fuad commented. Mariya retorted that every citizen’s vote is an individual right and should not be diminished by collective results.

Mariyam Muna, President of HRCM, also stated in a press conference on Tuesday that polling stations showed discrepancies in their standards for deeming ballots valid or invalid. According to Muna, approximately 4,800 ballots were deemed invalid because checkmarks were either emboldened or weren’t straight. “If the marks were emboldened twice, then there’s a possibility that, for example, it is the first time for voters with visual impairments to vote with stencils,” Muna added.

Mariya also took issue with the Elections Commission for not making adequate arrangements for elderly and disabled voters. According to her, previous elections had allowed people over the age of 65 to vote quickly, but no such facilities were available this time. Additionally, voters with kidney disease and asthma had to queue for hours, and many eventually left without casting their votes. 

Fuad countered this by stating that the Elections Commission has never provided wheelchairs in any election in the history of Maldives.

Despite the tensions and the option to take these matters to the Supreme Court, Mariya stated that the MDP would not pursue legal action. Instead, she urged as many people as possible to participate in the runoff election scheduled for later this month.

Although HRCM expressed concerns over the inconsistency in determining invalid votes, the commission commended the overall smooth conduct of the voting process. HRCM stated that it is working with the Elections Commission to find a solution to the issue.