The Presidential Elections 2018 would go down in history as a ridiculously riveting event that shook 42% of the nation with its result, when the incumbent, Yameen Abdul Gayyoom was denied a second term by 58% of voters. Shocking the supporters of the ruling party even more, President Yameen accepted defeat— albeit with obvious reluctance— in his poignant address to the citizens the morning after the election. However, not even 24 hours passed when speculations started to disseminate questioning the probity of the result. While those who voted against the ruling party celebrates festively, a fleeting thought lingers in the air, cutting through the bliss of their merrymaking: Did the opposition really do the unthinkable?
All throughout the campaign the opposition chanted a mantra that seemed plausible, though quite biased. They were not only sure President Yameen will rig the election, but also had generously put forward a few ways in which he will attempt it. The opposition was quick to claim that Elections Commission will use vanishing ink that will disappear after a while. This was followed by another bizarre claim, saying the ballot paper would be designed in a way that the ink will shift towards President Yameen’s candidate number— quite an absurd thought, but given the technological advancement, not an impossible feat.
More creative ways of rigging surfaced up, involving international media and schemingly implying that if President Yameen won the election, that would just be by rigging and rigging only. But shouldn’t the same condition be applied to the opposition, who also had the same desire to win? Why portray themselves as the epitome of integrity when they have previously proved otherwise in more than one occasion? There was also the question of security that comes into play. The entire process of carefully dropping the ballot paper into the box has been strictly scrutinized by not only representatives from both parties but by a team of EU as well. So is it possible for these candidates to rig such a stringently monitored election? Not without an insider’s help.
Why portray themselves as the epitome of integrity when they have previously proved otherwise in more than one occasion?
So now the question arises, can the Elections Commission be a part of the rigging? There is no reason they could not be. In fact, rigging in Maldives could be quite expertly narrowed down to EC, given that it is an independent body of members approved by the Parliament and is only answerable to the Parliament and Courts— not to the President or the government— confirming that President Yameen could in no way directly influence this particular body. However, the Parliament and Courts can, and if the 2013 election process was not proof enough, the ambassador of India visiting the Elections Commission within public scrutiny, and the audio between EC Commissioner and MDP leader that was leaked afterwards might shed more light into this thought. Strangely so, President of Elections Commission, Fuwad Tawfeeg was allegedly asked to run as the coalition presidential candidate, which was later retracted and given to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was the husband of MDP’s leader, Ex-President Nasheed’s cousin.
After a document claiming to show Elections Commissioner Ahmed Shareef received 5.4 million dollars in his bank account, an audio was leaked to the social media of conversations between EC president Shareef and an unknown person. The unknown person was clearly concerned with getting calls from someone threatening him; that they know of the plot to rig the election; Shareef seems to assure the unknown person over and over again that the secret would be safe as long as they keep denying the fact and ignore the phone calls.
Taking the recent audio that was leaked into consideration, is it still possible to ignore the nagging possibility that MDP in their never-ending pursue for power, rigged the election? These allegations do not just end with the EC. More speculations about the Parliament having a hand in the rigging also joined the circulation, but that could be the topic of discussion for some other time.