K. Male'
18 Oct 2018 | Thu 13:19
Locals near Supreme Court premises as court proceeding begins
Locals near Supreme Court premises as court proceeding begins
Mohamed Sharuhaan
2018 Presidential Election
In depth details of President Yameen's vote rigging claim
The Supreme Court is yet to issue their verdict in the case
The trial in the constitutional case concluded on Tuesday
President Yameen gave a farewell speech in which he conceded defeat for a second time

If this week started for you with trolls on social media going on about magic carpets, movie references of J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K Rowling, disappearing ink and checkmarks that sprout legs and run around on the ballot papers used in the 2018 Presidential election, and are confused, I’ve got you covered.

President Yameen had filed a constitutional case in early October, after losing his bid for re-election to opposition candidate Solih in the Presidential Election held on the 23rd of September. Although he had initially accepted defeat the very next day, President Yameen had later pinned allegations of vote rigging on the Elections Commission, encouraging his supporters to take to the streets protest.

His Supreme Court case highlights three main allegations, one being that markers at the polling stations had disappearing ink, the second being that rings with hidden markers were used, and the third being that marks made in the ballot papers could be disappeared when heated.

These allegations have taken the social media by storm, with PPM supporters drawing severe mockery and criticism from the opposition supporters. As such, a wave of absurd puns flooded social media during the past few days. While some have been making humorous photo strips containing pictures of the alleged rings used for vote rigging, and the one “ring to rule them all” famed from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” book trilogy. It has also been humored that the “disappearing checkmark” from ballot papers, have been charmed. While I personally think “aparecium” should do the trick, the accused do not seem to have done a good job on their vanishing spells. Perhaps a quick mail to J. K. Rowling should reverse this aftermath.

President Yameen’s imagination, otherwise very creative and highly possible in the wizarding world of J. K. Rowling, had led him to believe that the Elections Commission members had used rings with hidden markers to rig the election.

While many claim the allegations to be a sad little attempt to stifle his loss of control over the people, it is notable that Yameen was clinging to every single baffling allegation until the very end.


Who is involved?

President Abdulla Yameen, (plaintiff) represented by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Ahmed Saleem, Legal Affairs Minister at President’s office, Azima Shakoor and attorney Abbas Shareef.

The Elections Commission (accused), represented by famed attorney Hussain Shameem.

The Joint Opposition Coalition, (their candidate was the only other contestant in the September polls), represented by prominent attorney Hisaan Hussain and attorney Nooruh Salaam Abu Bakur.


Who was contracted with the production of ballot papers and what are they accused of?

The government had contracted local printing company, M7 Print Private Limited with the production of ballot papers. M7 consists of shareholder Khadheeja Sana, the daughter of business tycoon Qasim Ibrahim, whose Villa Holding has a major stake at the company, as well as Mohamed Nadheem, who is also a JP council member and lastly Qasim’s son Siyad Qasim. Yameen accused shareholders of the company of abusing the responsibility entitled to them, to rig the election in “their favor”.

it was understood that M7’s bid was approved as its proposal featured five security features although Novelty Bookshop had received 32 more points during the tender process. The tender had initially asked for one security feature however, the technical committee had later decided to acquire three features. They had however not re-opened the tender due to lack of time. They were not able to confirm how much ballot papers were printed since M7 Print’s machines could not be automatically audited. With this having been revealed, Yameen accused that the security of the ballot papers were not assured, presenting a witness that could prove that anyone could have come in or out of the room where the papers were stored and that more than the required amount of papers could have been printed as the machines could not be audited.

M7 was contracted after a letter of approval was addressed to the company by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, which was also presented to court at Sunday’s hearing. Opposition lawyer Shameem had revealed that, under the contract, police officers were present during the printing and transporting of the ballot papers and that those going in or out of the storage room were required to note their names in a logbook. He added that the plaint’s witness had never entered the room or had security clearance.


What is the outgoing President’s main claim?

Yameen claims that rings with hidden markers were used, marks made in the ballot papers could be disappeared when heated and the Elections Commission brought in rings with hidden markers filled with disappearing ink from China and that they have witnesses who are willing to testify that they helped bring them in and use them (whose testimonies were asked to be taken in secret, at the court).
Some polling stations were set-up in a way that undermines voters’ privacy, which led to 99% of the votes have lost their validity due to the lack of privacy of the voting booths.
M7 printers had been accused of marking ballot papers using computer-technology received from a foreign country.
Elections Commission prepared the procedures to favor the opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Since M7 Print does not have an automatic auditing function, it could have printed more than the required amount of ballot papers without the knowledge of the police maintaining security.
The material for the ballot papers being bought from a Singaporean company had issues.
At the third and final hearing, an eraser had been added to President Yameen’s list of imaginative allegations.

What do the defendants have to say about the claims?

The first hearing commenced with the opposition attorney, Hussain Shameem’s claim that the plaintiff had not presented any evidence to back his claim of electoral fraud. Refuting the use of said rings, attorney Shameem had stated that Yameen’s allegations had zero supporting evidence and were presented to court because he could not accept defeat.

Shameem, claiming Yameen’s claims to be “imaginary”, said that they do not fit the minimum standard for evidence, having urged the plaintiff to confirm when and where the rings had been used. The EC had evidently encouraged voters to bring their own pens to the polling stations. Shameem also said that the issue of the lack of privacy in polling booths had been fixed after authorities received the complaints and that no one filed any complaints regarding ballot papers. Regarding the claim made that President Yameen had not approved M7 Print’s contracting, Shameem said that the EC had announced details of it five days before the elections. Shameem said that there had been no major complaints regarding privacy issues of voting booths and that anyone could have filed a complaint at the National Complaints Bureau at any time. He also said that the Complaint Bureau office location was changed due to administrative issues. Lastly, Shameem said that the EC’s security room was the same one used in the 2013 presidential election and that it is now too late to raise issues with it.

Attorney Abu Bakur said that if there are criminal offenses concerning the election, it should be filed at the Criminal Court.

Joint Opposition Coalition’s attorney Hisaan Hussain accused President Yameen of fabricating claims of electoral fraud after refusing to concede defeat. She said that the President has been unable to present any evidence to back his claims and that this case should not have been filed at the Supreme Court in the first place since the complaints were never filed at the National Complaints Bureau. Hisaan also noted that the EC members were approved by the ruling party’s majority and that local and foreign observers have deemed the election as free and fair. Responding to claims that the ballot papers had mark-altering chemicals in them, she presented to court a letter from the foreign company that had sold M7 Print the papers used to print the ballot papers, confirming that there had been no extra material used in the papers. She highlighted that President Yameen and the ruling party had officially accepted defeat right after the election result was announced and that reversing their decision and putting forth complaints afterwards is against international best practices.

“The only thing missing in President Yameen’s imaginative allegations, is a magic carpet”

Hisaan said that they had been accusing President Yameen of fabricating claims to back his allegations of electoral fraud since day one, adding that while President Yameen’s allegations include the use of rings with hidden markers, disappearing ink, and mark-altering ballot papers, the only thing missing is a magic carpet. Even after President Yameen’s two attorneys spoke at length about their issues with election procedures at Monday’s hearing, Hisaan repeated her accusation that the President is only fabricating claims because he refuses to accept that the people have decided to vote him out office.

Hisaan said that President Yameen is attempting to steer the charges against the Elections Commission, towards someone else. However, Hisaan highlighted that it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove his case as well as to present evidence in the plaintiff’s favor. Hisaan said, the Supreme Court supervising cases while the Maldives Police Service investigate it, goes against the judiciary system of the country.

Appeals were made to conclude the case as soon as possible as preparations for the oath-taking ceremony of President-elect Solih are still underway, and as they still have to send invitations to many foreign diplomats.

What does the plaintiff have, to back his allegations?

Leading attorney of the trial’s first hearing, Saleem presented a photo of the alleged rings that were allegedly brought to rig the election, in court.

It was alleged that changing the National Complaints Bureau’s office to convention center Dharubaaruge was part of the plan to prepare the electoral procedures in Solih’s favor.

Yameen accused that M7 Print was contracted with the printing procedures, without the President’s approval.

Attorney Abbas said that the people who now say they have won the election had earlier voiced concern that electoral fraud could be a possibility and that while Hisaan ridicules the plaintiff’s claims, the opposition had made similar accusations in the previous election.

How does the plaintiff wish this case to conclude?

The plaintiff’s attorneys stressed that the ballot papers should have been kept under police custody as the authorities had been unable to confirm that the security cameras in the room where the ballot papers were stored had worked.

Attorney Abbas had briefed the judges at the third and final hearing, on the requirements of the plaintiff. As such, Abbas requested the court to investigate if any chemicals had been used during the printing process of the ballot papers, to check if pens with disappearing ink were used, as well as to check if the envelopes in which the ballot papers were brought in were sealed.

More points of concern noted by Abbas were, to check if the ballot papers bore the security features proposed by M7 print, to check if any of the ballot papers bore two checkmarks and if so, to check if they were marked with two different inks, to check the process of printing as well as to check if the ballot papers bore any sign of being erased.

Abbas further requested the court to annul the result of the 2018 election in light of all of the points of concern highlighted by the plaintiff. The lawyer further claimed that if said chemicals had been used in the printing process, they would have been used on 30% of the ballot papers, going on to add that some of these allegations that are deemed to have occurred during the election procedure, have also been filed at the complaint bureau. Moreover, Abbas said that since the complaints were not filed as stated under the Presidential Election Act, if the election result was to be annulled, the court will not be required to announce the difference in number of votes received by each candidate.

Abbas also requested the court to look into the matter of the security of ballot boxes, to check the actions of the officials who went into the security room as well as to issue an order to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to inspect whether M7 Print, the company contracted with printing out the ballot papers, had printed additional ballot papers and if the officials at the polling stations had used fraudulent methods to add extra ballot papers to the sealed envelopes.

What did the judges bench have to say?

At the first hearing, the judges had refrained from speaking. However, all parties were given equal opportunity to speak in all three hearings. The first hearing in the case concluded over three hours later. The second hearing, held in two sessions on Monday, had finished by evening and judges had declared that they would announce a decision on whether the plaintiff will be allowed to present secret witnesses in the last hearing, or not.

At the third and final hearing, the bench declared their decision to not allow the secret witnesses presented by Yameen to testify. The case concluded by Tuesday afternoon, with the bench of judges declaring that a verdict will be issued “soon”. While it has been two days since, the judge’s bench is yet to issue their verdict in the case.

While we’re all waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict with bated breath, Yameen had for the second time, conceded defeat while speaking to press on Wednesday.

As such, he gave a farewell address in which he mentioned his stepping down from power, on multiple instances throughout the speech. While many still find it hard to believe that the outgoing does not have something up his sleeve, there have been reports of the outgoing fleeing the country. Although they have not yet been confirmed, possibilities are high, as the 17th of November will bring inconceivable grief to him, and his “loyal” followers.

Last updated at: 2 years ago
Reviewed by: Shan Anees