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EC schedules presidential elections for September 7, but warns of funding shortfall

EC schedules presidential elections for September 7, but warns of funding shortfall thumbnail

President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq has said the commission will be unable to hold a presidential election this year without sufficient funding.

Speaking to Minivan News, Thaufeeq said holding the nationwide elections would cost between MVR 55-60 million (US$3.57-3.89 million). However, he expressed concern that the commission’s current budget would be insufficient.

“With the current budget given to the Elections Commission, I am afraid we may not be able to hold the elections. The commission has raised concerns with the Finance Minister, the President’s Office and Parliament’s Public Finance Committee,” he said.

According to the EC president, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told the commission to carry out its work with the current budget allocated, claiming that the government would “somehow find a way” to provide financial support to the commission.

However, the commission is yet to receive any additional funds, Thaufeeq added.

“The constitution is very clear. It is a constitutional duty to hold presidential elections every five years. I really do hope the authorities would somehow be able to support us in fulfilling this constitutional duty,” he said.

Thaufeeq confirmed reports circulating in local media that presidential elections would be held on September 7, and that preparations were under-way under finance provided from within the currently available budget. If required, a second round of elections will be held on September 28.

“ The decision to hold presidential elections in September was agreed by the members of the commission,” he said.

Asked if budget difficulties threatened the fairness of the election, Thaufeeq acknowledged a shortfall may “slightly have an impact”, but said the commission would do everything it could to ensure the elections were free and fair.

“We have set standards and procedures. We will go in accordance with those. But yes, the budget difficulties may slightly impact the elections. But we assure the public that we will do everything we can to ensure that elections are free and fair,” he said.

“Fully committed”, tweets President Waheed

Following his meeting with UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Alistar Burt, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan announced his commitment towards a free and fair election on Twitter.

In his tweet he called upon the elections commission to “declare the election date as soon as possible”.

“I am fully committed to a free and fair election this year. Urge the Election Commission to declare the election date ASAP,” Waheed tweeted.

Asked about Thaufeeq’s concerns, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told Minivan News that the government was “working on it”.

“We will provide sufficient funds to hold elections. There is no question about it,” he said.

In April 2012, the US government pledged to provide  US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) as assistance for an elections program intended to support Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.

Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo, Valerie Fowler, said at the time that the funding would be made available from July 2012.

The US would lend any support, including technical assistance, to ensure the next presidential election in the Maldives is conducted “smoothly and observed the rule of law”, Fowler said.

“Through USAID we are in the process of starting an election program that will assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. We have allocated US$500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012,” she noted at the time.

Asked about the US assistance program, Thaufeeq said that he had only heard of it through the media, and that no government authority had discussed it with the commission.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad was not responding to call at time of press.

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