Monday, October 15, 2012

Post-coup Maldives optimistic on e-voting

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The island paradise of Maldives was rocked early this year by a political upheaval which forced its president Mohamed Nashed to resign.  The interim government took over amid extreme restiveness from the general populace and from the camp of the ex-president.

Nashed has accused the new leadership of bad faith, claiming that they have no intention to relinquish power and are, in fact, working to entrench themselves. The new government, however, had repeatedly reassured the nation that elections would be held in 2013. 

While majority of Maldivians are hoping that the new government makes good on its promise, the more progressive groups are optimistic that the leadership goes one step further and takes the Maldives elections to the digital age as to assure that the coming national elections are free and fair.  
There are hopeful signs that e-voting could happen soon in the Maldives.  According to various reports, the Maldives Elections Commission (MEC) is already seriously looking into the possibility of using the electronic voting machines (EVM's) from India for its next elections.

Fuad Thaufeeq, who heads the MEC, said the Indian-made voting machines could be suitable for the country with proper enhancements in the law.

“So far, we have been getting information from many countries in Europe, South America and Asia which have used these. Regionally, India, Nepal, and Bhutan have used the machines and we are also getting advice from them. Hopefully the system will work, but some laws will have to be changed and the public must support the decision,” said Thaufeeq.

As a matter of fact, India had offered Maldives a few hundred EVM's several years ago. Maldives, however, refused it at that time, saying that the timing wasn’t right yet as the Indian-made machines still had no printing capabilities. In addition, there were alarming claims made by University of Michigan researchers that they were able to manipulate results simply by sending text messages from a mobile phone to the machines.

As expected, Indian election officials vehemently contested such claim averring that their machines are some of the most tamper-proof EVM's in the world.