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Vote selling, misuse of State resources amongst key concerns as election day approaches: Transparency Maldives

Transparency Maldives has drafted a pre-election assessment and highlights key issues that persists in campaign and electoral procedures; underrepresentation of women in political roles, misusing state funds/vote buying and insufficient voter representation.

Aishath Shuba Solih
15 April 2024, MVT 16:26
The press conference held by Transparency Maldives for the recent presidential elections. -- Photo: Fayaz Moosa / Mihaaru News
Aishath Shuba Solih
15 April 2024, MVT 16:26

The Pre-Election Assessments conducted by Transparency Maldives has highlighted the recurring and escalating issue of voters demanding payment and benefits in exchange for their votes in the ongoing parliamentary election’s campaign cycle.

Transparency Maldives conducts investigations on each country-wide election to observe and identify the political and electoral environment of the country amid this time and provide suggestions for proceeding credible and fair elections.

The report remarked that selling of votes was noticed as a prevailing issue in this electoral campaign, further revealing that many candidates who were interviewed for the report had expressed concerns on the issue of vote buying.

“Some candidates interviewed claimed voters asked outright for money and other benefits in exchange for their votes,” read the report.

However, Transparency Maldives emphasized that a lack of supervision of such matters, as well as the inability to proceed and enforce successful and speedy investigations as key factors that impede abstinence from such conduct.

This Pre-Election Assessment remarked that the legal electoral framework for this election has met the minimum requirement for a credible and free procedure. However, it went on to state that the report found recurring concerns and challenges that obstruct a fair election.

Campaign posters for parliamentary elections affixed across streets in the Male region. -- Photo: Fayaz Moosa / Mihaaru News

Three key issues were highlighted in Transparency Maldives’ Report

- Low representation of women in candidate roles, especially from the larger political parties

- Misusing state resources for vote buying and electoral gain

- Continuous issues surrounding failure in facilitating voters to represent their area of residence

The Organization had further stated that no improvement was observed in the number of women candidates fielded from the primary parties since the first multiparty election held in 2009.

The report emphasized that events held to celebrate inauguration or conclusion of a project coinciding with the campaign period has become a common issue and further stressed that the increasing use of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE)s for electoral gain is also a cause for concern. They had underscored that while there are laws prohibiting use of state resources for personal gain, several loopholes exist to elude this law.

The Issue of Permanent Address

Transparency had further brought attention to the problem of thousands of voters representing regions they do not reside in due to the voters list being drafted in consideration of permanent address.

The organization emphasized that many voters are unable to cast their ballot in regions that directly concerns them economically, socially and politically while further singling out thousand of Male’ residents who had relocated to the city from atolls facing this issue.

“These also include most of the people in Male' Dhaftharu register. While the EC’s allocation of most of the Dhaftharu voters to two newly added constituencies in Male' is an improvement, this random allocation does not fully address their concerns,” read the report.

Campaign posters for parliamentary elections affixed across streets in the Male region. -- Photo: Fayaz Moosa / Mihaaru News

Recommendation of Transparency Maldives based on their observations

- Political parties and other relevant individuals identifying and addressing potential barriers that women may face at a political party level and increasing the number of women representing political parties through initiating a voluntary quota system.

- Relevant authorities such as the Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) collaborating to strengthen supervision, investigations and submissions to prosecute for exploiting state resources in campaign procedures and vote buying

- The parliament reviewing articles currently in ACC’s guideline for action against incumbent Governments misusing state resources during election periods, then revising and incorporating them into the law.

- Relevant authorities, including the parliament, debating on the current permanent address based system, then reviewing and restructuring the method of delineating constituencies. As this work is done, special attention must be paid to ensure equality between urban centers, especially Male' City and other islands in conducting such reviews.

- Relevant authorities, including the parliament, reviewing the current formula for determining size and number of constituencies with the intention to cap the total number of seats in the parliament.