Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) has expressed “deep concern” at low levels of voter education and “backtracking of transparency standards” set by the Elections Commission after previous elections.
“Appallingly low levels of voter education combined with persistent media bias/propaganda, use of state resources by the ruling party, and backtracking of transparency and accessibility standards previously set by the interim Elections Commission in the presidential and parliamentary elections are issues of concern,” the NGO said.
TM is coordinating the national domestic observation of the local council elections, covering Male’, Hulhumale’, Villingili and 38 other islands across 14 atolls. Together with 20 partner NGOs, the observers will cover two-thirds of the country’s ballot boxes.
The TM team will also be scrutinising three main TV stations, four radio stations and three print media “for bias, objectivity and quality of reporting during the election.”
In a pre-election statement, the NGO commented that “an environment of mistrust between the election administration, the government, political parties, candidates and the media has contributed to a decline of trust in electoral systems.”
“Given the complexity of the election and the low level of voter education, Transparency Maldives anticipates a high percentage of invalid ballots. Transparency Maldives also believes that this will contribute to raising tensions as the margin for winning and losing will be low due to the small number of eligible voters spread over a high number of candidates.”
™ however commended the EC for “spearheading a meaningful, although a limited and delayed, voter education program in Male’ and the atolls.”
“Transparency Maldives also appreciates the readiness of the Elections Commission in preparing for the Election Day.”
A small team of international observers from the Commonwealth are also present in the Maldives, but are not formally monitoring the election.
“We don’t normally observe local council elections, but the Elections Commission asked us. We’re not formally monitoring the election – we won’t be doing press releases or making public announcements, but we will produce a report for the Commonwealth Secretary General and this will like by passed to the Elections Commission,” explained Alison Pearman, Policy Officer with the Political Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Besides Pearman, the Commonwealth team includes Commissioner Florence Kebbie (National Election Commission of Sierra Leone), Zenaida Moya-Flowers (Chairperson of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and Mayor, Belize City Council), Anuya Kuwar (Project Officer – Asia region, Commonwealth Local Government Forum).