Transparency Maldives (TM) has begun training 42 long term elections observers to be posted throughout every atoll nationwide to monitor the campaign landscape and misuse of public resources, and ensure elections are fair and credible.
The long term observers have been appointed addition to 200 observers who will be present on election day.
TM staff began a three day training program for the long term observers on Saturday (July 6), with the assistance of experts and representatives from relevant state institutions including the Elections Commission (EC), Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and the Maldives Police Service (MPS).
Long term observers will be responsible for meeting regularly with all key stakeholders and monitoring activities including campaigning, pre-election electoral processes, voter education, vote buying and misuse of state resources in the run up to the September 7 presidential election.
This TM program marks the first time an NGO will conduct long term elections observations in the Maldives.
“We are excited to experiment the first ever systematic long-term domestic election observation in the Maldives. We are preparing for a comprehensive election day observation, recruiting up to 200 observers who will be assigned to randomly selected ballot boxes,” said TM’s Executive Director Ilham Mohamed.
“We thank and recognise the contributions of domestic elections observers towards a credible elections,” she added.
EC President Fuwad Thowfeek highlighted the need for domestic observers and the positive role they play in strengthening the electoral system, while addressing participants during the training program’s launch.
Long term elections observations will be conducted in order to increase confidence in electoral processes and civil society participation in the democratic process. Observers will also identify areas related to the democratic electoral process that require further improvement.
The long term observations will begin July 15 – the date presidential hopefuls can file their formal candidacy with the EC – and continue beyond the 2013 presidential election to the 2014 local council and parliamentary elections, noted TM Communication Manager Aiman Rasheed.
As part of TM’s elections program, the NGO will also implement a comprehensive voter education program, upgrade their online complaints system, and conduct media monitoring.
Transparency also conducted domestic election monitoring during the 2008-2011 cycle of elections, including the country’s first multi-party presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. The results of these elections were widely accepted both locally and internationally – a notable outcome given the high temperature of the country’s politics.
“However, the current political polarisation and the tense, sometimes violent, political environment have strained and continue to further threaten the democratic gains of the previous election processes,” Transparency Maldives warned.
The 2013 presidential elections are set to unfold “against a context of uncertainty, crises of political legitimacy and unprecedented levels of political polarisation,” Transparency Maldives has stated, in an extensive pre-election assessment published in March.
“The latter is characterised by mistrust, categorical negative framing of one another and by the lack of self-accountability of institutions, politicians and their parties for their role in the existing political crises. The electoral background is therefore discouraging,” Transparency noted.
The detailed report identifies key challenges in the lead up to the election, such as the candidacy of former President Mohamed Nasheed, lack of monitoring of campaign financing, an extensive and entrenched culture of vote buying, and a media establishment set on fueling personality politics and further polarisation.
“The upcoming Presidential Elections are currently headed to unfold against this political context of crisis of legitimation, uncertainty of democratic transition, existing polarisations and other challenges that have been aggravated by the controversial transfer of power on 7 February 2012,” Transparency stated.