In preparation for the parliamentary elections, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has constituted an Observer Group with a view to assess compliance with national and international standards, and to strengthen the electoral framework.
The observation is led by former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who introduced the group at a press conference held in Malé today (March 19).
An arrival statement was read by Golding, who stated that the group’s task was to “consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process,” and stressed their commitment to staying “objective, impartial and independent.”
The group will “assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Maldives has committed itself, including both the Maldivian constitutional and legislative framework and relevant Commonwealth and international commitments,” Golding added.
The group consists of seven members who will be drawn from across the regions of the Commonwealth, and includes a range of experts from political, electoral, legal, and media fields. Golding explained that the observers will be deployed across various atolls on March 20, but did not disclose when asked which atolls they would be monitoring.
A preliminary statement of findings will be published shortly after the elections on March 22, followed by an official report which will be published following the Group’s departure on March 28.
When asked by Minivan News during the conference whether their arrival in the Maldives has been well received by the government, Golding confirmed that they met all the relevant stakeholders and had a “good balance of views conveyed to us about the challenges that may exist.”
The Commonwealth team sent to observe the 2013 presidential election described the initial poll as “inclusive and competitive”, before the results were annulled by the Supreme Court after allegations of inconsistencies within the voter registry.
The group had described the voter register as “accurate and robust”, with Chair of the observation group Dr Lawrence Gonzi noting that “Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded.”
Golding was also asked by local media today if a credible and fair election was possible following the recent decision by the Supreme Court to dismiss the Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan.
Goulding responded that they have “taken note,” but added that he was unable to divulge the details of their discussions.
In addition to the Commonwealth, the European Union have been invited by the Elections Commission to implement the Maldives’ first full EU Election Observation Mission (EOM).
According to the Chief Observer Eduard Kukan, the EOM intend to strengthen human rights and the rule of law, to deter malpractice, and to improve the electoral environment. Their report will also make concrete recommendations to help improve the electoral framework.
India this week revealed that it had declined an invite from the Elections Commission to send a team of observers due to election preparations in India itself.
“The Maldives Elections Commission had invited our Election Commission to observe the polls. But the Election Commission is very busy managing the current schedule, so we have declined,” the New India Express reported a senior government official from the country as having stated.
Officials at the Indian High Commission in Malé have confirmed that no observers will be sent, though it was pointed out that High Commission staff would be performing some observer functions.