Transparency Maldives reveals details of election day observation mission

Transparency Maldives has today confirmed it will be fielding the only nation-wide domestic elections observation mission for this Saturday’s Majlis elections.

The mission will comprise of over 300 trained observers and volunteers, spanning all 20 atolls and foreign countries hosting ballot boxes for the country’s second multi-party parliamentary elections.

In addition to election day efforts,  Transparency will be conducting long-term election observation in order to ensure that the pre-election is free from obstructions, and that voters can make an informed choice without undue influence.

Transparency Maldives’ long-term observer network has been functional since 1 March 2014.

“Though the pre-election environment is largely peaceful, Transparency Maldives has identified vote buying, allegations of abuse of authority and state resources, and the lack of political financing transparency as major issues of concern through the long term observation,” read the press release.

Transparency will be releasing a press statement on the opening of polls on the afternoon of election day, as well as a statement on the closing and counting of ballots the following day.

A final report on the findings with recommendations will be published within a month of the polls.


Commonwealth parliamentary elections observer group arrives

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.


Transparency Maldives deploying 42 long term elections observers nationwide

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.

Election environment

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.