A Commonwealth group that observed the April 6 parliamentary polls in the Maldives released its final report on Wednesday, commending the electoral body for delivering “peaceful, credible, transparent and inclusive elections.”
Led by former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, the group was deployed after the Maldives applied to rejoin the association following the change of government in November 2018. The observation report will contribute to Secretary-General Patricia Scotland’s informal assessment of the re-application process, according to the Commonwealth.
“We have been struck by the trust that voters appear to have in the electoral process itself,” Golding stated in the foreword. “Many aspects of the Maldivian electoral process are far advanced and can provide useful lessons across the Commonwealth.”
But the report raised concerns about the low participation of women as there were only 35 female candidates out of 386 contenders. It recommended “deliberate measures to ensure women occupy positions of leadership” and urged parliament and political parties to fully implement the 2016 Gender Equality Act.
Other recommendations included enforcing the prohibition against vote buying, enshrining the voting time on polling day in legislation, and allowing voters on the Dhaftaru register of persons residing in Malé who do not have a permanent address in the capital to vote in their resident constituencies for a minimum specified period.
The Elections Commission had extended voting time by two hours on polling day, citing the likelihood of high temperatures in the afternoon dampening turnout. The turnout reached a record 80 percent with some 212,079 out of 264,442 eligible voters casting ballots.
The report also highlighted positive aspects such as “the secrecy of the ballot, the quality of training of the polling officials and the ‘meticulous’ processes employed for voters’ registration.”
Despite a similar positive assessment, the local chapter of Transparency International had also recommended “immediate measures to address wider issues, including vote buying, lack of transparency in political finance, abuse of state resources, barriers for women’s equal participation in the electoral processes, and bring long overdue reforms to the electoral legal framework.”