In the wake of the first round of the Maldives' presidential election held on Saturday, September 9, Transparency Maldives, an independent electoral watchdog, has voiced significant concerns regarding the conduct of the election and has called for reforms to address the issues observed.
The election, which is going to see a second round of voting as none of the candidates who competed reached the minimal 51 percent required to win in one go has faced several areas of concern which were highlighted during a press conference that was hosted this Sunday, September 10th by the Transparency Maldives. During this press conference, the Communication and Advocacy Manager of Transparency Maldives highlighted the lack of operational procedures across the ballot stations, which could have led to potential compromises in the secrecy of the ballot.
One of the main concerns that was raised, which was also highlighted by the general public on the day of the election was the issue surrounding the close proximity in the smaller polling stations. Due to the distance, voters found themselves standing near one another as well as the observers and the monitors of the ballot boxes, which could easily lead to other people being able to observe the choices made at the ballot box, which is meant to be kept in secrecy.
Additionally, Transparency Maldives also called for amendments to the laws to prevent the practices surrounding the use of state assets for campaign purposes, as the state and campaign need to be separated when it comes to elections and campaigns. One of the major reasons that this rule needs to be implemented is due to the fact that if the ruling party is to make use of the state assets to drive a campaign, the playing field would not be fair as this would give the ruling party a bigger advantage over the other competing candidates.
In order to prevent these issues from rising during the second time around, Transparency Maldives has urged the Elections Commission (EC) to take concrete actions to restore public trust in the integrity of the secret ballot. They offered several recommendations to improve the second round of the election, including expediting the appointment of an executive committee member to enhance the commission's operations, providing training and instructions to officials for uniform operational protocols, revising polling station layouts to ensure ballot secrecy, and selecting alternative venues for smaller polling stations that compromise secrecy.
Additionally, the agency called for measures to prevent elections observers and monitors from taking photographs or videos while voters cast their ballots.
As the Maldives prepares for the second round of the presidential election, these concerns raised by Transparency Maldives highlight the importance of addressing operational discrepancies and ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process for all citizens.
With the elections going on for a second round, the need to implement these rules to ensure that a fair election is hosted has become extremely important. With previous elections seeing accusations of election rigging, leading to the lengthy process of recounting ballot boxes, the need for transparency and honesty during election time is much needed. In a democratic country like the Maldives, we must all work together to ensure that elections are hosted fairly so that the people can choose their leaders.