Maldives presidential polls: Monitors concerned over Police and Judiciary politicisation

Friday, 6 September 2013 03:43 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Politicisation of Police and Judiciary are the two main concerns for free and fair elections in the largely peaceful run-up to presidential polls in the Maldives, Transparency International said yesterday. Transparency Maldives, which will field the largest number of election monitors at Saturday’s polls and will conduct the first systematic evaluation in the country’s history, met with the Daily FT to discuss their observations on the campaigns. With over 400 volunteers Transparency Maldives is not only observing the 472 ballot boxes scattered around the Indian Ocean archipelago, it will also coordinate with the 77 international observers and will play a crucial role in ensuring that elections are as democratic as possible. “We’ve had 26 long term observers since 15 July in the islands. For the most part the election environment has been peaceful; we have reports of sporadic cases of violence, incidents of vote buying… but it’s different from previous elections because its less about cash and more in kind, for example donations to communities, to schools and to youth clubs. So it’s less cash and more in kind,” said Transparency Maldives Media Coordinator Ahmed Najaaf Saleem. He pointed out that one reason for the relative peacefulness is because all parties feel that they have a chance to win in either the first or second round so there is less incentive to disrupt the process. “Two main concerns, one is the mistrusting and politicisation of the Police force and the accountability and integrity of the Judiciary. These are the two main elements that can make or break the elections. However, I must say that the Police have been very prepared for the elections, but having said that we feel that this environment of mistrust that could be something that could break the polls,” he added. Key presidential opponent former President Mohammad Nasheed told media on Thursday that he too is concerned about the politicisation of the Police and said that he had received news of Police distributing pamphlets promoting President Waheed. The Progressive People’s Party (PPM) had also lodged a case at the Maldives Supreme Court ahead of the elections calling for the polls to be free and fair. Other candidates had also expressed doubt over the accuracy of the Election Commission’s voter lists and the possibility of dissolvable ink being used to mark voters so the ballot could be rigged. Yet Saleem is confident that if such acts take place, the monitoring system is strong enough to detect it. In addition, former Malta Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi is in Maldives to lead the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) at the invitation of the Maldives Elections Commission. A statement said the COG would observe and consider all aspects of the electoral process and assess compliance with the standards for democratic elections. “The group may also make recommendations for the future strengthening of the electoral framework,” it added. The statement said the COG members would act and conduct themselves according to the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation. The COG will submit its report to Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma who will present it to the Maldives Government, its Elections Commission, political parties and all Commonwealth governments. Meanwhile, the UN Chief on Wednesday also urged the Maldives to ensure that the upcoming presidential election will be conducted in a credible and peaceful manner. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office said he “encourages all presidential candidates to respect the election results no matter who wins and asks that all stakeholders overcome their past differences”. Ban has also urged all Maldivians to “work together in a constructive manner toward national harmony and democratic consolidation”. The Maldives has faced political turbulence since democratically elected President Nasheed was ousted from power in 2012 by his then Vice President in an alleged coup.