The Commonwealth observer group deployed to observe Maldives’ 2019 parliamentary elections has released its final report this week.
These were the first elections that a Commonwealth group observed since Maldives withdrew its membership in 2016.
The Commonwealth does not usually observe elections in non-member countries. However, exceptions can be made for countries that have applied to join or re-join the association, as Maldives did in 2018.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, made the final report public after it was sent to the Maldivian government, elections commission and political parties. The report contributes to the Secretary-General’s informal assessment of the Maldives’ re-application process.
The former Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, led the group which included eight eminent persons.
In the foreword of the report, Golding stated: “We have been struck by the trust that voters appear to have in the electoral process itself.
“Many aspects of the Maldivian electoral process are far advanced and can provide useful lessons across the Commonwealth.”
He called on the newly constituted parliament to “spare no effect in working to achieve the people’s wish for strong and independent democratic institutions, impervious to any improper influence”.
The report’s recommendations include:
nPolitical parties should take deliberate measures to ensure women occupy positions of leadership and young people are engaged in policing formulation;
nProhibitions against vote-buying need to be enforced in accordance with the requirements of the Elections (General) Act 2008;
nThe voting time on polling day should be enshrined in legislation; and
nPersons, including those on the Dhaftaru Register (a register for persons residing in the capital, Male, who do not have a permanent address in Male) should be entitled to vote in their residing electoral constituencies for a minimum specified period.
The report highlights positive aspects of the electoral process such as the secrecy of the ballot, the quality of training of the polling officials and the ‘meticulous’ processes employed for voters’ registration. It commends the country’s electoral commission for being well prepared to deliver peaceful, credible, transparent and inclusive elections.
The report raises concerns about the low participation of women as only 35 of the 386 parliamentary candidates were women. It recommends that the parliament and political parties play their part in fully implementing the country’s 2016 Gender Equality Act.