A Commonwealth group observing Maldives’ 2019 parliamentary elections has expressed satisfaction over the voting and counting process.
Terming the polls ‘peaceful and well organised’, the group in a statement on Tuesday lauded the role of the Election Commission of Maldives for the smooth conduct of the polls and the quality of training demonstrated by the polling officials.Addressing a press briefing, the chair of the group and former Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding praised the people of Maldives.
“Once again, they have taken a step forward in consolidating their country’s democracy. We challenge the leaders they have chosen to spare no effort in realising their aspirations,” he said.
Observers were deployed to various atolls on April 4 where they observed the pre-election environment, the voting process and counting of ballots.
On the polling day, they observed that polls generally opened on time, the signage providing relevant instructions to voters were visibly displayed, media officials (monitors), candidate representatives and citizen observers were present during the voting and counting and voters’ identification was properly checked, voters were inked and provided with a ballot paper before proceeding to vote, said the statement.
The chair recognised the greater engagement of women as polling officials but highlighted the low rate of women’s political participation as a recurring issue.
“Although women constituted a significant number of polling officials, only 35 out of the 386 parliamentary candidates for this election were women. We note the outgoing parliament had five women representatives out of 85 members,” he said.Golding urged political parties to make a special effort to promote the participation of women at all levels, and stressed that this goal is endorsed in Maldivian laws, particularly in the Gender Equality Act 2016.
This is Maldives’ 11th parliamentary election. More than 264,000 Maldivians were eligible to vote and elect 87 members to parliament using the first-past-the-post system.
The chair urged the people of Maldives to remain calm as the country awaits the final results.
Observers arrived in Maldives on March 30 and heard from the representatives of the election commission, political parties, the police, independent institutions, civil society and diplomatic community.
It is the first time the Commonwealth has observed elections in Maldives since the country withdrew its membership in 2016. The Election Commission of Maldives invited the Commonwealth to observe the 2019 parliamentary elections.
The group’s full assessment on the electoral process as a whole, setting out its recommendations in greater detail, will be considered as part of Maldives’ application to re-join the Commonwealth.