ANFREL’s 2019 Maldivian People’s Majlis Election Study Mission Report
ANFREL congratulates the Maldivian people on the successful and credible conduct of the 2019 People’s Majlis Elections. The success of this monumental endeavor can only be attributed to the unflinching trust of the voters on the ballot, the active participation of civil society and media, and the transparent management of the Elections Commission of Maldives. Credit should also be given to the political parties who conducted the campaigns in a peaceful manner. We hope that the success of this polls will catalyze further developments and reforms to address some minor issues various stakeholders experienced.
The 2019 People’s Majlis Elections is ANFREL’s first engagement in the Republic of Maldives. The organization deployed 4 election experts, headed by Mr. Rohana Hettiarachchie of Sri Lanka, within a limited period of one week, to study the polling process and witness the election environment. The study visit aims to present a limited assessment of the country’s electoral process, as well as craft a set of recommendations which will set ANFREL’s future engagement focus in the Maldives.
The 2019 Maldives Elections was held on April 6, to elect the 87 seats in the country’s unicameral legislature called the People’s Majlis. Of the 264,442 registered voters, 212,079 participated in the voting process, registering a very high 81.2% turnout rate. The polls went peacefully and with minor issues, with the complex counting system and tabulation of votes posing as the only bottleneck in an otherwise smooth election process. This impressive feat was reflective of the people’s desire and a conscious community effort to ensure a credible poll, with stakeholders working together to create an electoral environment conducive to the free movement of voters, media, political parties, and civil society. The Elections Commission of Maldives (ECM) has also exhausted all means to ensure the transparency of the polls by providing access for all stakeholders in most of the poll’s stages.
While the election day process presented itself to be organized and transparent, ANFREL’s preliminary assessment, which was formed through literature reviews, dialogues with Maldivian stakeholders, and random polling place visits, revealed some issues which need to be addressed to further promote democratization in the country. For instance, the weak enforcement of campaign finance regulation heavily tilted the playing field towards candidates privileged with financial and political resources. Furthermore, the country’s process of out-of-constituency voting registration and voting process may expose voters to some vulnerabilities especially with regard to the secrecy of their votes.
While the study mission would like to refrain from issuing a sweeping statement on whether the 2019 Majlis Election was free and fair due to the limited nature of ANFREL’s engagement in Maldives, the members of the team are unanimous in their very positive perception of the elections and sees that the current conditions in the country are opportune to enable positive developments and reforms.