In a stern condemnation on Monday, Transparency Maldives expressed grave concern over the ongoing misuse of state resources and attempts to manipulate voters’ freedom to make an unbiased choice in the forthcoming presidential election.
The organization emphasized that the integrity of a free and equitable election hinges not only on the actual polling day events but also on the broader electoral environment. Ensuring a level playing field for all candidates is a pivotal component of this democratic process.
Transparency Maldives’ “2023 Presidential Election Pre-election Assessment” brings to the forefront a significant apprehension – the improper use of state resources and the looming potential for systematic and orchestrated influence on voters through State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). This disconcerting trend has the potential to tilt the scales in favor of the incumbent, distorting the competition’s balance.
The assessment underscores the electoral risks associated with ceremonies linked to the inauguration and completion of government-funded projects, which have been employed as campaign tools by incumbent parties. Transparency Maldives iterates that these concerns have consistently emerged in past assessments and election observations.
In light of the official campaign period commencing on August 10 for the September 9 presidential election, the organization voices alarm over the flurry of project announcements and inaugurations taking place during campaign visits. Transparency Maldives pointed out official media reports and government agency social media accounts highlighting the incumbent’s attendance at inauguration ceremonies for 32 projects across 16 islands within the first 10 days of the campaign period. At least eight projects had already been completed between 2021-2022.
Furthermore, Transparency Maldives expressed profound apprehension about the scale and scope of infrastructure projects and socio-economic policies undergoing alterations close to the election period. The organization underscores that policy decisions should be rooted in long-term planning, inclusive consultations, and transparent development strategies. Short-term political motives should not dictate crucial decisions that impact the population’s welfare.
In a call to action, Transparency Maldives appeals to various stakeholders to ensure an impartial electoral environment. The organization specifically urges the incumbent administration, including elected public officials, to cease leveraging state resources and authority for electoral benefits. It further calls on the Anti-Corruption Commission to actively enforce guidelines against the misuse of state resources.
Moreover, Transparency Maldives emphasizes the importance of relevant authorities, including the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Parliament, working collaboratively to enhance the legal framework. This entails addressing gaps in holding public officials accountable for state resource misuse and setting timelines for project announcements and ceremonies for project completion and inauguration during electoral periods.
As the nation gears up for the presidential election, Transparency Maldives’ concerns emphasize the pivotal importance of a fair and transparent democratic process, underscored by the responsible use of state resources.