September 9, 2023: Voting underway for the presidential election. Dhauru Photo/Hussain Sunain

Use of state resources to buy votes is common: Transparency

Some candidates interviewed by TM shared that voters directly asked for money and other benefits in exchange for their votes.

15 April 2024

By Shahudha Mohamed

Transparency Maldives (TM) has expressed concern over the widespread misuse of state resources for vote buying and electoral gain.

Transparency Maldives’ pre-election assessment for the upcoming parliamentary elections found that all candidates surveyed by the organization expressed concerns about vote buying in the parliamentary elections.

Transparency Maldives identified the misuse of state resources as one of the biggest issues in elections. Thus:

  • The misuse of state resources was noted in previous elections, including the last presidential election

  • It has become common to hold ceremonies to inaugurate and celebrate projects during the election and campaign periods

  • Especially the use of state-owned companies for electoral gain was noted

While the law prohibits the use of state resources for private gain, the report also expressed concern about the legal vacuum to hold those involved accountable.

"Vote buying is a major issue in this election as well. All respondents in this study expressed concerns about vote buying in the current campaigns," Transparency Maldives said.

The association noted that:

  • Some candidates interviewed shared that voters directly asked for money and other benefits in exchange for their votes

  • Lack of monitoring of vote buying, lack of prompt and successful investigations and lack of full implementation of relevant laws are challenges to prevent such practices

Transparency Maldives expressed concern over the misuse of state resources during the last presidential election as well. However, the authorities have not taken any action in any such case so far.

Apart from abuse of state resources and vote buying, Transparency's assessment also identified two main concerns. They are:

1. Decrease in the number of women contesting parliamentary elections (especially from the main parties):

  • Women's representation is very low in Maldives compared to the rest of the world; Maldives also ranked lowest in South Asia

  • Women representing the main parties are not significantly less likely to win the general public vote than men, according to the Transparency Maldives study

  • Since the 2009 parliamentary elections, the number of women represented by the main parties has not increased

2. Issues related to under-representation of the people:

  • The selection of voters for constituencies looking at permanent address has led to thousands of voters casting their votes in constituencies other than those where normal life is based

  • Most of the people on the city register are in the two newly added constituencies, a "random allocation" does not fully address their concerns