Transparency Maldives, on Monday, has urged against abusing state resources for the presidential campaign.
In a statement on Monday, the organization revealed its pre-election assessment identified the misuse of state resources and the risk of systematic and coordinated influence on voters through State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) as major concerns that have the potential to skew the level playing field in favor of the incumbent.
They further detailed that the assessment also highlighted the electoral risks associated with ceremonies held to mark the inauguration and completion state-funded projects, and their use as a campaign took for the incumbent.
In this regard, Transparency Maldives noted that Ceremonies related to the inauguration and completion of 32 projects in 16 islands were attended by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the first 10 days of the official campaign period, of which eight projects had already been completed between 2021 and 2022 as per information available of isles.gov.mv.
“Carrying out official responsibilities while on campaign trips is an abuse of office and related powers, which blurs the line between the official responsibilities of the incumbent and the candidate's campaign,” they stressed.
Transparency Maldives also noted that the government had awarded 14 new projects to SOEs in the first eleven days of the official campaign period, valued at approximately over MVR 1 billion. On the contract, only five projects valued at approximately MVR 261 million were awarded by the government in the entire month of August last year.
The organization also expressed concern regarding the modification of the scope and scale of infrastructure projects and socio-economic policies close to the election period without a clear and transparent long-term plan or development strategy.
“While it is the responsibility of the government to provide essential services such as housing, health, and education, these development projects and policy decisions should not be made or perceived to be made for short-term political gains. Instead, policy decisions should be based on the needs of the population identified through an inclusive consultation process, considering socio-economic and environmental impacts, with a clear timeframe for completion,” they added.
Citing these concerns, Transparency Maldives called on the following to ensure a level electoral playing field;
The organization stressed that a free and fair election not only depends on the proceedings of the voting day, but rather the larger electoral environment in order to ensure level playing field for all candidates.