HRCM: Monitors and observers engaged in misconduct in 38% of polling stations

Poll workers at a polling station in Male' City count ballots in the 2024 parliamentary elections on April 21, 2024. (Sun Photo/Moosa Nadheem)

Monitors, observers and representatives of candidates were found in violation of code of conduct in 38 percent of the polling stations during the parliamentary elections held last week, according to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM).

In a statement on Tuesday night, the HRCM released its preliminary findings on the April 21 elections.

According to HRCM, it found that monitors, observers and representatives of candidates engaged in misconduct in 38 percent of the polling stations it observed, primarily with respect to the use of phones. While only monitors were allowed to take pictures, the rights watchdog found that even observers and candidates’ reps took photos and videos inside polling stations, including near voting booths.

HRCM said that only a few polling stations took action in response to such acts.

In addition to handing lists of voters and checking the number of voters, discussions took place inside polling stations regarding matters related to political parties.

HRCM found that a number of politicians gave media interviews around polling stations, with some calling on voters to support specific candidates.

The commission also found that incidents that could compromise voter confidentiality took place in eight polling stations. This includes incidents where voters displayed their ballot papers, and one incident where a poll worker entered a voting booth.

Three voters were taken into police custody for displaying their ballot papers.

HRCM also found that 15 percent of polling stations did not have enough space to make necessary arrangements, risking loss of voter confidentiality in 34 polling stations, especially with respect to wheelchair-bound voters.

In conclusion, the rights watchdog praised the Elections Commission (EC) for making relatively good voting arrangements, and found that all in all, the recent parliamentary elections had gone smoothly, with only a few issues.

Over 200,000 Maldivians voted in the parliamentary elections held on April 21, in which 326 candidates contested for 93 seats in the next parliamentary assembly, including six news seats.

The voter turnout was 75 percent, which the HRCM noted is lower than the turnout in the 2019 elections.