A charged debate took place in Parliament on Monday, following a resolution submitted by Maafannu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy aiming to prevent government influence on elections. The resolution focuses on the need for enacting legislation to govern the activities of the government in the lead-up to and during elections.

During debate, MP Imthiyaz urged the government to adhere to its promise of holding free and fair elections. However, MPs expressed reservations about the timing and scope of the resolution.

Thulusdhoo MP Ibrahim Naseem voiced concerns that the resolution was brought to the floor too late. Kendhoo MP Ali Hussain mirrored these sentiments, stating that the timing was inopportune: “When the resolution began, the ship has already sailed,” he lamented.

Naseem was critical of what he perceived as chronic government influence over elections, alleging that government-owned companies, particularly Fenaka Corporation, had increased their workforce in the run-up to the September presidential election. He argued that this could be considered an undue advantage. Hulhumale MP Ali Niyaz proposed a regulatory solution: “If things are not limited by law, for example, if companies cannot create more jobs during elections, they will continue to do so,” he warned.

Majority leader and Hithadhoo North MP Mohamed Aslam took a nuanced stance on what qualifies as ‘undue influence’ over an election. Aslam questioned whether government initiatives like raising salaries or establishing new projects could be considered inappropriate leveraging during election periods. Henveiru South MP Hussain Shaheem (Andhun Hussain) criticised the opposition for allegations of election influence, saying that the government was simply continuing its mandate to serve the people.

Ali Hussain also highlighted the disparity in the number of people assigned to different constituencies, particularly in Male’, alleging that this gerrymandering benefits specific individuals at the polls.

In light of these issues, MPs called for a law to clearly define the scope of government activity permissible during an election. However, they conceded that total elimination of influence was likely unachievable. “We can’t even eliminate it completely. All we can do is try to reduce it,” conceded Naseem.

As the parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held four months into President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s administration, questions remain over how the government will navigate the fine line between providing public services and exerting undue influence.