Amidst the political fervour surrounding the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2024, the Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) has urged all political parties to ensure transparency, fairness, and adherence to democratic principles in their internal elections.

This call comes in the wake of the recent internal elections of the Democrats, which saw significant controversy and disputes during their election process.The results from several ballot boxes were nullified, and there was a substantial delay in announcing the preliminary results.

In an interview with Maldives Republic, Ismail Habeeb, Vice Chairman of the ECM, reiterated the commission’s long-standing advocacy for transparency, freedom, and democratic principles in all political party elections.

Habeeb emphasised, “In the pursuit of democracy, the right to vote is a privilege that must be guaranteed for every member. Inclusivity is key, allowing participation from all members, irrespective of rank or role. Above all, fairness must be the cornerstone of the process, ensuring an unbiased platform for every candidate.”

The Democrats’ internal election, held on 2 December 2023, was fraught with controversy. Both Hassan Latheef, the interim chairperson and MP for West-Henveiru, and Hussain Amr, the former Managing Director of the State Trading Organisation (STO), initially declared victory. This led to confusion and tension within the party. The delay in announcing the official results, nearly 24 hours after the polls closed, further fueled concerns and accusations of potential vote rigging, particularly among Amr’s supporters.

Addressing the public concerns that arose from the Democrats’ internal elections, Habeeb underscored the ECM’s advocacy for accountability and oversight. He stated, “A system must be in place to hold individuals accountable for their actions during the election process, while an independent body must be appointed to oversee the election process to ensure it is conducted properly. Election monitors and observers must be allowed to do their part without hindrance.”

Habeeb also highlighted the high track record and standards set by the ECM in holding elections in the Maldives, citing the presidential elections held last September as a testament to the high standards followed by the ECM.

“Our electoral system epitomises transparency, adhering to the highest international standards. It is incumbent upon all political parties to emulate this example, ensuring a democratic process steeped in transparency. Without such adherence, accepting internal election results by party members becomes a challenging endeavour,” Habeeb stated.

The ECM also recently called on everyone to ensure that the rights of all candidates are protected while campaigning for the upcoming by-elections of the Malé City Council. All candidates and political parties should ensure they do not infringe on the rights of other candidates and adhere to the laws and regulations, Habeeb urged. By-elections for the mayorship and vacancies in Malé City Council for South Maafannu, Central Henveiru, and South Henveiru are scheduled for 13 January.