The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has released a report detailing several issues observed during the recent parliamentary elections, despite overall commendation of the Elections Commission’s (EC) handling of the process.

According to the HRCM’s report released on Monday, 88 observers were stationed across 35 islands in 18 atolls to monitor the elections held on 21 April. While the commission noted the smooth conclusion of campaigning and adherence to the designated cut-off times, it identified numerous logistical and procedural challenges on polling day.

The report highlighted that 77 percent of polling stations opened on time. However, delays were mostly attributed to officials failing to complete preparations promptly. Notably, the number of ballot papers was not verified at 45 percent of polling stations before the 7:30 a.m. deadline, with some stations starting the voting process as late as 8:30 a.m.

Accessibility issues were a significant concern, with 37 percent of polling stations not being easily accessible to voters with physical disabilities due to small spaces, narrow entrances, and physical obstacles. Additionally, 20 polling stations had ballot boxes placed on tall tables, making it difficult for persons with disabilities to cast their ballots independently.

Issues of transparency and voter influence were also noted. Lists of eligible voters were not displayed outside three polling stations, and in some cases, campaign materials were improperly positioned close to the polling areas. The report also pointed out instances of exerted influence over voters with disabilities and violations involving the use of phones and photography within restricted areas of polling stations.

Despite these issues, the overall electoral process was deemed smooth by the HRCM, with international observers previously praising the EC for its exemplary handling of the election logistics and technology use, contributing to a peaceful voting environment.

The elections saw the People’s National Congress (PNC) secure a significant majority, with 66 candidates from the PNC winning seats. Of the 43 female candidates who contested, only three were elected, highlighting an ongoing gender disparity in the political representation.

The newly elected members of parliament are scheduled to be sworn in on 28 May.