A comprehensive survey by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has uncovered significant public concern over the integrity of parliamentary elections. The findings indicate a widespread belief that employment opportunities in state institutions and government-owned companies are being used as leverage to influence electoral outcomes.

According to the “Parliament Election: Public Perception Survey,” 50% of participants identified job offerings in public sector entities as the primary method of electoral manipulation. The survey further revealed that 27% of respondents are wary of the timing of government project announcements, suspecting them as tactics for vote influence, while 14% highlighted the misuse of state property and resources for political gains.

Alarmingly, the survey, which included 1,174 respondents from the Malé region, also highlighted the distribution of money and gifts, alongside medical care and other government-provided services, as means to sway voters. Disturbing practices such as the purchase of ID cards and the sale of drugs to youth during the election season were also reported.

In a significant display of discontent, 56% of those surveyed expressed a desire for a “none of the above” option on ballot papers, allowing voters to reject all candidates if deemed unsatisfactory. This option found substantial support among the youth, with 61% of younger participants advocating for its inclusion. The survey underscored a lack of awareness on this issue, as evidenced by the 14% of respondents undecided on the matter.

The survey also touched upon the concept of proportional voting systems, as observed in neighbouring countries and some European nations, suggesting a re-evaluation of the current electoral framework might be in order.

Another critical aspect of the survey revealed a strong public sentiment towards accountability within the parliamentary system. An overwhelming 73% believe that Members of Parliament (MPs) should be disqualified for crossing the floor, amidst growing allegations of corruption and party switching among MPs from the 19th People’s Majlis.

Additionally, there is considerable support for reducing the number of MPs, with 68% of respondents in favour, contrasting with 27% who are satisfied with the current composition, based on a representation rate of one MP per 5,000 people.

These findings underscore the urgent need for reforms to enhance electoral transparency and integrity. The survey’s revelations about public distrust in electoral processes and the manipulation of democratic mechanisms demand immediate attention and action from both governmental and international bodies to safeguard the fundamental principles of democracy in the Maldives.