Transparency Maldives has issued a stark condemnation of the continued misuse of state resources during the official campaign period of the 2024 Parliamentary Elections, spotlighting a disturbing trend that undermines the integrity of the electoral process. This critical stance echoes concerns raised by a recent Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) survey, which highlighted similar issues affecting voter perception and election fairness.

The press statement released on 4 April 2024 by Transparency Maldives specifically criticises the strategic timing of development project announcements and the increase in political appointees, which collectively skew the electoral playing field in favour of incumbents. This practice, according to the organisation, not only distorts the democratic process but also establishes a patronage and clientelist system through State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), posing a subtle yet significant threat to electoral fairness.

Moreover, the alteration of infrastructure projects and socio-economic policies close to the election period, without transparent long-term planning or consultative processes, has raised alarms over the potential manipulation of voter rights. Transparency Maldives asserts that these last-minute changes are designed to influence voter choice unduly, compromising equitable and sustainable development.

The organisation’s call for action includes demands for the incumbent administration and elected public officials to cease the exploitation of state resources for electoral gain. It also urges the Anti-Corruption Commission to enforce its guidelines rigorously and for relevant authorities, including the Parliament and the Attorney General’s Office, to strengthen the legal framework addressing the misuse of state resources. This includes setting clear guidelines for the announcement and inauguration of new projects during election periods to prevent undue influence on voters.

This critique comes in the wake of findings from the HRCM survey, which revealed that 50% of respondents view employment opportunities in state institutions and government-owned companies as a primary tool for election influence. The survey also indicated a broad public desire for electoral reform, including the introduction of a “none of the above” option on ballots, highlighting a significant portion of the electorate’s disillusionment with current political candidates and practices.