Transparency Maldives, a key observer of national elections since the inaugural multi-party presidential election in 2008, has identified recurring issues that hinder the execution of free, fair, and credible elections. Among the most critical issues highlighted are the stark underrepresentation of women in politics, prevalent vote buying, and the misuse of state resources for electoral gain.

The report paints a grim picture of gender equality in Maldivian politics, noting that the nation ranks poorly both globally and in South Asia for women’s representation in parliament. This is attributed to the low number of women candidates fielded by major parties, who are often more socio-economically and politically advantaged, suggesting significant intersectional barriers. Despite this, the assessment indicates that women candidates are not less likely to win the public vote compared to their male counterparts. However, there has been no notable progress in increasing women’s candidacy since 2009.

Another alarming issue is the misuse of state resources and vote buying, which have been major concerns in previous elections. The assessment reports that projects are often inaugurated or completed in alignment with the election timeline, showing the utilisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) for electoral gain. Stakeholders have raised concerns about vote buying being rampant in the current election cycle, with some voters reportedly demanding money or benefits in exchange for their vote. The report criticises the lack of effective monitoring and enforcement to combat these practices.

The assessment also critiques the current constituency allocation based on the country’s permanent address system, which results in many voters casting ballots in areas where they do not normally reside. This system affects thousands, especially those who have moved to the capital, Malé. Although the Elections Commission has made efforts to address this by allocating most of the Dhaftharu voters to two new constituencies in Malé, the report argues that this does not sufficiently resolve the issue.

To rectify these issues, Transparency Maldives recommends several actions. These include urging political parties to identify and eliminate barriers for potential women candidates and advocating for a voluntary quota system. It also calls for enhanced monitoring and prosecution of vote buying and state resource misuse, alongside a legislative review of the use of state resources during elections. Lastly, the report suggests a debate on the current constituency allocation system to ensure equity between urban centres and the rest of the country.