Monitors see peaceful environment ahead of Maldives' election

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-9-5 18:45:35

The election environment has been peaceful in the run-up to presidential polls in the Maldives, Transparency International said here on Thursday.

Transparency Maldives, which will field the largest number of election monitors at Saturday's polls and will conduct the first systematic evaluation in the country's history met with Xinhua to discuss their observations on the campaigns.

The Maldives goes to the polls on Saturday for a presidential election, 18 months after a mutiny by police officers that ousted former President Mohammad Nasheed.

Nasheed will be contesting against incumbent President Mohamed Waheed in the elections.

With over 400 volunteers, Transparency Maldives is not only observing the 472 ballot boxes scattered around the Indian Ocean archipelago, it will also coordinate with the 77 international observers and will play a crucial role in ensuring that elections are as democratic as possible.

"We've had 26 long term observers since July 15 in the islands. For the most part the election environment has been peaceful. We have reports of sporadic cases of violence, incidents of vote buying...but it's different from previous elections because its less about cash and more in kind, for example donations to communities, to schools and to youth clubs, " said Transparency Maldives Media Coordinator Ahmed Najaaf Saleem.

He pointed out that one reason contributes to the peacefulness is that all parties believe that they have a chance to win in either the first or second round so there is less incentive to disrupt the process.

"Two main concerns, one is the mistrusting and politicization of the police force and the accountability and integrity of the judiciary. These are the two main elements that can make or break the elections. However, I must say that the police have been very prepared for the elections, but having said that we feel that this environment of mistrust that could be something that could break the polls," he added.

Key presidential opponent former President Nasheed told media on Thursday that he too is concerned about the politicization of the police and said that he had received news of police distributing pamphlets promoting President Waheed.

The Progressive People's Party (PPM) had also lodged a case at the Maldives Supreme Court ahead of the elections calling for the polls to be free and fair.

Other candidates had also expressed doubt over the accuracy of the Election Commission's voter lists and the possibility of dissolvable ink being used to mark voters so the ballot could be rigged.

Yet Saleem is confident that if such acts take place the monitoring system is strong enough to detect it.

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