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Upon the invitation by the authorities of the Republic of Maldives, and in line with European Union’s (EU) continued engagement on accompanying elections in the Maldives, the EU deployed an Election Follow-up Mission (EFM), from 8 to 11 January 2018, after a preparatory phase in September 2017. The EFM was led by Mr Eduard Kukan, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Slovakia and Chief Observer of the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the 2014 parliamentary elections in the Maldives. The EFM was tasked to assess the implementation of the 22 EOM recommendations, within the context of the current political developments and the next electoral cycle. The EFM held meetings with representatives of the authorities, political parties, media and civil society. Some key meetings, notably with the President of the Republic and Supreme Court, were not granted. The EFM also met representatives of the international community.
Since 2014, electoral reforms have not been a priority on the domestic political agenda. International attention has been focused on broader concerns relating to respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights violations. Domestically, neither the government nor the People’s Majlis nor the opposition have sought to address the issue of electoral reforms. To date, the political and institutional environment of the Republic of Maldives has not been conducive for the adoption of meaningful and concerted electoral reforms.
The EFM found that progress was limited in the implementation of the recommendations. The mission was informed that a number of amendments to electoral legislation have been recently prepared by the Office of the Attorney General, with inputs by the Elections Commission (EC), to be submitted to the Majlis. The EFM has been informed that some of these amendments would address relevant EU EOM recommendations. The EFM would like to emphasize that amendments to electoral legislation should be widely disseminated and discussed among all the political actors at the Majlis, sufficiently ahead of the next election. The enactment of the 2016 Gender Equality Act represents a positive development in line with an EOM recommendation.
During its stay, the EFM noted with concern the shrinking and polarisation of political space. These concerns have been exacerbated by the recent political developments. ‘The current conditions have to change so the next elections are held in line with the international obligations of the Maldives’ said Mr Kukan. ‘Political contestants need to be able to freely campaign on a level playing field, and civil society and the media need to be able to freely perform their oversight functions', he emphasized.
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