Male, Sep 5 (IANS) The election environment has been peaceful in the run-up to the presidential poll in the Maldives, Transparency International said Thursday.
Transparency Maldives will field the largest number of election monitors at Saturday's poll. It will also conduct the first systematic evaluation in the country's history, reported Xinhua.
The Maldives goes to the poll Saturday to elect its president, 18 months after former president Mohammad Nasheed was forced to step down.
Nasheed is contesting the elections against incumbent President Mohamed Waheed, who took over in controversial circumstances.
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 the election is 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 it's 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.
One reason that contributes to persisting peace is that all parties believe that they have a chance to win, either the first or the second round vote, so there is less incentive to disrupt the process, said Saleem.
"Two main concerns: one is the mistrust and politicisation of the police force, and other the accountability and integrity of the judiciary. These are the two main elements that can make or break the elections," he said.
"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 could break the polls," he added.
Key presidential opponent, former president Nasheed told media persons Thursday that he too was concerned about the politicisation of the police and said that he had received news of police distributing pamphlets promoting President Waheed.
The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had lodged a case at the Maldives supreme court ahead of the elections, calling for the process to be free and fair.
Other candidates 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.