Maldives recently conducted its 11th poultry… excuse me! Parliamentary elections more commonly referred as the Majilis elections on the 6th of April 2019. More than 264,000 Maldivians were eligible to vote in this election that was to elect 87 hens (~male~ members) of the parliament using the first-past-the-post voting system. Yeah… sorry! We do get a few chickens (~female~ members) thrown in by chance. Before I go further, let’s stop making fun of our legislature and make this poultry farm into the real legislative body it should be. And we, as youth, have that power and responsibility in our hands!
I took the opportunity to work as an interpreter for the Commonwealth delegation that was invited to observe this election process. I got to work closely with the chair of the delegation — former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr Orette Bruce Golding, and at the end they concluded that the election was “peaceful and well organized.” And the group also commended the Elections Commission of Maldives (ECM) for the smooth conduct of the polls and the quality of training demonstrated by the polling officials.
I myself praise the inclusivity the ECM showed by giving the opportunity for more than 30 persons with disabilities to work as polling officials. I would also like to highlight that though the general voter turnout was low, there was a high voter turnout by person’s with disabilities in this election. The reason being the admirable work done by Transparency Maldives (TM) and the Maldives Association for Persons with Disabilities (MAPD) in conducting civic education sessions and interpreting the caucus of candidates competing. Kudos to them. Why had us youth not thought of that for this long?
When we talk about inclusivity, the chair of The Commonwealth delegation recognised the greater engagement of women as polling officials, but highlighted the low rate of the women’s political participation as a recurring issue. We can see that women are at the forefront of all the political campaigns as well, however, it is sad to see their lack of political participation at the highest levels. It was evident from the diminutive number of only 35 out of 386 parliamentary candidates being women. And only 5 out of 85 members being women from the outgoing parliament. And congratulations to the Maldives, we made it even better by electing only 4 women this time, out of 87 members; two seats more than the outgoing parliament. We always make sure to take some steps back.
When it comes to voter turnout, it was sad to see that there was a significantly lower voter turnout compared to the presidential election. Not enough of us youth’s turned up to vote. We need to understand that each election is just as significant as the last one, each time we have to vote, we have the same civic responsibility on our shoulders. Besides, the president is one person, the parliament is 87. They definitely have more power to turn our country upside down. They are the ones that make the laws. But oh yeah, of course, the law is always below our politicians.
Anyway, why am I talking about all this?
Because I need to! And you need to as well. I am a youth, and I believe that I have the responsibility to be concerned about and talk about my country’s political situation. But most of all do something about the situation, take action and make change happen.
Some of us may be weary and debilitated that the candidates we thought were most deserving of the seats did not win. First of all, let me tell you, no one is deserving of a seat. That seat is for any skilled and capable person who would be most representative of the constituency. I for one, don’t care who is in the seat and which party they belong to.
It is not them that has the power. It is us, the constituents. They may be elected to represent a constituency at the parliament, but it is not representative anymore when the civic responsibility of the constituents ends at the point where we cast our vote at the ballot box. Our responsibility does not end there. If anything, our responsibility as citizen’s have only increased twofold when the ruling party now has a super majority in the parliament. The executive and the legislature are run by the same political party, increasing the chance of the government being tyrannical. We need to come out of the cafe’s… or just stay there if you want to, let’s not push this too far. But definitely stop the PUBG match and call your MP! Tell him what you think is best! Ask him why, he said so and so! Demand the information you need and say what they need to hear! You elected them, they are not above you! Respecting someone does not mean you are below them.
Please answer these questions for me!
* Have you ever read your constitution even once?
* Have you ever talked to your constituency’s MP and discussed about a bill?
If ‘No’ was your answer, you definitely aren’t left alone. But let’s change that. It is the truth that we youths are the justice league, but only on social media. Partly safe and very comfortable, behind our keyboards. If you really care, you would take the steps to change the status quo rather than simply playing the blame game and sharing memes of Jabir. If politics is dirty water, then we youth is the chlorine that needs to go into it! Get out there guys! Demand your MP to open an office in their respective constituencies. Let’s put an effort in promoting the political participation of women at all levels. Let’s get this ball rolling on the greener road, towards the lit up horizon. Give more than a moment for politics youths!