Maldives gears up for Saturday’s general election

Six months after electing Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as President in a high-stakes election, Maldivians are gearing up for another crucial vote in Saturday’s parliamentary poll, whose outcome will impact the prospects for political stability in the island nation.

The Election Commission on Thursday said preparations for Saturday’s polls were complete and that they expected the polling process to be smooth and swift. Over 2.6 lakh Maldivians have registered to vote in the poll, in which nearly 400 candidates are contesting for 87 seats in Parliament.

President Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which is led by ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, is the chief constituent in the ruling alliance. The MDP is looking to consolidate the gains it made last year by contesting independently, aiming for a parliamentary majority.

Being in government without a majority in the legislature heightens the possibility of “a coup like in the past”, former President Nasheed said, referring to his controversial removal in 2012, less than four years after he became the first democratically elected President of the Maldives.

“When we don’t have a parliamentary majority, very often the independent institutions lose confidence in government. And when that happens, the judiciary starts running away with their politically motivated sentences,” the former President told The Hindu after a late night campaign rally in capital Male, where he is contesting to become a member of Parliament.

The MDP’s strategy also comes amid growing differences within the ruling coalition since last year, when an eclectic alliance led by Mr. Solih came to power, defeating former President Abdulla Yameen, on the promise of “restoring democracy and fighting corruption”.

Qasim Ibrahim, who is the Speaker and leader of the Jumhooree Party (JP) that backed Mr. Solih in 2018, is currently teaming up with the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) of Mr. Yameen, who was accused of corruption and authoritarianism when in power.

The PPM has raised concern over “not having a fair chance” in Saturday’s poll. “Our leader was jailed for a month, his bank account — which is really the party’s — was frozen and our funding was cut. How can we manage a campaign in such a situation?” asked Mohamed H. Shareef, a supporter of Mr. Yameen and a member of the People’s National Congress that Mr. Yameen formed in early 2019. In February, he was arrested on charges of money laundering and later released following a high court order.


Source URL: The Hindu

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