MDP selects representatives for all-party talks

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has formulated the team which will represent the party in all-party talks planned to discuss steps to defend the Constitution.

In a tweet by MDP chairperson Ali Waheed it was revealed that the team will consist of himself, Parliamentary Group leader MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, former Majlis Speaker MP Abdulla Shahid, former party Chairperson MP Mariya Didi, and Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab.

MDP leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed has urged President Abdulla Yameen to abandon strict and arbitrary policies and actions against other political figures and to conduct official talks with all political parties.

“As soon as possible, even if possible tonight, I urge President Yameen to commence talks with all political parties, especially with the inclusion of President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] in the talks,” he said.

Similarly,the Jumhooree Party has also has called on all political parties to discuss the steps that need to be taken to defend the Constitution, stating that it was willing to work with any party for that cause, in spite of potential threats and intimidation from the government.

The MDP have listed the removal of two Supreme Court judges and the replacement of the auditor general late last year as examples of the government’s unconstitutional actions.

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JP council officially declares exit from Progressive Coalition

The Jumhooree Party (JP) has officially left the Progressive Coalition with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and has given leader Gasim Ibrahim the authority to make all decisions regarding actions needed to defend the Constitution.

“Jumhooree Party’s National Council agrees and decides to give all powers and authority to party leader Honourable Gasim Ibrahim in taking any course of action in cooperation of any party to defend the constitution of the Republic of Maldives”, said the unanimous JP Council motion yesterday (January 24).

At a press conference held on Saturday, JP Deputy Leader and former transport minister Ameen Ibrahim stated that the party had left the coalition due to the government’s repeated violations of the Constitution through the narrowing of basic rights and freedoms, and influencing independent state institutions.

Ameen was appointed transport minister following Abdulla Yameen’s election as president in November 2013, secured by the JP council’s decision to back him in the second round.

Following Gasim’s decision to stand against the PPM’s candidate for Majlis speaker last year, the PPM decided to unilaterally expel the JP from the ruling coalition – which also includes the Maldives Development Alliance.

A purge of JP ministers followed, with Ameen dismissed and two of the party’s cabinet members defecting to the former ally. Despite this, the JP maintained that the coalition agreement had not been fully terminated – expressing a willingness to continue discussions.

Ameen yesterday called on all political parties to discuss the steps that need to be taken to defend the Constitution, stating that the JP is willing to work with any party for that cause despite the potential threats and intimidation from the government to the party and its leader.

Minivan News was unable to obtain comment from the PPM at the time of publication.

Additionally, the JP council decided to remove Moosa Anwar from the post of party youth wing president yesterday. Anwar has pledged to contest the decision in the courts, saying it contravenes the JP’s constitution.

Spokesman for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, has welcomed the JP’s decision to officially leave the coalition, saying that the party could not work with the current government.

“The government is unable to work within the framework of the Constitution of which the spirit is democratic and consultative,” said Ghafoor.

Ties between the MDP and the JP have grown closer in recent weeks, with former President Mohamed Nasheed pledging earlier this month to defend Gasim against government attacks.

Last week the MDP held a rally outside Gasim’s home to show solidarity with the leader and to defend the constitution, with JP Spokesman Ahmed Sameer expressing confidence that the MDP and JP could “travel on the same boat”.

The MDP have listed the removal of two Supreme Court judges and the replacement of the auditor general late last year as examples of the government’s unconstitutional actions.

Meanwhile, speaking to journalists on his return from an official trip to Abu Dhabi on Thursday (January 22), Nasheed urged President Yameen to abandon strict and arbitrary policies and actions against other political figures and to conduct official talks with all political parties.

“As soon as possible, even if possible tonight, I urge President Yameen to commence talks with all political parties, especially with the inclusion of President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] in the talks,” he said.

The President’s Office has reported today that Yameen met with former President Gayoom – also his half-brother – to discuss the current political situation as well as the government’s planned initiatives.



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MDP, JP MPs propose 19 amendments to 2015 budget

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs submitted 19 amendments at yesterday’s sitting of parliament to the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015.

Among the MDP’s nine amendments were scrapping plans to impose a 10 percent import duty on staple foodstuff and oil and allocating MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) and MVR75 million (US$4.8 million) respectively to provide subsidies for fishermen and farmers.

Other proposals included adding persons with disabilities and single parents as categories eligible for government subsidies to the poor and requiring the finance ministry to submit quarterly reports to parliament every three months concerning the implementation of the budget.

The minority party has issued a three-line whip for its MPs to vote against the budget if none of the proposed revisions are passed.

The JP’s 10 amendments meanwhile included providing MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) in subsidies to fishermen and MVR40 million (US$2.5 million) to farmers, ensuring sufficient funds for local councils and allocating MVR5 million (US$324,254) out of the contingency budget for local NGOs that provide education and training to persons with special needs.

The party also proposed conducting a survey to determine discrepancies in salary and allowances among state employees.

The 19 amendments were proposed after Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan – chair of the budget review committee – presented a report prepared by the committee following its review process

While the committee had passed the budgetlast week without significant changes to revenue or expenditure, pro-government MPs proposed a number of recommendations to reduce recurrent expenditure.

However, amendments proposed by MDP and JP MPs during the budget review process did not pass at the committee.

Reflecting its combined 48-seat majority in the 85-member house, PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance MPs held a voting majority on the committee.

During yesterday’s debate on the budget committee report, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim warned that introducing new taxes could damage the economy and the tourism industry.

The business tycoon claimed that Seychelles and Mauritius “went bankrupt” when tourists stopped visiting due to excessive taxation.

Occupancy rates at Maldivian resorts declined in November as a result of imposing the reintroduced US$8 bed tax along with a 12 percent Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST), Gasim contended.

Industry insiders recently told Minivan News that the high-end resorts would struggle to deal with any additional taxation following the recent rise of T-GST.

According to the Maldives Monetary Authority’s monthly economic review for October, however, the occupancy rate during the month remained unchanged at 81 percent compared to the same period last year.

In October 2014, total bednights rose marginally in annual terms while the average duration of stay decreased slightly and stood at 6.0 days,” the central bank noted.

Gasim meanwhile said the JP would vote for the budget despite misgivings, which included lack of funds for establishing pre-schools and insufficient funds allocated for independent institutions and the judiciary.

Adjourning yesterday’s sitting, Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed announced that the amendments would be put to a vote next Tuesday ahead of a final vote on the 2015 budget.


Related to this story

Finance minister presents record MVR24.3 billion state budget to parliament

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Committee passes budget, recommends constitutional amendment to reduce independent commissions

MDP parliamentary group issues three-line whip against proposed 2015 budget

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PPM signals support for reappointing Supreme Court bench

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) signalled the majority party’s support today for reducing the number of Supreme Court Justices from seven to five as proposed by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Shareef.

During preliminary debate on amendments (Dhivehi) submitted by Shareef to the Judicature Act, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan said he believed all ruling party MPs would support the proposal, but a decision would be made following discussions at a parliamentary group meeting.

“The work of reforming the judiciary is not something that the PPM has not participated in or stayed away from,” said the PPM parliamentary group leader.

All pro-government MPs subsequently voted in favour of the bill, which was accepted for consideration with 43 votes in favour and 22 against.

Last week, the MDP’s national executive council decided not to support Shareef’s bill with former President Mohamed Nasheed warning that it would allow President Abdulla Yameen to appoint a bench biased in favour of PPM.

The opposition leader told the press that changing the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench would not amount to judicial reform.

Presenting the amendment bill at today’s sitting, Shareef said he believed the number of judges on the apex court was too high for a country the size of the Maldives.

The Supreme Court should maintain “legal consistency” or “uniformity” in its rulings, the MP for Addu Maradhoo said.

Confidence in the judiciary from both the Maldivian public as well as local businesses and foreign investors was essential to ensure development, he added.

Shareef also proposed establishing branches of the High Court in the north and south of the country.

MDP divisions

MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who has announced his intention to contest in the MDP’s 2018 presidential primary – appealed for pro-government MPs to cooperate with the party’s efforts to reform the judiciary.

The PPM together with coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance has a majority of 48 seats in the 85-member house.

The current Supreme Court bench was appointed as a “shameful” political “bargain” between the MDP and then-opposition parties in 2010, Moosa said, noting that the MDP did not have a majority in the 16th People’s Majlis.

Moosa criticised Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain for swearing in former President Dr Mohamed Waheed following a “coup d’etat” on February 7, 2012 and for remaining silent while MDP MPs were unfairly stripped of their parliament seats.

Nihan meanwhile praised both Shareef and Moosa and suggested that the number of judges on the apex court was worth reconsidering.

Shareef was a “rare” politician, Nihan said, and defended Moosa for forming a ‘people’s court’ during street protests, which was part of the former MDP chairperson’s advocacy for judicial reform.

“If MDP members think about it, if there is one member in MDP’s front rank who wishes well for the nation, I don’t doubt at all that it is the honourable Hulhuhenveiru MP Moosa Manik,” Nihan said.

Nihan suggested that MDP MPs voting against the amendments would be against the party’s principles.

However, Minority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said he respected Shareef and Moosa, but the MDP’s national executive council has decided not to support the bill.

“So that is the MDP’s stand about this amendment,” he said.

Moosa had reportedly walked out of the national council meeting and pledged to stand behind Shareef.

Constitutional?

Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile contended that the proposed revisions were unconstitutional as Supreme Court Justices were appointed for life.

The Constitution specifies the process for removing judges, Gasim continued, and it could not be done by amending laws.

Gasim also criticised Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed for tabling the bill in the agenda, claiming that a controversial amendment submitted by the PPM requiring the reappointment of the auditor general was also tabled in spite of parliament’s counsel general advising that it could not be put to a vote.

While the MDP had also insisted that the amendments were unconstitutional, MPs Shareef and Moosa were among several MDP MPs who voted in favour of appointing former PPM parliamentary candidate Hassan Ziyath as the new auditor general.

Meanwhile, in June this year, the Judicial Service Commission cleared Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed of misconduct after sex tapes of the judge with three prostitutes in a hotel room in Sri Lanka emerged last year.

The room and date stamp in the sex tapes appeared to be the same as that in previously leaked footage of Hameed meeting local businessman Mohamed Saeed, the director of ‘Golden Lane’.

In that video, Hameed declared that he was one of then-PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen’s “back-ups”, and that his stand was “to do things the way Yameen wants”.

Images and symbols depicting scenes from the sex-tape formed a prominent part of the MDP’s protests against the apex court’s repeated interference in last year’s presidential election.

In a controversial 4-3 ruling – with Justice Hameed in the majority – the Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round of the polls conducted on September 7 despite unanimous positive assessment of the polling by more than a thousand domestic and international election observers.



Related to this story

MDP rejects MP Shareef’s proposal to reduce Supreme Court bench

Constitutional disaster averted as Parliament approves Supreme Court

A justice system in crisis: UN Special Rapporteur’s report

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JP and MDP MPs boycott committee reviewing SEZ bill

Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs boycotted parliament’s economic affairs committee today in protest of alleged procedural violations by the committee’s chair in his haste to complete reviewing the government’s flagship special economic zone (SEZ) legislation.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Khaleel – the committee’s chairperson – was “repeatedly violating Majlis rules and committee rules as well,” said JP Leader Gasim after walking out of a meeting this morning and raising a point of order at the ongoing parliament sitting.

The SEZ law would authorise a board formed by the president “to sell off the entire country in the name of economic zones,” the business tycoon said.

He added that the committee was not considering recommendations by state institutions concerning relaxed regulations, exempted import duties and tax incentives.

PPM MPs wanted to complete assessment of the bill “like a snap of the finger,” he said.

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, however, said he could not accept Gasim’s objections as a point of order and advised the Maamigili MP to submit a complaint outside the sitting.

Backing Gasim’s stance, MDP MP Eva Abdulla – who had walked out of the committee with Gasim – contended that procedural violations at committees must be dealt with by the speaker.

As the “smallest example” of Khaleel’s misconduct, Eva alleged that the chair was participating in votes while the rules stipulate that he could only cast a vote to break a tie.

The chair was completely “disregarding” recommendations and commentary sent to the committee by the Maldives Police Service, Customs Service, Local Government Authority, and Maldives Monetary Authority, Eva claimed.

Moreover, the views of JP and MDP MPs were deliberately being ignored, she added.

Parties in the minority should be respected, she continued, warning of disruptions to proceedings at parliament sittings if the issue was not resolved.

In a second point of order, Gasim said he would not stand for the PPM misusing its parliamentary majority to get its way in flagrant violation of rules.

If the SEZ bill is passed into law without revisions, Gasim said the country’s “independence would be lost” and “certain people” would be allowed to carry out corrupt dealings.

PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed meanwhile advised resolving the dispute through dialogue in lieu of disrupting proceedings with quarrels in the chamber.

Shortly after the second session of today’s sitting resumed at 11am, Speaker Maseeh adjourned proceedings in the face of consecutive points of order raised by JP and MDP MPs.

Fast-tracking

Khaleel had told newspaper Haveeru last week that he expected to complete the review process and send the bill to the Majlis floor for a vote before the end of the month.

Parliament breaks for a one-month recess at the end of August.

As the bill was a high priority for the government, the MP for Faafu Nilandhoo said he had decided to hold two meetings for every day when there is a parliament sitting.

Khaleel had stressed that stakeholders would be consulted and technical expertise would be sought.

Prior to walking out of today’s meeting, Gasim advised that it was “very important” to specifying a period for offering tax incentives to investors instead of leaving it to the discretion of a board.

Eva meanwhile objected to PPM MPs refusing to “accommodate” any recommendations from state institutions and urged the chair to “respect parliamentary practice.”

In response, Khaleel insisted that he was conducting proceedings in accordance with the rules and that comments that were “not against the spirit of the bill” were being considered.

After the JP and MDP MPs walked out, Khaleel continued the review process – with PPM MPs and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) Leader MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed in attendance – and put articles 34 through 48 to a vote after seeking proposed amendments.

Reflecting its simple majority in the 85-member house, the PPM-MDA coalition has voting majorities on parliamentary oversight committees.

Meanwhile, responding to criticism of the SEZ bill from the opposition, President Abdulla Yameen insisted in a speech on Monday night (August 11) that foreign investments in the zones posed no threat to Islam or Maldivian sovereignty, assuring that the businesses would be fully subject to Maldivian law.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed contends that the zones would be used for criminal enterprises, “irreligious” activities such as gambling, and money laundering.

The opposition leader had dubbed the legislation the ‘Artur Brothers bill’, referring to an infamous pair of Armenians linked with money laundering and drug trafficking who made headlines last year after they were photographed with cabinet ministers.

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Gasim calls for state of emergency to pursue criminal prosecution of Elections Commission

Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed to take action against Elections Commission (EC) members for allegedly violating the constitution “even by declaring a state of emergency.”

Speaking during a debate at today’s sitting of parliament, the JP leader contended that EC members had violated the constitution by allegedly “speaking against article 113″, which states that the Supreme Court shall have sole and final jurisdiction to determine all disputes concerning the election of a presidential candidate.

EC members should face criminal prosecution for allegedly divesting the constitution of its power and authority, the MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili insisted.

Following the presidential election on September 7 in which he came third with 24 percent of the vote, Gasim alleged electoral fraud and contested the results in the Supreme Court, which subsequently annulled the polls on October 7.

The business tycoon went on to call upon President Waheed to “act in accordance with the constitution even by declaring a state of emergency” as failure to do so would see “the nation fall outside the bounds of the constitution.”

Chapter 11 of the constitution empowers the president to declare a state of emergency for 30 days “[i]n the event of natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression”.

However, the declaration of the state of emergency must be submitted to the People’s Majlis for approval within 48 hours, after which parliament has the authority to revoke the declaration.

Asked about Gasim’s appeal at a press conference today, President Waheed said the EC faced a number of serious difficulties and that the commission had done a lot of work within a short period.

“I don’t believe this is the time to take legal action against them. There is still room to work together to resolve the issue,” he said.

Debate

Gasim’s remarks came during a debate on an early day motion submitted by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim calling on Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid to assume the presidency if a president-elect cannot be sworn in on November 11 as stipulated by the constitution.

The motion without notice – a non-binding motion that opens the floor for a one-hour debate – also called for the immediate resignation of President Waheed, contending that his administration had obstructed the constitutionally mandated presidential election from taking place.

Article 110 states, “Elections for the office of President shall be held within one hundred and twenty days to thirty days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term.”

Presenting the motion, Azim noted that the constitutional deadline to conclude a presidential election expired on October 10. He argued that amendments to the relevant laws as well as interim arrangements with the Speaker assuming the presidency was necessary to avoid a constitutional void after November 11.

While the Supreme Court judgment annulling the September 7 election stated that the current president could remain in the post after November 11 in the absence of a president-elect, Azim said that the judgment was “unconstitutional.”

“If extra time beyond that given by the constitution is needed, under the principle of necessity, to complete a specific task as specified in the constitution, it does not necessitate the end of a legal government in place. That such a government will continue to exist under the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ under such circumstances is recognised by both constitutional and legal jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court stated in the case summary of its judgment.

In the parliamentary debate on the motion today, MDP parliamentary group leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, contended that the Maldivian state has lost its democratic status as citizens have been deprived of “one of the most important bases of democracy.”

Constitutional void

Pro-government MPs meanwhile spoke against the MDP’s motion, insisting that the Supreme Court was the highest authority on constitutional matters.

“We have to accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” MP Riyaz Rasheed said in response to MDP MPs arguing that the EC did not have to abide by the guidelines imposed on it by the Supreme Court judgment.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – legal reform minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – argued that the speaker could not assume the presidency after November 11 even if President Waheed resigned.

Nasheed explained that the constitution did not specify a process to be followed in the event that a president is not elected by the end of the five-year presidential term on November 11. The constitution only specified a process for fresh elections if the president or vice president resigned before the end of their terms, he said.

Article 124(b) of the constitution states, “In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.”

“However, this constitution does not say what should be done if a president is not elected within the period in which it must be done,” Nasheed said.

If President Waheed resigns after November 11, Nasheed suggested that parliament should amend the constitution to specify a process to be followed in the absence of a president or vice president after the end of their terms.

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Maldives entrepreneurs braving “culture war” to pursue guesthouse growth, AFP reports

The full story can be read here on Minivan News’ spin-off travel website Dhonisaurus.

“Most visitors arrive at the country’s airport island, take a speed boat or seaplane to their expensive coral-fringed private resort and spend the next week relaxing in blissful ignorance of the country around them,” writes Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Adam Plowright.

“It has been this way for decades, the result of a deliberate policy of keeping wealthy vacationers — mostly Westerners and often newlyweds — on uninhabited islands separate from the local Muslim population.”

The potential nonetheless for expanding mid-market tourism in the Maldives through the “niche” guesthouse segment emerged as an early election issue in May after senior opposition and government figures clashed over how best the country’s inhabited islands might profit from visitors.

Plowright himself observed that despite the Maldives’ reputation as one of the world’s most exclusive holiday destinations, the opening of guesthouses across the country over the last five years has appeared to upset some religious conservatives in the country.

Under the country’s laws, traditional holiday staples such as the sale and consumption of alcohol and pork products, and women publicly sunbathing in bikinis are outlawed unless on designated ‘uninhabited’ islands set aside exclusively for resort developments.

Plowright added that with the local Maldivian potentially facing public flogging should they be convicted on charges of ‘fornication’, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party had maintained that tourism be kept separate from the country’s inhabited islands.

“If the hippy-type of travellers come, along will come drugs and narcotics which even now our society is suffering from. Things like nudity are not acceptable in a place where people are living. The people complain that they are praying in the mosque and just outside there are tourists in bikinis,” Adhaalath Party Vice President Mauroof Hussain told the AFP.

“While fundamentalist interpretations of Islam imported from the Persian Gulf and Pakistan are progressively taking root in the Maldives, Hussain’s views lie far outside the mainstream and are ridiculed by many,” the AFP claimed.

The Adhaalath Party remains a key supporter  in the upcoming election of Jumhoree Party (JP) presidential candidate and businessman MP Gasim Ibrahim, who operates a number of exclusive island resorts through his Villa Hotels company.

The presidential candidate’s resorts have thrived on supplying married and unmarried guests alike with holiday staples associated with the Maldives; including sun bathing, alcoholic beverages and diving expeditions.

Yet despite the prevalance of exclusive island resorts to tourism growth in the Maldives, efforts over the last half decade to expand guesthouses has led to a “torrent” of entrepreneurs like 25-year-old Ibrahim Mohamed opening tourist properties in an attempt to bring more US dollars directly into the local economy, according to Plowright.

Read more.

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Campaigns conclude as Maldives prepares for watershed polls

The Maldives’ second-ever multi-party democratic presidential election will take place tomorrow (September 7).  With the campaigning deadline set at 6:00pm today, party supporters in the tens of thousands were out in full force to make every last second count.

Events were held throughout the country for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s final campaign push to re-elect former President Mohamed Nasheed- although none surpassed the scale and energy of the final march through the nation’s capital island Male’.

The carnival atmosphere was charged with nervous energy as MDP supporters bedecked in yellow, sporting a variety of Nasheed-themed t-shirts gathered near the tsunami monument before beginning their final campaign parade.

Despite rumours running rampant that hired thugs, police, and military would clash with MDP supporters, creating unrest as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and thwart the scheduled election, the MDP’s march was peaceful.

Jovial supporters in their thousands danced, cheered, and even ran their way along Male’s thoroughfares. Participants of the march surpassed MDP’s eighth anniversary parade, with people packed the entire length and width of Majeedhee Magu, Male’s nearly two kilometre-long thoroughfare.

Voices from the parade

The streets were also lined with supporters and spectators, while people could be seen hanging from their balconies, almost all with smart phones and cameras to capture the spectacle.

“I’m very excited to vote tomorrow – Nasheed is going to win” said 18 year-old first-time voter Ishan.

It seemed like every MDP supporter Minivan News spoke to was confident of Nasheed winning the first round, and holding up the number four, symbolic of Nasheed’s placement on the voter ballot.

“Tomorrow will surely be a victory,” said 23 year-old Edam. “Ehburun (one round) for sure,” added 24 year-old Ahu.

“For 30 years we suffered under Maumoon, but ‘Raees’ (President) Nasheed did so many things for us – he brought development, social security, and freedom,” she continued.

“Anni only had three years [in office] because of the coup – he deserves at least two more,” added her 30 year-old female friend.

Lorries interspersed between the MDP supporters carried live bands performing political rock songs, while others blasted techno music that remixed dance beats with phrases from former Nasheed’s speeches.

The lyrics are well known with even small children singing along, dancing on the sidewalks, and marching with their parents in the parade.

As with previous MDP protest marches and campaign walks, a variety of demographics were represented – participants and spectators alike – including children, youth, the elderly, disabled, women and men, organised into groups, some carrying giant MDP flags, while others waved yellow ribbons, fans or pom poms.

Even opposition party supporters were seen peeking out from campaign ‘haruge’ (headquarters), while some traffic and special operations police gathered on the balcony and at the entrance of their station to watch the passing parade.

The march ended on a high note after circling around the capital to end back at the Tsunami Monument with Nasheed addressing thousands of his enthusiastic supporters.

Tomorrow’s vote will provide MDP’s supporters a chance for catharsis, coming almost 20 months after the former president controversially resigned from power on February 7, 2012.

“Voting tomorrow is important because we want change. We want peace and all this turmoil to end,” said a 32-year old woman. “Once Nasheed is elected everything will get back to normal.”

Jumhoree Party campaigning

The Jumhoree Party (JP) concluded its own election campaign with a march commencing at the artificial beach area of Male’ shortly before 5:00pm this evening.

Hundreds of supporters draped in red – the party’s colour – rode atop some three dozen trucks as the rally set off around the capital to support JP candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim.

Hundreds of JP supporters prepare to embark on final rally before polling

In one truck, populated almost exclusively by cheering young women – some wearing headscarves, others not – the group exclaimed their reason for participating.

“Of all four candidates Gasim is the best,” explained one young sitting in the back of the truck to loud cheers from her fellow passengers. “He’s the best,” they reiterated in unison.

Further down the JP’s campaign convoy, in a somewhat more somber truck carrying a group of middle aged men, Minivan News asked why they chose to support the JP’s candidate, an MP and resort and media tycoon.

Looking at first perplexed by such a question, one middle-aged gentleman responded matter of factually: “There is no one else.”

Show of strength

JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal today told Minivan News today that the party’s march was designed as a show of strength by supporters before all campaigning is legally mandated to finish at 6:00pm.

With campaigning finished, he said the party was presently sending some 480 observers to islands across the country alongside the international observers from organisations such as the Commonwealth.

A convoy of trucks set to carry JP supporters

“Situations of violence”

Ajmal said that although JP was confident of peaceful polls tomorrow, he claimed the party was concerned there might be “situations” of possible violence should the opposition MDP lose.

“We do not want problems, our leader the honourable Gasim Ibrahim has supported equal opportunities for [former President] Nasheed to participate in this election,” he said. “We believe that violence could be triggered across the country though.”

Ajmal claimed that with MDP representatives and supporters currently facing alleged corruption cases totaling MVR4.7 billion (US$307 million) filed by the auditor general, the stakes would be high for tomorrow’s election.

The MDP has continued to maintain that state prosecutors have singled out opposition party members since the last year’s change in government, this week accusing Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz of sacrificing his impartiality in return for job security.

The current government came to power on February 7, 2012, after former President Nasheed controversially resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military in a series of events the MDP has alleged was a “coup d’etat.”

Considering the nature of the power transfer, Ajmal said that the JP, which the governing coalition after the power transfer , would have “no problems” in the MDP potentially returning to power, despite the party “hating [Nasheed’s] attitude of responding to the people”.

“We know not enough people will support Nasheed this time. His party supporters alone are not significant enough to win,” added Ajmal.

Opting not to hold a rally ahead of tomorrow’s polling, incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed instead visited a ‘jagaha’ (meeting hall) established by his ‘forward with the nation’ coalition to campaign by phone from 5:15pm after conducting a number of tours of the country in recent months.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) concluded its campaign with an event on the nearby island of Vilimale, attended by running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel and over 600 people, according to PPM MP Ahmed Nihan.

The event was also intended to officially inaugurate a PPM office on the island.

Polling opens tomorrow at 7:30am and closes at 4:00pm. 239,593 people are registered to vote in the 2013 presidential election, according to the final register. This is a 15 percent increase (31,000 people) on 2008’s 209,294 eligible voters.

Of these, 65,745 voters have registered to vote at a location other than their home island. Voting will occur at 459 ballot boxes stationed on local islands, resorts, and overseas Maldivian High Commissions.

Registration can be easily checked using the EC’s 1414 SMS system: text 1414 in the format ‘VIS [National ID #]’

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Jumhoree Party rejects accusations of campaign bribery

The Jumhoree Party (JP) has rejected accusations of directly giving money or any other incentive to the public during campaigning for the upcoming presidential election, after several rivals raised concerns.

Both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have slammed the JP this week, accusing senior campaigners in the party of directly providing money and goods to the public to try and buy votes.

JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi today told Minivan News that “no donations” had been made through the campaign offices of its presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim or his coalition partners ahead of polling, scheduled for September 7.

He insisted that although donations such as scholarships and school equipment had continued to be given through the Villa Foundation – a charity established by Gasim – these were not political gestures.

Didi claimed that, as well as sending some 200 Villa scholars abroad, the foundation – which is run separately from the JP – had for decades been providing vital equipment to schools and health centres across the country independently of the JP.

Gasim will stand in the election as the candidate for a coalition of parties including the JP, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

“Dumping money”

The PPM, whose presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen will be standing against Gasim next month, has alleged that the JP has been providing donations directly from its campaign office in the build up to September’s vote, effectively “dumping money” in certain parts of the country.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan claimed that while he respected the work of Gasim’s Villa Foundation in the Maldives, there had been “very clear” attempts by the coalition of parties backing his election to offer voters financial incentives, particularly over the last one and a half months.

“I do not think it is the Villa Foundation that has been providing televisions and refrigerators to households,” Nihan said.

Nihan, who reiterated his respect for Gasim as a fellow parliamentarian and one of the country’s highest profile business figures, said that the level of donations being made by the presidential candidate and his supporters was “questionable” for a democratic system.

“One of Gasim’s main plus points is that he has lots of money. He is definitely using it,” he said.

Nihan accused Gasim of trying to financially influence voting, both for the upcoming election and during the country’s first multi-party democratic vote in 2008, arguing that a growing number of young voters between the ages of 19 and 35 years would be aware of attempts to influence them.

He argued that the PPM’s island council by-election victory against the JP in Nolhivaram in Haa Dhaalu Atoll on Saturday (August 24) had indicated that Gasim’s alleged spending and donations would not translate to polling success.

“We are running a democratic campaign. We don’t have the money to provide televisions and refrigerators like the JP,” he added.

Nihan alleged that the majority of Gasim’s political supporters were only interested in profiting from the tycoon by getting what he claimed was a “quick buck” ahead of voting, and cited his previous unsuccessful campaign to stand for the presidency in 2008.

“[These supporters] will abandon Gasim after the election just like what happened in 2008,” he said.

Gasim unsuccessfully contested in the 2008 presidential elections finishing the race in fourth place, with 15.2 percent of the total vote.

He finished behind candidates including then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, eventual winner Mohamed Nasheed, and the current JP running mate, Dr Hassan Saeed.

Official complaint

The opposition MDP, represented in the upcoming election by former President Nasheed, has filed a case with the country’s Elections Commission (EC) concerning campaigning by Gasim’s coalition.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor accused the JP of “unashamedly” trying to buy votes for the election.

“They believe this is how it has to be done. You give people things and they will vote for you,” he said. “They are oblivious to the fact that the world has changed. We are hearing that some people might accept money [they are offered by a candidate] and still vote for the candidate they want.”

The MDP also today criticised First Lady Ilham Hussain over reports in local media that she had donated MVR 100,000 (US$6500) to Mulaku School in Meemu Atoll, accusing her of trying to buy votes for President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s campaign.

Abbas Adil Riza, a spokesperson for President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) was not responding to calls at time of press.

Addressing complaints filed over campaign spending, Elections Commissioner  Fuwad Thowfeek today told newspaper Haveeru that any kind of donations by candidates contesting in next month’s presidential vote could potentially undermine the electoral process.

Thowfeek said that in light of allegations of bribery being raised with the commission, he believed it would be best to halt “social assistance” until voting next month had concluded.

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