PPM wins Dhiggaru by-election

Reporting by Hassan Mohamed and Ismail Humam Hamid

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has won the parliamentary by-election for the Dhiggaru constituency with 59.4 percent of the vote.

PPM candidate Ahmed Faris Maumoon won some 1238 votes, while the main opposition party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Ahmed Raazee won 763 votes, according to preliminary results published by the Elections Comission (EC).

EC figures show some 2,084 of the 2,555 eligible voters cast their votes in today’s polls.

A smiling Faris said he will only comment after official results are announced. Faris is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and nephew to president Abdulla Yameen.

The PPM, however, has described the election win as a demonstration of public support for the besieged government.

“The opposition says there is no support for the government. They say ours is a government with only 25 percent support. But now this election proved them completely wrong,” PPM spokesperson Ali Arif said.

Citing growing authoritarianism, ruling coalition partners, the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, had split from the PPM in January and March, respectively. They allied with the MDP and formed a coalition – “Maldivians Against Tyranny.”

The JP’s last minute backing was key in PPM’s presidential win in 2013. President Abdulla Yameen, who had only won 25 percent in the first round, gained 51.39 percent in the second round.

The opposition coalition has been protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and the targeting of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s businesses.

The Dhiggaru by-election was triggered by the imprisonment of ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim on corruption charges.

Arif promised development for Dhiggaru and said: “The government does not favor constituencies with government MPs. But having a government MP will make it easier for the government to understand the needs of the constituency. Once again I thank the Dhiggaru constituency for expressing their confidence in the government.”

Weeks before the election, the government delivered an x-ray machine to Dhiggaru, promised a harbor in the island, while PPM MPs delivered air-conditioning units to the Dhiggaru and Muli island mosques.

President Yameen, meanwhile, promised to provide a 140-kilowatt generator for Dhiggaru and said he will prioritize PPM constituencies for development in the 2016 budget.

Speaking to Minivan News, Razee accused the government of bribery and vote buying, and said he did not believe the election had been fair.

“The government used all of its powers to influence the election. We saw the excavators on the islands. They were threatening to take them away and halt harbor work if PPM did not win. People of this constituency want development. People want to their harbors to be completed. They were scared. We saw the government use council equipment and the hospital’s ambulance for their campaign. They used everything to gain unfair advantages. We saw the air conditioners they brought with them for the mosque,” he said.

“I will keep on serving the people of the constituency and fight against injustice. We won’t give up just yet.”

The police prevented a boat carrying some 40 opposition supporters from leaving Malé to go vote in Dhiggaru. The boat was scheduled to leave at 2:00am, but the police’s dog squad was brought on board to check for drugs on the boat.

Passengers left to Dhiggaru on speedboats this morning.

The boat was only allowed to leave at 1:00pm today. No drugs were found on board, the boat captain said.

Two independent candidates also contested in the elections. Shameem Ali won 52 votes while Moosa Naseer won 31 votes.

Photo from social media

This article was amended to include preliminary results from the Elections Commission. 


Security services to receive medals on Independence Day

The government will award a medal to all police and military officers to mark their services to the state on the occasion of 50 years of independence .

“Officers from both the military and the police will be given medals. This a common practice all around the world, as they protect the country’s independence in the front lines,” the home ministry’s Thazmeel Abdul Samad said.

In an interview with Dhi TV on Monday, commissioner of police Hussein Waheed said the medals will be worn with police uniforms.

The Maldives’ Independence Day falls on July 26.

President Abdulla Yameen officially launched the “Minivan 50” or “Independence 50” celebrations on March 12 with a music show.

Since then, the government has slaughtered 150 goats, brought out tens of thousands of students for a parade, organized football competitions, a sky-diving event and a swim between capital Malé and suburb Villimalé.

The government plans to unveil new currency notes and has commissioned a replica of an ancient Maldivian village and a legendary boat used by three Maldivian brothers in the sixteenth century in the guerrilla war against the Portuguese occupation.

The home ministry is expected to announce more events in the coming weeks.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.

The opposition has also criticised the government for holding independence celebrations soon after jailing opposition leaders including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The opposition had held daily protests and two mass demonstrations on February 27 and May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day protest.

The local government authority has meanwhile suspended two councillors three councillors of the Alif Alif atoll council over a resolution declaring they will not participate in activities organised by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

Photo from Commissioner of Police’s official Facebook Page


High turnout in Dhiggaru by-election

Some 82 percent of eligible voters have cast ballots in the parliamentary by-election for Dhiggaru constituency today.

Election Commission (EC) figures show some 2017 of the 2,555 voters had voted by 4:00pm. The commission has closed all six ballot boxes and has started counting votes.

Official results will be announced by 8:30pm tonight.

The main contenders are the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Ahmed Faris Maumoon leading and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Ahmed Raazee.

The election was triggered by the imprisonment of ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim on corruption charges in April.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Faris promised development for the five islands in the Dhiggaru constituency.

“I don’t want to compare myself with the other candidates. That’s a job for the voters. I have already stated my credentials and what I will do for the constituency. The voters will weigh and decide,” he said.

“Over 90 percent of people I met agree that this constituency has had some development over the years. I am looking to speed things up and bring even more development to this constituency.”

Faris is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the nephew of president Abdulla Yameen. The opposition has accused the PPM of vote-buying and bribery after PPM donated x-ray machines and air conditioning units to two islands in the constituency.

President Yameen last week pledged to provide a 140 kilo-watt power generator for Dhiggaru and said he will prioritize PPM constituencies for development projects.

The government has also signed an agreement with the state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company to build a harbour in Dhiggaru.

Dhiggaru is a PPM stronghold and a support base of the former president.

The MDP candidate, Raazee, said he hoped voters will elect him, and condemned what he called efforts by the PPM to deceive people.

“The ruling party has tried to influence elections. They have brought in excavators and construction materials at the Dhiggaru, Maduvvari and Muli harbors, to trick people to think there will be development,” he said.

“But I’m sure people will not fall for that and elect me. I am from the constituency and I know their needs.”

Raazee also condemned a police raid of a boat carrying some 40 voters from Malé to Dhiggaru last night.

Police prevented the boat from leaving the Malé harbor at 2am last night until they searched all individuals on board on suspicion of carrying drugs. The police dog squad was brought on to the boat to search for drugs.

The boat was only cleared at 1:00pm today. A police media official declined to comment on the matter.

The boat’s captain Adam Waheed said all passengers had left Malé on speed boats, but three of the crew on board will not be able to vote as the journey will take seven hours.

No drugs were found on board, he said.

Speaking to reporters outside the Dhiggaru polling booths, EC member Ahmed Akram said the commission had received only one complaint.

“It was regarding some envelopes distributed in Muli last night with campaign and anti-campaign material after the official campaigning time closed,” he said.