Adhaalath, PPM accuses government of influencing Fuvahmulah by-election

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party has accused senior government officials of illegally influencing the by-election held in Fuvamulah last Saturday for a vacant atoll council seat.

In a statement yesterday, Adhaalath Party said it had received information that the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) carried out a number of activities to influence voting.

Transport Minister Adhil Saleem, Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa and Education Minister Shifa Mohamed were in Fuvahmulah on the day of the vote, Adhaalath noted, alleging that the ministers summoned Fuvamulah managers and staff at the State Trading Organization (STO) Fuvamulah branch as well as the island’s hospital and “threatened” and ordered them to vote for MDP candidate.

Education Minister Shifa phoned heads of Fuvamulah schools and asked them to vote for the MDP candidate, Adhaalath claimed.

“Fuvamulah islanders in Male’ were carried on flights to the Fuvamulah for the vote,” Adhaalath said in the statement. “When the ministers went near the area where the ballot boxes were kept to influence the election, islanders sent them away.”

PPM Media Coordinator and Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today that three cabinet ministers and senior officials of the State Trading Organisation (STO) were actively campaigning and “going door to door” on the day of the by-election.

“PPM calls on the Elections Commission (EC) to investigate the government’s intimidation of voters and violation of democratic principles,” he said.

Senior officials of STO told Fuvahmulah residents that work on the island’s airport could stop if they did not elect an MDP councillor, Nihan claimed.

Such actions by senior government officials cast doubt on the fairness of the by-election, Nihan argued.

Nihan said the EC should have a “better probing mechanism” to answer complaints of undue influence over elections, adding that an official should have been monitoring the situation on the ground.

Tourism Minister Dr Maryam Zulfa however dismissed the allegations today and said that the purpose of the minister’s visit was to brief the islanders and councillors about the government projects planned and ongoing in Fuvamulah.

“We did not take part in any campaign activities and the only persons we met were the island councilors and atoll councilors and we had a meeting open for all the people of Fuvamulah,” she said. “There are so many investments made in Fuvamulah and we were advised not to let it die there.”

PPM member Abdulla Mohamed Didi – who ran as an Independent as PPM had not completed the registration process – won Saturday’s by-election for the mid-Fuvahmulah atoll council seat with 861 votes (52 percent) to the 750 votes (46 percent) for the MDP candidate, Mohamed Abdulla Didi.

The seat had previously been held by MDP councillor Hassan Saeed, who was removed from the post after the Supreme Court ruled in October that his candidacy should have been disqualified over a decreed debt.