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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 #]’