Leaders of the ruling Progressive Coalition have urged members of coalition parties running as independents in the upcoming parliamentary elections to withdraw their candidacies.
Speaking at a campaign event in Malé on Thursday night, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom expressed “regret” with coalition supporters contesting as independents.
The vote being split among pro-government candidates could see “candidates we don’t want” finishing top, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader warned.
Gayoom called on independent candidates to drop out of the race and endorse the coalition’s official candidates.
He went on to thank independent candidates who have recently endorsed PPM contestants ahead of the polls scheduled for March 22.
Former PPM youth wing leader, Ibrahim Nazim – who was contesting as an independent in the mid-Henveiru constituency – endorsed PPM candidate Aishath Leeza last week.
The three parties in the Progressive Coalition – PPM, Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – reached an agreement to allocate constituencies among the coalition partners with the PPM contesting 50 seats, JP contesting 28 seats, and the MDA contesting seven seats.
Speaking at Thursday’s night campaign event for PPM Hithadhoo North candidate Al Ibrahim, Home Minister Umar Naseer – who was dismissed from the now-ruling party in April 2013 – said that members of coalition parties were contesting as independents in 64 constituencies.
Such candidates were claiming to represent their parties despite the coalition fielding a candidate from a different party, Naseer said.
He warned that candidates from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) could benefit in cases where the vote was divided among pro-government candidates.
In the first-past-the-post Majlis elections, candidates would not need to secure 50 percent of the vote to be elected.
Meanwhile, in a campaign rally in Alif Dhaalu Dhagethi last night, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim reportedly accused independent candidate Ahmed Thoriq ‘Tom’ – a national team football player – in the Alif Dhaal Mahibadhoo constituency of falsely claiming to represent the PPM.
The Mahibadhoo constituency was reserved for the PPM in the coalition seat allocation deal.
Gasim said he visited the island this weekend with two PPM council members – MPs Ahmed Nihan and Ahmed Mahloof – to explain to PPM supporters that Tom was not campaigning on behalf of the party.
The business magnate and former presidential candidate said he was confident that the PPM would not field candidates in constituencies ceded to the JP.
In the wake of January’s local council election, President Abdulla Yameen told the press that party members who contested as independents cost the ruling coalition a number of seats.
President Yameen claimed that 85 percent of independent candidates for local councils were PPM members.
PPM members decided to contest as independent candidates in constituencies reserved for the JP, Yameen explained, despite instructions from the party.
“Similarly, a JP member contested as an independent for the Addu atoll mid-constituency where our candidate got the ticket and contested,” he added.
Two sides of the scale
Returning to a central theme of last year’s presidential campaign in his speech Thursday night, former President Gayoom said voters were offered a choice between stability and defending Islam on the one hand and drugs and anti-Islamic behaviour on the other.
Referring to the MDP’s slogan of “vote for the scale of justice,” Gayoom said voters must choose which side of the scale to support.
On the PPM’s side was protecting Islam, the rights of citizens and the nation’s independence and sovereignty as well as progress, development, peace and consolidating democracy, he contended.
In his speech last night, Gasim expressed confidence that the JP would secure 25 seats from the 28 constituencies the party was contesting.
While JP MPs would back the PPM-led coalition government for the next five years, Gasim said the party could not accept unlawful actions from the government.
“If things are done against the law or by deceiving the public, we are going to have to the push the necessary button. That is the responsibility of Majlis members as stated in the constitution,” Gasim reportedly said.