A sustained recruitment campaign in the atolls has led to a surge in the number of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members.
The party welcomed 5,000 members in the last few months, taking its total membership to 28,995 as of 10 December 2009. At such a pace the party will soon overtake the 30,215 tally of its rival, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), which recorded a slight decline according to President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq.
The grassroots MDP campaign involved establishing network coordinators for every atoll and enlisting existing members to recruit others, explained MDP registrar general Ahmed Shahid.
“We’re not going to stop until we’re on top,” Shahid said. “We have a further 600-800 applications currently processing, and there are many more coming in from the atolls. However the weather has been bad over the last few months and we’ve had some trouble collecting the applications.”
Despite the overall gain the party had also lost some members, he admitted.
Dr. Mohamed Mausoom, Secretary-General of DRP, questioned the recruitment tactics of the MDP.
“They have appointed island councillors to recruit members, paid for by the state. But despite this they’ve only gained 5000 members,” he said.
Mausoom suggested that the number of new “sincere” MDP recruits was no more “than about 2,000.”
“The rest of them – although they are yellow on the outside, their heart is blue,” he speculated, suggesting that in some cases people were being pressured to join the party in order to keep their jobs.
“There’s no direct instruction, but [in the case of some government workers] it can be ‘sign up [to the MDP], or quit,'” he alleged. “This is the type of environment people are working in. I really can’t say what the MDP is up to anymore, but we have noticed many of their members signing up with us.”
The MDP’s gain was irrelevant, Mausoom said, because “as a proportion of the voting population, political membership numbers are not significant in the country.”
If the MDP overtakes the DRP, “it will be a joke”, he added. “The Maldivian population are among the most politically educated in the world; if you walk around Male and you’ll find hardly anyone who voted for MDP.”
In the May parliamentary elections, MDP won a total of 48,000 votes or 31 per cent of the vote, while the DRP and its coalition partner People’s Alliance won a combined total of 47,400 votes.
DRP won a total of 39,000 votes or 25 per cent.