Candidates contesting in the fresh round of presidential elections scheduled for October 19 held their final major rallies in capital city Male’ prior to election day, each expressing views about how Saturday’s voting may proceed.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which received the majority votes – 45.45% – in the now annulled September 7 first round held their rally at the open grounds near the tsunami monument, with several thousand supporters in attendance.
Candidate Mohamed Nasheed, his deputy Dr Mustafa Lutfi and the party’s Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik were among those who addressed the rally, with key politicians from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) including its leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali also speaking.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) held its meeting in Dharubaaruge’s Dhoshimeyna Hall with approximately 600 supporters in attendance. In addition to the party’s presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, his half-brother – PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, vice-presidential candidate Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, current Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb, as well as several MPs were in attendance.
Jumhooree Coalition held their rally in their campaign headquarters, Kunooz, with a similar turn-to the PPM’s rally. Besides Jumhooree Party (JP) leader and candidate Gasim Ibrahim, political leaders from various coalition partners spoke at the rally. This includes former Interim Deputy Leader of PPM Umar Naseer and Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla.
“On Saturday, people will re-ascertain their right to vote”: MDP candidate Nasheed
MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed told the thousands of supporters gathered to hear his address that Saturday’s vote, in addition to electing him president, will also be the day that the people re-ascertain their constitutional right to elect a government for themselves.
“Citizens of Maldives desire reform, they want a system which will establish better living standards for themselves. They want a democratic system, to establish a government of the people through a vote. The people’s nature is leaning towards an election, towards change and to maintain democratic norms in the country. MDP is a party centred on development, it is a party which moves swiftly forward,” he stated.
“Important days are coming up in the life of the Maldives, with day after tomorrow being one of the most crucial days. This coming Saturday is the day on which through sheer determination and will the Maldivian people will re-establish their right to vote despite attempts by those involved in the 30 year autocratic regime trying to strip the people of this very fundamental right. It is the day when we will, God willing, win this election in one single round,” Nasheed said.
“For ages, Maldives has had a culture where elections are tampered with. We are still hearing the people from the 30 year regime speak of this philosophy of election tampering from their various political podiums. They claim that it is in the interests of the country, and for religion and nation, that they have been tampering with citizens’ votes. However, today the most important basis of our Constitution is the right to have a fair democratic election. Although there is a small number of people still trying to mess with the votes cast, the people are no longer willing to allow them to do so,” he continued.
“For the better part of two years we have been hearing the chants ‘where is my vote?’ and ‘we want elections now’. It is deeply set in our hearts that the ‘baaghees’ [traitors] have stolen our votes, that ‘baaghees’ have been treacherous towards our votes. Our citizens are not ready to lose these votes,” he said.
“Saturday’s election is not just about electing Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed as president. It is the day citizens regain their right to vote”.
Nasheed further echoed the various pledges outlined in the party’s “Costed and Budgeted Manifesto: 2013 – 2018”.
“We will restore lost individual rights”: PPM candidate Yameen
Meanwhile, PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen reiterated the party’s stance of proceeding with an election if the Elections Commission (EC) abides by the Supreme Court’s 16-point guideline.
“Together, we have decided to vote in a system that protects fundamental rights, and ensures a free, sincere vote to elect who they choose to be president,” Yameen said.
Yameen said the party has still not received the finalized voter registry and noted that party members continued to file complaints over re-registration.
According to the Supreme Court, every candidate is required to approve the voter registry for the election to proceed.
At a press conference on Thursday evening, the PPM had said it required 72 hours to approve the voter registry. The EC has given political parties until 6 am on Friday to sign the registry.
Yameen pledged to “restore lost individual rights” and said a PPM government would end arrest of political rivals and judges. The PPM will increase revenue, ensure a balanced budget, increase old age pensions to MVR5000 per month, and ensure fishermen were given an allowance of MVR10,000 in low season, Yameen said.
“We will bring you development like you’ve never seen before. Development is certain with us,” he said.
Speaking of challenges the PPM had faced during the campaign, Yameen said the party had not had enough time to circulate the party’s manifesto.
PPM published its manifesto only four days before the annulled first round of presidential elections held on September 7.
“Main concern is the voters’ registry; if it’s satisfactory will proceed with elections”: JP candidate Gasim
The JP rally also consisted of nearly 600 supporters, with leadership figures from the coalition including former PPM interim deputy leader Umar Naseer, AP leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, AP deputy leader Dr. Mauroof Hassan, former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaan filling the front lines.
JP Candidate Gasim Ibrahim stated that among the 16 points provided by the SC, the key concern for the party was the one regarding the voters’ registry, adding that this is where problems had risen for him even in the first round of elections on September 7.
“We had to go to court after these problems arose because the EC refused to cooperate and address our concerns. I want to call upon the EC to refrain from doing so this time around. I’d like to request the EC to work closely with us citizens considering that this is to do with citizens’ vote. This approach will be what is in the best interests of this country,” Gasim said.
“If we do get to vote on Saturday, it must only be under an assurance from observers and other relevant administrative authorities that the election will proceed in a manner that we too can readily accept, otherwise we will end up with the same issues as the previous round.”
Gasim addressed the party’s monitors, advising them on key issues to ‘keep a keen eye on during voting hours’, saying “As there hasn’t been very many elections here, people are not well-trained on how it should go. We must be vigilant at all times and keep an eye out to see if any voter tries to keep his hand in his pocket nonchalantly and then pull out and try to drop in an extra ballot paper while casting the vote. We must keep watch and see if they try to mix up anything during the counting of votes. And we must get close enough to be able to see if, after counting, they are placing the correct number against our names. We know the EC has previously committed such acts, where they mix up runner-ups and those who come third”.
Gasim stated that the party will “accept elections readily if it is conducted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the SC” and that the party is ready to proceed with voting once they are “absolutely certain that the voter registry satisfactorily meets our standards”.
“I want to say that we need not reveal what we will do if we come third, as we will not end up in that slot again. We can make decisions about that once we reach that situation, as I am certain that the different parties in our coalition will have their own different views about this. There is no rush, it’s not like we are a soul caught in a life or death situation.”