As some of the country’s most high-profile political figures campaign around the country ahead of this Saturday’s local council elections, their respective parties have been outlining the policies they hope will sway the elections in their favour.
President Mohamed Nasheed, his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and current (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali have been touring the country’s atolls to meet and greet constituents who on Feburary 5 will be decide the shape of decentralised governance.
Heading the country’s main political opposition, Thasmeen said that the DRP is pursuing four key messages with its campaigning: equality, democratic practices, Islamic values and keeping the country’s assets under state control.
“We will not sell off state assets,” he said. “We are particularly concerned about the sale of uninhabited islands and the selling of shares in [telecoms provider] Dhiraagu – this is not the right path.”
One of the key concerns the opposition leader claimed was of central importance during the local council campaign was that of strengthening democratic practices, an area he the current ruling MDP “needed to work on much harder.”
“We believe independent institutions like the Elections Commission (EC) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) should be strengthened,” he said. “Government offices have tried to discredit these institutions, even in the police service where we have seen dismissals for political purposes.”
Ultimately, Thasmeen said that he believed the MDP-led government had been “very partisan” in providing state services and more equality was needed when filling jobs and providing healthcare to politicians.
Alongside the party’s serving members, Thasmeen said he believed that the DRP’s position within the upcoming elections had been strengthened by the return to campaigning of its honorary leader, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
While not confirming how Gayoom would be campaigning for the party in relation to the strategy outlined by the DRP’s council committee, Thasmeen said he welcomed any assistance. “Mr Gayoom is very well respected and holds an honourable position in the party,” he said.
During his own travels along the campaign trail, President Mohamed Nasheed has also been campaigning to play up the work the MDP has already conducted and will look to continue.
The party’s election manifesto consists of five core pledges: ‘nationwide transport’, ‘affordable living costs’, ‘affordable housing’, ‘affordable quality healthcare’, and the ‘prevention of narcotics abuse and trafficking’.
The party stated at its Congress in late September 2010 that it considered the pledges to be “40 percent” completed.
Whilst visiting the island of Feeali yesterday during a tour of Faafu Atoll and Dhaalu Atoll, the president claimed he remained committed to driving ahead developments despite what he called “unjustifiable criticisms” leveled at his work by opposition parties.
Nasheed stressed that the MDP was campaigning on the basis of continued developments in infrastructure and social protection already focused on within outer lying islands during his administration’s tenure.
The innaguration of sewerage systems in 17 islands – allegedly up from just four before the party came to power as a coalition in 2008 – and the completion of seven water grids in atolls outside of Male’ were used as some examples of MDP’s commitment to national development.
Outside of the country’s two most prominent political parties, President of the religious Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, said its candidates were mainly focused on three main aims during the election.
Sheikh Rasheed said that Adhaalath candidates would focus on “wide ranging development”, aiming to reduce problems associated with drug abuse and “uniting people together”.
“We will co-operate with the government as per the law, of course,” he added.
Rasheed said that candidates for the Adhaalath Party were running for seats in Raa Atoll, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Addu Atoll, Gnaviyani Atoll and the city of Male’.
”It is very likely that the Adhaalath Party candidate for Raa Atoll and Haa Dhaalu Atoll will win the seat,” he claimed.
The local council elections are scheduled for February 5, this coming Saturday.