Members of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) who contested the local council elections as independents cost the government coalition a number of seats, President Abdulla Yameen has said.
Speaking to reporters this morning prior to his departure to Sri Lanka on an official state visit, President Yameen said more than 85 percent of independent candidates were PPM members.
“We lost seats in large constituencies – Malé and Addu City – we lost seats from these two cities. But that is how things will happen inside a coalition, not just our present coalition,” he said.
PPM members decided to contest as independent candidates in constituencies reserved for coalition partner Jumhooree Party (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.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates won in such cases where the vote was split among government-aligned candidates, Yameen said.
As voters considered family connections more than party affiliation in choosing candidates for councils, Yameen said government supporters contested as independents despite the best efforts of the party leadership to field single candidates representing the ruling ‘Progressive Coalition’.
Preliminary results show that the MDP has won eight out of 11 seats on the Malé City Council and all six seats of the Addu City Council.
Complete preliminary results are expected within the next two days.
President Yameen noted that the three seats won by PPM candidates in the capital was an improvement on the February 2011 local council elections, in which the then-opposition took two seats to the MDP’s nine.
Yameen further contended that the results of the council elections showed “huge support for our coalition” as the majority of independent candidates were from the PPM.
“So I am satisfied. [But] we could have put in a better effort,” he said.
Discussions were meanwhile underway among leaders of the PPM, JP, Maldives Development Alliance and the Adhaalath Party to avoid similar issues in the upcoming parliamentary elections and to decide how to divide the 84 constituencies among the coalition partners, Yameen said.
Party leaders would meet the press together and give joint interviews to explain the situation to government supporters in constituencies where there were disputes over choosing candidates, he added.
“I believe party spirit will be stronger in the parliamentary elections than the local council election,” he said.
At a press conference hours after polls closed, former President Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile predicted victory for the MDP in the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22, based on the outcome of Saturday’s local government elections.
Nasheed was narrowly defeated by PPM candidate Yameen in November’s controversial presidential election, winning 48.61 percent of the vote (105,181) to Yameen’s 51.39 percent (111,203) – a difference of just 6,022 votes.