As the opposition takes the lead in the Maldives’ first-ever multi-party parliamentary election, the fight for the independent candidates has become more crucial than ever in determining where the balance of power will lie.
Persuading as many independent candidates to join its party may be the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s only hope of fending off its greatest fear: an opposition majority that will thwart the government’s every move.
Speaking to Minivan News today, independent candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who is winning in Kulhudufushi constituency, said money might be one of the factors in swaying candidates to join parties.
“There will definitely be a lot of lobbying and persuasion and understandably so,” he said. “I think the fight has already begun…there’s a lot of persuasion going on to take the platform of a party or at least work with them.”
Although the final results are yet to be announced, provisional results from the Elections Commission show opposition parties, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the People’s Alliance (PA), have a total of 36 seats while the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 25 seats.
So far, independent candidates are winning in 13 constituencies.
Addressing press on Sunday, DRP Vice President Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the results revealed the combined victories of DRP and PA as well as the party’s endorsed independent candidates would amount to a majority.
Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi said on Sunday the MDP was in discussions with “three or four” independent candidates.
“They will play a very important role,” he said. “Even now PA and DRP have an alliance so if we don’t get enough independent candidates we might not get a majority and it will be difficult to get bills through.”
Didi added he did not believe any of the candidates were truly independent and would have affiliations with one of the two main parties.
“Most likely they will join MDP because most of them have made promises to their constituents and they will need government support to fulfil them,” he said.
Similar views have been echoed by other party members including Mohamed Zuhair, press secretary at the president’s office, who said: “One or two hardcore independents may remain, but the rest will definitely get absorbed.”
DRP Secretary General Dr Abdulla Mausoom said the elections results showed the public preferred candidates who were aligned to a political party.
Mausoon said before the election many were sceptical about whether candidates would remain independent but he declined to comment on whether his party was in the process of negotiating with independent candidates.
In disagreement was PA leader Abdulla Yamin who said he believed candidates would retain their independence. “That is what they convinced the public and that is how they campaigned. For me to find out that they have joined a party, I would be very disappointed.”
Yamin said he would accept either MPs or members of the public who wanted to join his party, but added, “I think the MDP needs them more.”
Although technically still a member of the DRP, Nasheed said he would not be joining a political party and his ties with the party had been “severed” over the past few months.
“I’m definitely going to remain independent, but I will come to the assistance of the MDP for political reasons only if the opposition was to reject genuine bills or try to pass a vote of no confidence,” he said.
Members of the MDP have expressed concern that an opposition parliamentary majority will submit a no-confidence motion against the president.
Under the constitution, a vote of no-confidence can be taken if the president violates a tenet of Islam; behaves in a manner unsuited to the office of the president; or is unable to perform his duties.
“I don’t want this government to fall and I don’t want an opposition parliament to take advantage because of an MDP minority. I will only take the national interest at heart,” said Nasheed.