The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has begun primaries for 25 parliamentary constituencies today.
Voting is proceeding smoothly in Malé at Dharubaaruge, Thajuddeen School, Malé City Hall and the PPM’s ally Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) party offices, PPM Secretary General Mohamed Zuhair said.
Over 2,700 members had registered to vote in Malé, Zuhair said, adding that the only complaints the party had received so far related to registration.
Parties in the ruling coalition allocated 49 of the 85 People’s Majlis seats to the PPM, 28 seats to the Jumhooree Party (JP) and nine seats to the MDA.
The party ticket was initially awarded to 13 candidates due to a lack of contestants. The 13 included eight incumbent MPs.
Over 150 candidates applied to contest the remaining 36 constituencies. But only 92 candidates were chosen for the primaries.
Applicants were graded on a six point criteria that included the extent to which candidates uphold party ideology, the length and type of service to the party, experience in parliament and participation in the presidential campaign.
Only candidates who received over 75 points were allowed to contest.
Five candidates – including four incumbent MPs – were awarded the party ticket on Friday after their competitors failed to meet the 75 percent threshold.
The PPM said it will hold primaries for the remaining six constituencies tomorrow.
Vilimaafannu MP Ahmed Nihan who won the party ticket by default said some members had complained of the party leadership favoring one candidate over the other.
“Holding primaries is not easy. For any party. But I do not expect any major issues,” he said.
Meanwhile, local media have reported conflict has emerged between the PPM and MDA over the Gahdhoo constituency. The seat was initially allocated to the MDA, but the party decided not to field a candidate and to instead back incumbent MP Zahir Adam.
Zahir was recently suspended from opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) after he violated a three-line whip and voted for President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet in December.
Following MDA’s decision not to contest the Gahdhoo constituency, PPM called for applicants for primaries. According to local media, the MDA has ordered the PPM to retract the announcement.
Polls will close at 10:00pm tonight.
Applications must be submitted to the Elections Commission by February 11. Parliamentary elections are set for March 22.