Week in review: March 22 – 29

The week began with 302 candidates and 189,000 voters taking part in the Maldives’ second multiparty Majlis elections.

After polling proceeded without notable incident, preliminary results quickly showed that the governing Progressive Coalition had secured a clear victory – later confirmed as a 53 seat majority in the 85 seat legislature.

President Abdulla Yameen – whose Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took 33 seats – interpreted the result as a ‘yes’ to peace and stability and a chance to pick up where his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘golden 30 years’ had left off.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of former President Gayoom – saw the result as a rejection of “foreign interference” and a show of support for her father and uncle’s leadership.

Coalition ally the Maldives Development Alliance noted that the result – in which it took five seats – as a sign of public confidence in the relatively young party. Despite being upbeat about his party’s 15-seat haul, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim accused his coalition allies of fielding independent candidates in violation of pre-election agreements.

While Yameen acknowledged that vote splitting may have detracted from the size of the coalition win, the immediate effects appeared to have benefited his party, with two of the five successful ‘independent’ candidates switching to the PPM before the official results had been announced.

A further source of discord within the coalition loomed large after Gasim threw his hat into the ring for the Majlis speaker’s position this week. Though Gasim told local media he had the coalition’s full backing, the PPM subsequently announced its intention to field its own candidate.

The impact of the defeat on the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who won just 26 of the 85 seats for which it fielded candidates – looks likely to be a period of restructuring, with former President Mohamed Nasheed calling for new leaders to step forward.

All observers of the elections – partisans and neutrals alike – expressed concern at the ‘money politics’ involved, with both the MDP and Adhaalath parties blaming such practices for their own poor performances.

Despite the foreign minister’s prior comments, both the EU and the Commonwealth observer missions focused on the negative impact the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Elections Commissioners had upon the electoral environment.

Government business

Amendments to the Decentralisation Act, which would resurrect previous previously thwarted plans for streamlined local governance, were this week introduced on behalf of the government.

The resuscitation of the Nasheed administration’s attempts to transform the country’s energy sector also continued with the outlining of the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investments in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) programme.

The government’s transformation of the island of Meedhoo appeared not have gone to plan, however, after a recently initiated reclamation project was halted due to its potential environmental and health impacts.

The Immigration Department revealed the success of a recent repatriation programme for illegal migrant workers, while employees on the Vilu Reef resort were also given their marching orders after having taken part in strikes.

In the courts, the decision to uphold a prior ruling saw the return of a five-month-old child to it’s German mother, while the Criminal Court heard the final disturbing details in the 2010 murder of Mariyam Sheereen.

The Tiny Hearts of Maldives NGO this week held their annual camp in Malé’s IGMH, providing expert care for children with congenital heart defects. Meanwhile, in Addu, investigations have begun in the events that led to a death during childbirth at Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.