Reporting by Hassan Mohamed and Ismail Humam Hamid
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has won the parliamentary by-election for the Dhiggaru constituency with 59.4 percent of the vote.
PPM candidate Ahmed Faris Maumoon won some 1238 votes, while the main opposition party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Ahmed Raazee won 763 votes, according to preliminary results published by the Elections Comission (EC).
EC figures show some 2,084 of the 2,555 eligible voters cast their votes in today’s polls.
A smiling Faris said he will only comment after official results are announced. Faris is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and nephew to president Abdulla Yameen.
The PPM, however, has described the election win as a demonstration of public support for the besieged government.
“The opposition says there is no support for the government. They say ours is a government with only 25 percent support. But now this election proved them completely wrong,” PPM spokesperson Ali Arif said.
Citing growing authoritarianism, ruling coalition partners, the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, had split from the PPM in January and March, respectively. They allied with the MDP and formed a coalition – “Maldivians Against Tyranny.”
The JP’s last minute backing was key in PPM’s presidential win in 2013. President Abdulla Yameen, who had only won 25 percent in the first round, gained 51.39 percent in the second round.
The opposition coalition has been protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and the targeting of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s businesses.
The Dhiggaru by-election was triggered by the imprisonment of ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim on corruption charges.
Arif promised development for Dhiggaru and said: “The government does not favor constituencies with government MPs. But having a government MP will make it easier for the government to understand the needs of the constituency. Once again I thank the Dhiggaru constituency for expressing their confidence in the government.”
Weeks before the election, the government delivered an x-ray machine to Dhiggaru, promised a harbor in the island, while PPM MPs delivered air-conditioning units to the Dhiggaru and Muli island mosques.
President Yameen, meanwhile, promised to provide a 140-kilowatt generator for Dhiggaru and said he will prioritize PPM constituencies for development in the 2016 budget.
Speaking to Minivan News, Razee accused the government of bribery and vote buying, and said he did not believe the election had been fair.
“The government used all of its powers to influence the election. We saw the excavators on the islands. They were threatening to take them away and halt harbor work if PPM did not win. People of this constituency want development. People want to their harbors to be completed. They were scared. We saw the government use council equipment and the hospital’s ambulance for their campaign. They used everything to gain unfair advantages. We saw the air conditioners they brought with them for the mosque,” he said.
“I will keep on serving the people of the constituency and fight against injustice. We won’t give up just yet.”
The police prevented a boat carrying some 40 opposition supporters from leaving Malé to go vote in Dhiggaru. The boat was scheduled to leave at 2:00am, but the police’s dog squad was brought on board to check for drugs on the boat.
Passengers left to Dhiggaru on speedboats this morning.
The boat was only allowed to leave at 1:00pm today. No drugs were found on board, the boat captain said.
Two independent candidates also contested in the elections. Shameem Ali won 52 votes while Moosa Naseer won 31 votes.
Photo from social media
This article was amended to include preliminary results from the Elections Commission.