Politicians line up to replace jailed MP

Would-be candidates are already setting out their stalls for the parliamentary by-election in Meemu atoll Dhiggaru after the seat’s previous incumbent was jailed for 25 years yesterday.

Ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim, a former deputy speaker of parliament, was found guilty on Monday of defrauding the state of MVR 1.4 million (US $91,400) and sentenced to 25 years.

Members of both the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the opposition have expressed an interest in replacing him in the Majlis (parliament).

Among these are Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member and Meemu atoll Muli island councillor Ibrahim Zaki, ruling party member and Meemu atoll councilor Moosa Naseer, and Adhaalath Party spokesperson Ali Zahir.

“I have decided to run for Dhihgaru constituency and I will apply as soon as the elections commission gives notice,” said Ali Zahir.

Elections must be held to fill parliamentary vacancies within 60 days under the constitution.

Meanwhile, the MDP has condemned Nazim’s conviction, saying several aspects of the process violated his rights.

“The lower court and the High Court threw out the case. So the state had appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. But instead the Supreme Court ruled on the case,” said MDP MP and spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy.

“So literally Nazim did not have a chance to defend himself,” Imthiyaz added.

He noted that former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, accused of plotting to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen, and ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, accused of terrorism over the arrest of a judge, received shorter sentences than Ahmed Nazim.

“[They] were charged with more serious crimes. So I don’t see the fairness in this conviction,” he said.

“It seems that the courts had all ruled in favor of Nazim when he was in favor with the government. But after his spat with [Tourism Minister Ahmed] Adeeb, the courts had turned against him,” Imthiyaz said.

Nazim, an ex-deputy speaker of parliament, was found guilty of defrauding the state by submitting bids on behalf of non-existent companies to supply 15,000 national flags to the now-defunct atolls ministry.

He faces three more outstanding corruption charges.


Adhaalath announces seven candidates for parliament

The Adhaalath Party (AP) announced seven candidates today for constituencies contested by the ruling ‘Progressive Coalition,’ bringing the number of the religious conservative party’s parliamentary candidates to 13 in total.

The candidates announced today were Ali Zahir for the Inguraidhoo constituency, Ibrahim Ahmed for the Madduvari constituency, incumbent MP Ibrahim Muttalib for the Fares-Maathoda constituency, Abdulla Ibrahim for the Kendhikolhudhoo constituency, Hassan Rasheed for the Kudahuvadhoo constituency, and Abdulla Haleem for the Isdhoo constituency.

The party also named the Fiqh Academy Vice President Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef for the Hulhuhenveiru constituency. Dr Iyaz last week sparked controversy as he endorsed the practice of female genital mutilation in an online forum.

AP Spokesperson Ali Zahir said at a press briefing today that the party decided to field candidates for the seven seats as no progress had been made in “unofficial” talks with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on the possibility of ceding five constituencies for AP candidates.

While the AP has not given up hope of reaching a compromise with the ruling party, Zahir said the party gave tickets to seven more candidates because the deadline for submitting candidacy papers was two days away.

“When they began primaries yesterday, we felt they no longer intend to go forward with us,” he said, adding however that the PPM had “signalled” an interest in further negotiations.

Zahir noted that the PPM conducted primaries yesterday for all five of the constituency requested by the AP.

While the AP “hopes this number [of candidates] will not become higher [than 13],” Zahir said it was possible that the party’s ticket could be awarded to more candidates in the coming days.

The three parties in the governing ‘Progressive Coalition’ reached an agreement last week to allocate the 85 parliamentary constituencies among the coalition partners, with 49 seats assigned for the PPM, 28 seats for the Jumhooree Party (JP), and eight seats for the Maldives Development Alliance.

Following its exclusion from the coalition’s parliamentary election plans, the AP began discussions separately with the three parties on the possibility of allocating constituencies to its candidates.

However, negotiations with the JP ended unsuccessfully after it refused to cede the Vaikaradhoo and Makunudhoo constituencies as requested by the AP.

Last week, the AP announced that it would be fielding candidates in six constituencies contested by the JP.

In addition to the five candidates announced on Wednesday – Anara Naeem for the Makunudhoo constituency in Haa Dhaal atoll, Aishath Haleela for the Vaikaradhoo constituency, Ahmed Zahir for the Komandoo constituency, Asadhulla Shafie for the Kaashidhoo constituency, and Hisham Ahmed for the Meedhoo constituency in Addu City – the AP later announced that State Minister for Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed was awarded the party’s ticket for the Nolhivaram constituency.