PPM primary tickets awarded to 13 persons by default

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has selected 13 of its allocation of 49 candidates to contest in the upcoming parliamentary elections without primary races, after no competitors came forward.

According to the party, there are nine incumbent MPs among the 13, with the other four being new candidates.

Laamu Fonadhoo constituency was won by party Deputy Leader and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, Villimaafannu constituency was won by MP Ahmed Nihan, Galolhu South constituency by Ahmed Mahloof, Eydhafushi constituency by Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem, Faafu Nilandhoo constituency was won by MP Abdul Muhusin Hameed, and Haa Alifu Kelaa constituency was won by MP for Haa Dhaalu Vaikaradhoo Ali Arif.

Meanwhile, Dhiggaru constituency was won by Deputy Speaker of parliament Ahmed Nazim, Fuvamulak South constituency was won by MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, Vilifushi constituency was won by MP Riyaz Rasheed, Henveiru South by Mohamed Riyaz, Thaa Guraidhoo by Hussein Manik Dhon Manik, Thinadhoo North Saudhulla Hilmy, and Haa Alifu Baarah constituency was won by Ibrahim Sujau.

The party has said that tickets for other constituencies will be given after holding primaries. PPM Secretary General Yumna Maumoon was not responding to calls at the time of press.

An estimated 140 PPM supporters in Laamu atoll held protests last Saturday following the apparent decision to grant the Maavah constituencyticket to incumbent MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abu Bakr without a primary. Locals expressed disappointment with the incumbent’s performance over the past five years.

Coalition member, the Adhaalath Party, has today revealed that it is waiting for the PPM to allocate constituencies in which it will be permitted to run on behalf of the governing Progressive Coalition during the parliamentary election.

The governing coalition – which also includes the Jumhooree Party (JP), and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – recently reached a deal on reserving a set number of seats for each party.

Of the 85 seats, the PPM will contest 49, the JP will contest 28, and the MDA will contest 8 seats.

Speaking to the press today Adhaalath Party’s spokesperson Ali Zahir said the party had informed the PPM about the constituencies Adhaalath hopes to compete in.

Zahir said that the PPM had told Adhaalath that it was possible to give some of the proposed constituencies, but that it had not yet given a final answer.

Previously Adhaalath Party tried to negotiate with the JP, led by Gasim Ibrahim, but the two had contradicting views on how to divide the constituencies among both parties.


EC to seek AG advice on following Supreme Court guidelines

The Elections Commission (EC) has decided to seek advice from the Attorney General on whether the commission must follow the Supreme Court’s 16 point electoral guideline in the upcoming local council and parliamentary elections.

The Supreme Court had issued the guidelines in October in its verdict annulling the first round of presidential polls held on September 7. EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has previously slammed the guidelines as “restrictions”

EC member Ali Mohamed Manik told local media the commission is abiding by the Supreme Court’s guidelines in preparations for the upcoming elections. However, the EC may face the same challenges if the commission were to follow the Supreme Court’s requirements, Manik said.

The guidelines effectively give candidates veto power over polls as they state the EC must obtain the signature of all candidates on the voter registry and mandates the commission ensure that reports on the voting process are compiled in the presence of candidates’ representatives.

The EC has previously said obtaining the signatures of the 4000 candidates contesting local council elections will be “impossible.”

“While some of the points in the guideline state it applies to all elections, we can see that the complete guideline is actually intended for presidential elections when we look at it in its entirety. Most of what is in the full verdict is also about the presidential election. Furthermore, it will be very difficult to follow some of the points in it in other elections,” Manik said.

The Supreme Court’s requirements caused major delays in this year’s presidential elections with three contestants. The parliamentary election will have hundreds of contestants for the 85 constituencies, while the local council election will have over 4000 of contestants running for 1118 seats in island, atoll and city councils in 20 atolls.

LGA and MMA call to merge elections

The Local Government Authority (LGA) – chaired by Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim – has on Thursday announced it will work with the government to organize simultaneous polls for the local council and parliament.

LGA has also requested the government to include the proposal in the planned amendments to the Decentralisation Act.

“When all the elections are held together, it will decrease the economical cost caused by holding separate elections, while also lessening the tearing up of the national social fabric, which happens as a result of elections”, a statement from the LGA reads, as reported by local media Haveeru.

The statement further said that the funds spent on councils cannot be used productively unless the councils are developed and strengthened. The authority said the proposed amendments to the Decentralisation Act  will assist in cutting costs.

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has meanwhile recommended combining presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in order to reduce state expenditure and improve governance.


India’s diplomatic course correction averts impasse: Russia and India Report

“Indian diplomacy averted an impasse in the ties with Maldives through a course correction through past several months,” writes Indian career-diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar for the Russia & India Report.

Bhadrakumar compares recent elections in both the Maldives and Nepal, assessing their impact on India’s external relations.

“When the ‘pro-Indian’ elected president was overthrown in Male last year, Delhi took umbrage. Its fury was fuelled by the summary termination of a highly lucrative contract of an influential Indian firm for managing the Male international airport.

But Maldives pushed back and the futility of the pressure tactic compelled Delhi to rethink and change tack to an equidistant stance between the warring Maldivian political parties.

Thus, although the recent presidential election in Maldives produced a surprise outcome, Delhi could engage the new power centre with alacrity. President Abdulla Yameen accepted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to visit Delhi for his first overseas trip as head of state.

However, as any passionate reader of Joseph Conrad would vouchsafe, island states wear a deceptively languid look. There is that certain edginess in the air. Curiously, one major decision taken by the new government in Male is to introduce Arabic language in the curriculum of Maldivian schools. The political elites have not hidden their tilt toward ‘Islamization’ of the Maldivian society.

One way of looking at it is that this is only a variant of cultural nationalism, which is sweeping over the region – India included. But then, it also carries the subtle overtone of an attempt to differentiate the island nation from the ethos of the Indian subcontinent.”

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Maldives elections veered into the realm of farce: New York Times

At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce, writes Ellen Barry for the New York Times.

Mohamed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls.

The court scuttled another vote planned for October, ordering the police to surround the election commission. In November, after Mr. Nasheed had trounced his rivals again, the court derailed a second-round vote with another last-minute delay.

Something about it felt familiar. I had just arrived in South Asia after five years in the former Soviet Union, where I saw one leader after another dispensing with truly competitive politics.

Elections kept happening, but there was only a glaze of competition; for the most part, the opposition candidates were docile, handpicked characters, because no one else was allowed to run. On the rare occasions when actual rivals were able to take part, as in recent elections in Ukraine and Georgia, the candidates who lost found themselves in court or in prison. The experiment in democracy, born in the euphoria of the 1990s, seemed to be ending.

In South Asia, that experiment is much closer to its beginning.

Read more


EU congratulates Maldives on election

The European Union (EU) released a statement on Thursday urging all Maldivian political parties to work together for the betterment of the country.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative, warned of both economic and environmental challenges ahead.

“The EU expects all political parties to put personal and ideological rivalries aside and work together to confront the serious economic and environmental challenges which the country faces,” she said.

Aston further congratulated the Maldives on its “commitment to democracy” and constitution, crediting the professionalism of the Electoral Commission.

The EU had earlier threatened “appropriate measures” against the Maldives in response to the annulments and delays of the electoral process.


Parliamentary elections to be held March 22

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced that parliamentary elections will be on March 22, 2014.

The EC also decided not to declare by-elections for three vacant seats due to the proximity of the elections, according to local media.

The current parliament was convened on May 28, 2009 with a majority to the opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), which had just lost to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in the 2008 presidential elections.


International community welcomes end of democratic uncertainty, notes high voter turnout

The international community has welcomed the conclusion of the Maldivian electoral process, after two months and six attempts at polls that suffered delays, annulments and obstruction.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen was sworn in as President yesterday, after a last-minute coalition with resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim netted him 51.39 percent in Saturday’s run-off vote against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) recalled its earlier decision to place the Maldives on its agenda due to concerns about democratic progress in the country.

“Ministers welcomed the successful conclusion of the presidential election and noted the interim statement of the Commonwealth Observer Group, which stated that the election had been “credible and peaceful”. They congratulated the people of Maldives for showing their firm commitment to democracy, and for exercising their franchise in record numbers,” read a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also observed in a statement that people in the Maldives “turned out to vote in impressive numbers, showing their determination to choose their next president, despite the many obstacles and delays.”

“The close contest highlights the need for the new administration to engage the opposition in a constructive manner and to lead the country in the interest of all Maldivians,” the UN statement read.

“The Secretary-General strongly urges all political leaders, state institutions and the Maldivian people to work urgently toward genuine reconciliation and to advance the country’s democratic process through long-term institutional reforms, in particular strengthening the judiciary and accountability mechanisms, and promoting a national dialogue.”

The UK’s State Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, said he “congratulates the people of the Maldives for showing their commitment to democracy, as evidenced by the very high turnout in the presidential election.”

“I urge the new government and the opposition to work together constructively in the interests of all Maldivians and to avoid any acts of recrimination or retribution,” said Swire, who is currently visiting the Maldives,

“It is important that the forthcoming local and parliamentary elections go ahead in line with work of the Elections Commission and are not subject to the delay and legal interventions that marred the presidential elections. The UK looks forward to working with the new government,” he added.

The US Embassy in Colombo congratulated Yameen on his election as president, noting that “extraordinarily high turnout on November 16 was a tribute to the Maldivian people’s commitment to the democratic process and democratic values. The United States Government reiterates its friendship with the Maldivian people as they work to build a peaceful and prosperous future.”

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird declared: “After a turbulent period in the Maldives’ young democracy, a new government has finally been elected. Canada congratulates the people of the Maldives for once again exercising their fundamental democratic right to vote in a peaceful manner, under the capable stewardship of the Elections Commission.”

“Confidence in the democratic process has been seriously undermined since the events of last year, particularly by the Supreme Court’s repeated delays to this election,” Baird noted.

“After such a close result, it is now incumbent upon President Abdulla Yameen to begin the process of reconciliation and govern for the whole country. Former President Mohamed Nasheed, the nation’s first democratically elected President, has shown magnanimity in defeat, and hopes for the future will be raised if all parties come together to establish positive working relations,” he stated.

“Democracy is not just about the counting of ballot papers – it is about principled voting, a strong civil society, a trusted judiciary, free media, effective opposition and responsible governance. It is a journey, not a destination. Canada and the international community will remain watchful for progress in this journey.”


Bangladesh to reopen worker migration to the Maldives

Bangladesh will lift the ban on worker migration to the Maldives after a government delegation was sent to investigate allegations of fraudulent recruitment, forced labour and migrant unemployment.

In September Minivan News reported that the Bangladesh’s Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) had prohibited immigration over concerns that labourers were being lured to the Maldives with the promise of jobs, only to find themselves unemployed and unable to return to their home country.

BMET Director General Begum Shamsun Nahar told the Dhaka Tribune that “a delegation went to Maldives recently and found that our workers are all employed there.”

However he noted that the wages in the Maldives were low while the migration cost was high, with the average worker spending around Tk 2,00,000 (US$2500) to go to country, despite earning only US$150-190 per month.

The Dhaka Tribune noted that while the Maldivian government’s data put the number of Bangladeshi workers at 80 000, BMET had only recorded the departure of 28,000 workers since 1976.

The head of the delegation to the Maldives, Deputy Secretary of the Expatriates’ Welfare Ministry Badiur Rahman told the Tribune that workers were using middlemen to bypass immigration procedures, “and overcome the limited interest of Maldivians in becoming labourers.”

According to Mohamed Ali Janah, former President of the Maldives Association of Construction Industry (MACI), the lack of a functioning labour management system combined with this domestic labour shortage prohibits employers from recruiting legitimate workers amongst the expatriate population.

Janah estimated earlier this year that the country’s illegal foreign workforce was potentially at 100,000 people, he said the failure to implement a functioning system of labour management in the Maldives had made it hugely difficult to find legitimate workers among the expatriate population.

“Why would we want to hire potentially illegal labour, we don’t know who these people are,” he said. “We have a huge number of projects in the country right now, so we will have to find the people to work, even if it is from China or Cambodia or another country.”

The Maldives was this year placed on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for the fourth consecutive year.

As with last year’s report, the country avoided a downgrade to the lowest tier “because [the] government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

However US Ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca, noted during the release of the report that the six countries again spared a downgrade would not be eligible next year – including Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, Malaysia, Thailand and the Maldives.


Abdulla Yameen wins Maldives 2013 presidential election with 51.39 percent of the vote

Additional reporting by Ahmed Naish and Zaheena Rasheed

Provisional results from the Elections Commission (EC) show Maldivians have voted to return to power the family of the Maldives’ former 30 year autocracy, giving a democratic mandate to Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen, the brother of former autocratic President Maumoon Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years before being ousted in 2008 by Mohamed Nasheed in the country’s first multi-party elections, received 51.39 percent of the vote (111,203). Nasheed polled 48.61 percent (105,181) – a difference of just 6022 votes.

Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round.

The election was hailed by Transparency Maldives as “credible, transparent and extremely well-administered, as were the two previous rounds.”

“While election day administration has been excellent, we believe that the real electoral issues are those of lack of political financing transparency, failure of the state to hold to account parties and individuals in violation of electoral offenses, the loopholes in the legal framework which paves way for abuse, all of which ultimately reduces trust and confidence in the electoral system,” Transparency stated.

Yameen’s election brings to an end a chapter of controversy and uncertainty over the government’s democratic legitimacy, following the ousting of Nasheed in February 2012 amid a police mutiny.

Speaking at a the PPM’s victory rally, President-elect Abdulla Yameen praised the coalition politicians as “exemplary leaders.”

Yameen said he “will never forget” that the majority voted for the PPM candidate based on the trust they had for coalition leaders.

“We worked together to save the Maldivian nation, to protect the sacred religion of Islam,” he said.

The PPM’s success was “a victory God granted for our religion and a great blessing for our beloved nation,” he added.

He also thanked his half brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for his “hard work during our campaign,” which he said was “harder than the work he did in 2008.”

Yameen said he did not doubt that former President Mohamed Nasheed and the MDP would provide “cooperation in the Majlis” and work together with the new government.

The president-elect said it was “time for the political turmoil in the country to come to an end,” appealing for rival parties to “put aside political differences to work for the nation.”

Instead of “confronting political leaders, we will confront the big challenges facing our country,” he said. The government would be ready to sit down at the table with the MDP, he added.

“The most important thing we must do is thank Allah,” said Gayoom, speaking at the party’s victory celebration this evening. “He has given us victory. He has given his religion victory.”

Gayoom thanked the citizens of the Maldives, praised the smooth election, and congratulated Yameen and his running mate, Dr Mohamed Jameel.

He also thanked the political parties who worked with the PPM: “The biggest secret behind us winning this election is that Gasim Ibrahim joined us,” he said.

The key to Yameen’s victory indeed appears to have been the public endorsement of third-placed candidate, resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who initially remained neutral but later urged his 48,131 first round supporters to back the PPM – the vast majority of whom did as instructed.

In the first round Yameen polled 29.72 percent (61,278 votes), while Nasheed received 46.93 percent of votes (96,764). The run-off had been scheduled the following day for November 10, however Yameen declined to sign the voter lists and hours before the polls were due to open the Supreme Court ordered the poll delayed to the 16th.

In the intervening days, Yameen and former President Gayoom appealed to Gasim, promising him 33 percent of the government were he to endorse the PPM. On Wednesday the JP’s council voted with a comfortable majority to back the PPM.

The political rhetoric in the final week took a strong Islamic flavour, with Gasim and the PPM campaigning heavily against Nasheed’s religious credentials. Nasheed responded to the anti-campaigning: “I assure you, God willing, there will not be any room for another religion in this country as long as we draw breath,” he said, during the MDP’s final rally in Male on Friday night.

Yameen, who earlier in the day had complained about the integrity of the ballot papers’ security features, took and maintained a two percent lead throughout much of the counting, consistently gaining most of the JP’s support base at the majority of ballot boxes.

At a press conference held at Male City Hall Nasheed conceded defeat but noted the narrow margin.

“We have half the country behind us. And therefore I wouldn’t see many challenges for us to face the next local council elections and the parliamentary elections. So we should be doing that. One thing we should not contemplate would be to overthrow the government by street action or by direct action. We must adhere to democratic principles,” he stated.

“It is early for us to analyse the results and exactly pinpoint where we’ve lost but what is very clear is that we have lost by a very small margin. That is an indication of the outlook of the country. On the one hand, you have half the country who wants to progress in the light that we see the country and there is another half of the country who wants to remain as PPM sees the country. In my view, democracy is a process. And it is going to take time before we are able to proceed as a normal democratic country. Also in my view, it is our responsibility as an opposition party to make sure that democracy survives,” stated Nasheed.

Asked by reporters if he feared for his safety, he said: “I will go wherever I have to go.”

“We have repeatedly said, when you fall get up and run. When you lose, be courageous and in victory, be magnanimous,” he added.

Asked about his political future, the former President noted: “I am just 46.”

Troubled months of polls

Despite repeated delays, annulments and police obstruction of multiple polls – today’s vote was the sixth attempt organised by the Elections Commission in just two months – the MDP failed to build sufficiently on its apparent core support base of 95,000-100,000 people to defeat the combined last-minute Gasim-Yameen coalition.

The MDP obtained just under 100,000 votes in November 9 revote and the Supreme Court-annulled September 7 poll, falling short of the 50 percent needed to avert a run-off. The first annulled vote, which also saw Gasim placed third, was annulled after he complained of irregularities to the Supreme Court.

The run-off scheduled for September 28 was put on hold by an indefinite injunction from the Supreme Court, and ultimately annulled in a controversial 4:3 decision by the Supreme Court bench. The eventual revote on October 19 was obstructed by police, after Yameen and Gasim refused to sign the voter registry – one of the Supreme Court’s new requirements, effectively giving candidates power to veto polls.

The MDP’s “costed and budgeted” campaign focused on social welfare issues such as state-provided healthcare, housing, entertainment and youth, as well as economic diversity and increasing agriculture to reduce dependency on food imports.

Yameen campaigned heavily on a platform of law and order, calling for enhanced police powers, implementation of Sharia and the execution of the death penalty.

The party pledged harsher prison sentences for crimes such as ‘obstruction of police duty’, and promised short turnarounds on criminal investigations, the installation of mass surveillance mechanisms and state-of-the-art forensic facilities. The party also accused the MDP’s youth policy, dubbed ‘Entertainment without Fear’, of targeting the country’s drug addicts and prison population.

Yameen also pledged to pursue oil exploration and encourage foreign investment in its extraction.

The PPM further targeted young voters, promising both the creation of desirable jobs, and the transformation of Hulhumale into a “Youth City” with apartments for young people otherwise unable to start married life due to a lack of housing options in the congested capital city of Male. He pledged to build a bridge connecting the island to Male, and introduce 90,000 new jobs for young people across the Maldives by the end of his five year term.

Yameen also pledged to halve the presidential salary, increase civil servant salaries and slash the wages of political appointees by 30-50 percent should he be elected, as well as cut the salaries of independent institutions – which include the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) – a step he has described as pivotal for the country to avoid a sovereign default.

Yameen’s running mate and incoming Vice President is Dr Mohamed Jameel, former Justice Minister under Gayoom and Home Minister during Waheed’s tenure. The new President is expected to be sworn in by parliament tomorrow morning following the Election Commission’s announcement of the official results.