MDP gears up for Majlis primaries

Primaries to select candidates of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for the upcoming parliamentary elections are due to take place tomorrow in 133 islands across the country.

Some 176 candidates seeking the party ticket are contesting in 58 primary races.

According to the party, polls will open at 2.30pm and close at 8:00pm. Ballot boxes will be placed in the Dharubaaruge convention hall in Malé and MDP meeting halls (haruge) in other islands.

In addition to 10 ballot boxes for constituencies in the capital, 20 ballot boxes will be placed in Dharubaaruge for party members from the atolls residing in Male’.

As of September 15, 2013, the MDP had 43,277 registered members, making it the largest party in the country.

While the main opposition party is fielding candidates for all 85 parliamentary constituencies, 27 candidates have secured the MDP ticket without an election as they did not face a primary challenger. These include three constituencies in Malé and 24 in the atolls.

The party announced yesterday that the media will be allowed to monitor the voting process on Friday without prior registration. Reporters will be required to show press passes to observe voting.

Friday’s primaries feature high-profile MDP members facing off in competitive races, including Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik against former Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef in the Hulhuhenveiru constituency, and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi against former Judicial Service Commission member and outspoken whistleblower, Aishath Velezinee, for the Machangoalhi North constituency.

Appearing on MDP-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV last night, Ali Niyaz from the MDP’s elections committee appealed for cooperation from members to ensure peaceful and smooth conduct of the internal polls.

Niyaz urged members to refrain from negative campaigning as eventual candidates could be weakened ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

“It is the party’s sincere request that there are no personal attacks against each other. Although some people say that expressing reasons not to vote for a rival candidate is anti-campaigning, the reasons should be explained. But we urge that it be done in a way that would not harm the party,” he said.

Niyaz also revealed that efforts were made to register members of other parties in the MDP to influence the primaries. The party’s membership committee has however resolved the issue, he added.

MP Sameer withdraws candidacy

Meanwhile, MDP MP for Haa Alif Dhidhoo, Ahmed Sameer, announced yesterday that he was withdrawing his candidacy ahead of Friday’s primaries.

In a letter (Dhivehi) informing the party of his decision – subsequently shared on his personal website – Sameer stated that he contested the primary with the hope that all party members in the Dhidhoo constituency would unite behind the primary winner.

However, as a result of “premeditated efforts to cause divisions among MDP members in Dhidhoo” and “anti-campaigning,” Sameer wrote that the party’s supporters in the island were “divided with extreme differences of opinion”.

“Campaigning for the candidate one supports in the spirit of the election is not a problem at all. But publicly declaring that [members] would not work with a candidate even if he wins the primary is not at all in line with internal election ethics because the most likely [outcome] is the party’s member failing to win the election,” Sameer wrote on his website.

Despite having “no doubts” that he would win the primary, Sameer said he did not believe there was any reason to compete under such circumstances.

He added that he did not have “any problems with President [Mohamed] Nasheed or the MDP.”

Sameer’s challengers in the Dhidhoo primary were Adam Naseer, former deputy controller of immigration and emigration, and Mohamed Hashim.

The Dhidhoo MP noted that he had never voted against the party line or three-line whip in a parliamentary vote.

Sameer also declared his intention to contest the parliamentary elections for the Dhidhoo constituency, though he did not reveal whether he would be running as an independent or on another party’s ticket.

A founding member of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and a former Special Majlis MP, Sameer joined the MDP prior to the first multi-party parliamentary elections in May 2009.

Sameer previously served as deputy leader of the MDP’s parliamentary group and currently chairs the MDP-controlled independent institutions committee.