High turnout in Dhiggaru by-election

Some 82 percent of eligible voters have cast ballots in the parliamentary by-election for Dhiggaru constituency today.

Election Commission (EC) figures show some 2017 of the 2,555 voters had voted by 4:00pm. The commission has closed all six ballot boxes and has started counting votes.

Official results will be announced by 8:30pm tonight.

The main contenders are the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Ahmed Faris Maumoon leading and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Ahmed Raazee.

The election was triggered by the imprisonment of ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim on corruption charges in April.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Faris promised development for the five islands in the Dhiggaru constituency.

“I don’t want to compare myself with the other candidates. That’s a job for the voters. I have already stated my credentials and what I will do for the constituency. The voters will weigh and decide,” he said.

“Over 90 percent of people I met agree that this constituency has had some development over the years. I am looking to speed things up and bring even more development to this constituency.”

Faris is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the nephew of president Abdulla Yameen. The opposition has accused the PPM of vote-buying and bribery after PPM donated x-ray machines and air conditioning units to two islands in the constituency.

President Yameen last week pledged to provide a 140 kilo-watt power generator for Dhiggaru and said he will prioritize PPM constituencies for development projects.

The government has also signed an agreement with the state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company to build a harbour in Dhiggaru.

Dhiggaru is a PPM stronghold and a support base of the former president.

The MDP candidate, Raazee, said he hoped voters will elect him, and condemned what he called efforts by the PPM to deceive people.

“The ruling party has tried to influence elections. They have brought in excavators and construction materials at the Dhiggaru, Maduvvari and Muli harbors, to trick people to think there will be development,” he said.

“But I’m sure people will not fall for that and elect me. I am from the constituency and I know their needs.”

Raazee also condemned a police raid of a boat carrying some 40 voters from Malé to Dhiggaru last night.

Police prevented the boat from leaving the Malé harbor at 2am last night until they searched all individuals on board on suspicion of carrying drugs. The police dog squad was brought on to the boat to search for drugs.

The boat was only cleared at 1:00pm today. A police media official declined to comment on the matter.

The boat’s captain Adam Waheed said all passengers had left Malé on speed boats, but three of the crew on board will not be able to vote as the journey will take seven hours.

No drugs were found on board, he said.

Speaking to reporters outside the Dhiggaru polling booths, EC member Ahmed Akram said the commission had received only one complaint.

“It was regarding some envelopes distributed in Muli last night with campaign and anti-campaign material after the official campaigning time closed,” he said.