The Jumhoree Party (JP) has rejected accusations of directly giving money or any other incentive to the public during campaigning for the upcoming presidential election, after several rivals raised concerns.
Both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have slammed the JP this week, accusing senior campaigners in the party of directly providing money and goods to the public to try and buy votes.
JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi today told Minivan News that “no donations” had been made through the campaign offices of its presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim or his coalition partners ahead of polling, scheduled for September 7.
He insisted that although donations such as scholarships and school equipment had continued to be given through the Villa Foundation – a charity established by Gasim – these were not political gestures.
Didi claimed that, as well as sending some 200 Villa scholars abroad, the foundation – which is run separately from the JP – had for decades been providing vital equipment to schools and health centres across the country independently of the JP.
Gasim will stand in the election as the candidate for a coalition of parties including the JP, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).
The PPM, whose presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen will be standing against Gasim next month, has alleged that the JP has been providing donations directly from its campaign office in the build up to September’s vote, effectively “dumping money” in certain parts of the country.
PPM MP Ahmed Nihan claimed that while he respected the work of Gasim’s Villa Foundation in the Maldives, there had been “very clear” attempts by the coalition of parties backing his election to offer voters financial incentives, particularly over the last one and a half months.
“I do not think it is the Villa Foundation that has been providing televisions and refrigerators to households,” Nihan said.
Nihan, who reiterated his respect for Gasim as a fellow parliamentarian and one of the country’s highest profile business figures, said that the level of donations being made by the presidential candidate and his supporters was “questionable” for a democratic system.
“One of Gasim’s main plus points is that he has lots of money. He is definitely using it,” he said.
Nihan accused Gasim of trying to financially influence voting, both for the upcoming election and during the country’s first multi-party democratic vote in 2008, arguing that a growing number of young voters between the ages of 19 and 35 years would be aware of attempts to influence them.
He argued that the PPM’s island council by-election victory against the JP in Nolhivaram in Haa Dhaalu Atoll on Saturday (August 24) had indicated that Gasim’s alleged spending and donations would not translate to polling success.
“We are running a democratic campaign. We don’t have the money to provide televisions and refrigerators like the JP,” he added.
Nihan alleged that the majority of Gasim’s political supporters were only interested in profiting from the tycoon by getting what he claimed was a “quick buck” ahead of voting, and cited his previous unsuccessful campaign to stand for the presidency in 2008.
“[These supporters] will abandon Gasim after the election just like what happened in 2008,” he said.
Gasim unsuccessfully contested in the 2008 presidential elections finishing the race in fourth place, with 15.2 percent of the total vote.
He finished behind candidates including then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, eventual winner Mohamed Nasheed, and the current JP running mate, Dr Hassan Saeed.
The opposition MDP, represented in the upcoming election by former President Nasheed, has filed a case with the country’s Elections Commission (EC) concerning campaigning by Gasim’s coalition.
MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor accused the JP of “unashamedly” trying to buy votes for the election.
“They believe this is how it has to be done. You give people things and they will vote for you,” he said. “They are oblivious to the fact that the world has changed. We are hearing that some people might accept money [they are offered by a candidate] and still vote for the candidate they want.”
The MDP also today criticised First Lady Ilham Hussain over reports in local media that she had donated MVR 100,000 (US$6500) to Mulaku School in Meemu Atoll, accusing her of trying to buy votes for President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s campaign.
Abbas Adil Riza, a spokesperson for President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) was not responding to calls at time of press.
Addressing complaints filed over campaign spending, Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek today told newspaper Haveeru that any kind of donations by candidates contesting in next month’s presidential vote could potentially undermine the electoral process.
Thowfeek said that in light of allegations of bribery being raised with the commission, he believed it would be best to halt “social assistance” until voting next month had concluded.