Reinforcing their vote for President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September 2018, Maldivians gave his party a significant majority in the legislature in Saturday’s polls.
Provisional results that were still coming out Sunday evening pointed to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) heading for a big win in the parliamentary election, securing some 60 out of the total 87 seats in the people’s Majlis or parliament. The main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), led by former President Abdulla Yameen, whose leadership was tainted by accusations of large-scale corruption and an authoritarian slant, fielded candidates in just a quarter of the constituencies. As per results declared so far, PPM has lost in most of them. Complete results from the Election Commission are awaited.
The likely two-thirds majority helps the MDP – which fought last year’s Presidential election as a coalition – consolidate its power in the legislature, enabling passage of key bills and laws that partners in the ruling alliance have resisted. In February, Speaker Gasim Ibrahim, who leads coalition partner Jumhooree Party, refused to call a vote on a bill granting legal powers to presidential commissions tasked with recovering stolen assets and probing unresolved murders.
‘Work begins now’
Speaking at a late-night rally at the sea front in capital Male on Saturday, President Solih said the work to strengthen democratic institutions, to deliver basic services for citizens, to bringing corruption of the past and present to book and ending impunity “starts now”.
Even as he reminded the huge crowd of supporters gathered there, of the “immense challenges” ahead, he dispelled murmurs about possible splits within the coalition that backed him for Presidency. The speculation followed the MDP’s decision to go it alone in the general elections, reportedly upsetting other parties that are part of the ruling alliance. They saw the MDP as reneging on an earlier pledge to stay together for the parliamentary polls.
President Solih is widely credited with holding the coalition together despite growing differences. “Many of our coalition partners in the government were contenders in this election- some were our opponents. I assure the people, as I’ve done time and again, the coalition remains intact,” he told the scores supporters, all of them attired in the party’s yellow colour, at Male’s sea front. Clapping and swaying to their party songs, they cheered their leaders and newly elected representatives who lined up on stage for the celebration that went past midnight.
Nasheed makes comeback
This general election, the third multi-party contest in the Indian Ocean archipelago that is home to nearly 4 lakh people, also marks the return of former-President Mohamed Nasheed to active politics. The popular MDP leader lived in exile – in the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka — for a few years following a widely-disputed criminal conviction that many believe was politically motivated during former President Abdulla Yameen’s time in power. Mr. Nasheed returned to the Maldives only after his party colleague President Solih became President last year.
In Saturday’s polls, Mr. Nasheed, 51, won a seat from Male, nearly two decades after the lawyer- activist was first elected a member of parliament. On the election win and his party’s significant gain, Mr. Nasheed said he had not had a better day in his political career. “I have had bad days, mind you, very bad days. And I have had good days but none as good as this. I have spent all my life working to build a political party in a very feudalistic society and tonight we have finally succeeded,” he told The Hindu.