The Maldives witnessed a brisk polling day on Saturday, with nearly 80% voter turnout in the Indian Ocean archipelago’s third multi-party parliamentary election.
The Election Commission extended polling time by two hours to accommodate more voters who were in queue braving the heat, its officials said. Counting began around 6.30 p.m. and provisional results are likely to be known by early Sunday.
Over 2,00,000 Maldivians voted across the island nation and in polling stations abroad, in Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and the U.K. Saturday’s polls, to elect representatives to 87 seats in the legislature, came around six months after Maldivians voted for change. In September 2018, they elected Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to power, dislodging former President Abdulla Yameen, whose regime was accused of corruption and repression.
President Solih, who was then backed by a coalition of diverse parties led by his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), will need a parliamentary majority to implement initiatives he promised as part of his reform agenda. The MDP decided to go it alone this election and is hoping to garner the numbers in the legislature, even as differences have begun to emerge within the coalition.
Gap in development
“I just want someone good to represent me, my concerns in Parliament. I’m not from Male, I’m from an atoll. We need basic infrastructure there,” said Aminath Fauza, 18, a first-time voter. She was echoing what appeared a common concern among many Maldivians — the gap in development between capital Male and other atolls.
If Ms. Fauza’s concern was development, senior citizen Abdulla Mooza, who was in a nearby queue waiting to vote, had other pressing concerns. “I have to find out what happened to my son. The opening we have now might be the only chance for me to do that and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said, referring to dissident journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who went missing in August 2014.
“Already some are trying to block investigations, so we need the MDP to have a majority to go ahead,” Mr. Mooza said, pointing to Speaker Gasim Ibrahim’s refusal to call a vote on a Bill granting legal powers to presidential commissions formed to recover stolen assets and investigate unresolved murders.
Others like Mariyam Leen, 20, have few expectations and little hope. “I don’t want anything from any of our politicians. Because none of them is going to do anything anyway. I still vote, it is my right,” she said.