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Two candidates, two choices and a 50-50 chance for success

Shaina Abdulla
23 August 2018, MVT 09:27
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu) - PHOTO: PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
Shaina Abdulla
23 August 2018, MVT 09:27

It's official. Unlike any other elections held in the Maldives, the presidential elections of 2018 is a two horse race. Taking a look back at previous elections, the presidential elections in the Maldives, almost by default, ends in two rounds. One, the round by which presidential candidates deem their worth and two, the round for the election of a new president.

However, the upcoming presidential elections 2018 feature only two qualified candidates, thus ruling out any possibilities for a round two of elections. The Elections Commission (EC) officially announced President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and opposition coalition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu) as the only two candidates of the upcoming elections slated for September 23.

After the ratification of the new Constitution in 2008, Maldives will for the first time experience real power to the people. With number of eligible voters at 263,000 every vote counts as winner truly takes all. To succeed the one-round presidential election, candidates must score over 50 percent of the votes in order to be elected.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and former President Mohamed Nasheed

The oldest trick in the book

The popular, yet run-of-the-mill, tactic used by all political parties during the presidential elections since the 2008 Constitution is the formation of a powerful coalition. Ultimately, when forces combined, they were not to be reckoned with.

The first democratic election in the Maldives, the 2008 presidential election, was held in two rounds on October 8 and 28, 2008. A total of 6 candidates contested against Asia’s longest serving autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the first round of elections. Former president Mohamed Nasheed, founder of Jumhooree Party Qasim Ibrahim, former home minister Umar Naseer, former Social Liberal Party candidate Ibrahim Ismail and independent candidate Hassan Saeed all took part in the presidential elections of 2008. However, as no candidate gained over 50 perecnt of votes, the island nation held a runoff to elect the first democratic President.

In the first round on October 8; incumbent president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom fared best 71,779 votes amounting to 40 percent of the total. Former president Nasheed followed with 24 percent and a total of 44,293 votes.

The runoff, however, was the spark-ignition long awaited for by opposition parties. The opposition parties, then, endorsed former president Nasheed and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party in the presidential election before sweeping the majority with 97,222 votes (53 percent) and electing President Nasheed as the first democratically elected president in the Maldives.

The coalition government fell apart shortly after the beginning of the MDP administration.

Former president Nasheed was unable to complete a full presidency term, following an alleged coup on February 2008. Amidst protests by opposition parties over the illegal detainment of former Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, former president Nasheed had resigned on February 7, 2012.

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who claimed to have opposed the illegal arrest of Abdulla Mohamed, was then sworn in as the new president.

The second presidential elections were then held in 2013, with former President Nasheed, former president Waheed, President Yameen, and Qasim Ibrahim contesting in the run for presidency.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom greets former president Mohamed Nasheed

Results of the first round of the 2013 election

Nasheed: 45 percent (95,224 votes) President Yameen: 25 percent (53,099 votes) Qasim: 24 percent (50,422 votes)

Following the original first round on September 7, the Supreme Court annulled the elections and cancelled the planned second round due to a confidential police report filed to the Court claiming that 5,623 ineligible people had voted in the elections including dead people and others under 18. However, after the rechecking of voters’ registry, a re-run of the first round was held on November 9, producing similar results to the annulled election.

President Yameen had formed a coalition with Jumhooree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), and contested against former President Nasheed in the run-off on November 16.

Results of the second round of the 2013 election

President Yameen: 51 percent (111,203 votes) Nasheed: 48 percent (105,181 votes)

Having scripted the fate of the previous elections, President Yameen’s coalition also fell apart shortly after the beginning of now ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) administration.

In a twist of fate, President Yameen is currently opposing all major political parties with alliance only with MDA and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). DRP does not hold any seats in the parliament, while MDA holds five seats.

Although the preceding elections involved a last-minute coalition, ruling PPM is contesting against a major opposition coalition in the single round election this year.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu)

Winner takes all, President Yameen or Ibu Solih?

Both the ruling party and the opposition coalition have confidently estimated that they hold 70 percent of the public’s support. However, this can only be evident after the upcoming presidential elections.

PPM Secretary General and Nilandhoo MP Abdulla Haleel had formally assured that President Yameen will win the elections as the people acknowledge the developments made across the island nation, in fairness to all islands, since the beginning of the ruling administration.

According to PPM, President Yameen upholds a lawful government and maintains justice in the country during his term in office. The party further claims that the people of Maldives will not allow MDP to “run a hectic and conflicted nation”.

Opposing the views of PPM, the opposition claim that President Yameen’s term in office proved to be full of injustice and misconduct towards the people of the country. The opposition states that the people of the country want to bring an end to the suffering caused by President Yameen and welcome a new government to serve justice and maintain independence and rights to the people.

The opposition further noted on the success of the opposition in elections held during President Yameen’s regime, highlighting the success in local council elections.

Former state minister of the President’s Office Abdulla Ameen stated that although the people of the Maldives want a democratic government with liberal values, the people, first and foremost, wish to establish justice and bring an end to misconduct in the country.

Ameen further highlighted that although development projects were ongoing in several islands at the time of local council elections, the people still chose to vote for a party that prioritises the people’s rights.

The opposition also claim that President Yameen will file cases at the Supreme Court in attempts to reverse the election and opt for a default win.

PPM, however, continues to refute the claims made by the opposition and rebutted stating that President Yameen will do no such action and further criticised the opposition for accusing the ruling party of repeating the actions of the opposition.

With new expectations, Maldives hopes to see a new page and a new change in the politics and government of the country.