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MDP Primary: Q&A

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is holding a nationwide vote to pick its candidate for presidential elections due to be held in September.



What’s happening today?

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is holding a nationwide vote to pick its candidate for presidential elections due to be held in September.

Ooh that’s exciting!

There’s only one candidate.


Former president Mohamed Nasheed is running unopposed. He’s very popular. With the MDP.

Numbers please?

There are 218 voting stations in the Maldives and six overseas. Voting starts at 2pm and ends at midnight. There are 10 stations in Malé, including Hulhumalé and Villimalé. The voting station in Haa Alif Thuraakunu is more than 16 hours away from the capital by ferry. The MDP says it had 50,330 registered party members as of May 16, which would represent almost 15 percent of the country’s population.

That’s enough. What happens after voting stations close?

The result is announced once votes have been counted and an MDP panel will decide what to do.

What’s there to decide?

Nasheed can’t run for office because he has a criminal conviction (and the government hates him).

Talk about burying the lede. Explain?

Nasheed is in exile after fleeing from a 13-year prison term. He was found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of a judge after a widely criticised and controversial trial in March 2015. In October that year a UN rights panel said his jailing was illegal and politically motivated. Last month the UN Human Rights Committee said the Maldives government must restore his right to contest elections. The government doesn’t care what the UN says about Nasheed.

Why bother having a primary if there’s only one candidate, especially one who’s barred from running?

Nasheed has been telling supporters that a show of support from MDP members would help secure his candidacy, presumably through international pressure. He maintains he is eligible to run because the full bench of the Supreme Court quashed his conviction on February 1, dismissing the reversal of the shock ruling by a reduced bench. 

What else?

The electoral body has threatened to dissolve the MDP if the primary goes ahead with Nasheed as a candidate. But it gets worse.

Yikes. How?

Maldivians don’t believe there will be an election this year and that, if there is one, it won’t be free and fair. Opposition leaders are in exile or in prison so they can’t contest the election unless there’s another surprise Supreme Court ruling and the age limit is scrapped, both implausible scenarios. Anyway, the opposition has other fish to fry because things aren’t peachy on the coalition front.


There have been talks about talks to field a unity candidate to oust President Abdulla Yameen in 2018.

Catchy, I like it. Who’s the candidate?

We don’t know. There are – or have been – talks about talks to find someone. But the main players want to run for office, so agreeing on someone who isn’t one of the main players is a little tricky. The picture may become clearer after the MDP panel decides what to do and after the opposition Jumhooree Party congress next month. The JP says it will decide what to do if its leader, tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, is blocked from running in the election.

Why would he be blocked?

He’s in Germany after fleeing the Maldives on medical leave while serving a three-year sentence for bribery.

Is losing your liberty a badge of honour?

If you’re a politician behind bars or in exile then you’re seen as a threat, so yes.

So who’s going to win the election?

Not democracy and, sadly, not the people of the Maldives.

This article has been updated in the fourth paragraph.