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Campaign trail: size matters

Daily roundup of news from the campaign trail.



A daily roundup of headlines made by the candidates, running mates and their surrogates on the campaign trail.

September 9

  • A moment of “freedom,” the whole place was packed! (Mihaaru)
  • They won’t dare give permission to hold a second rally in Malé: Ali Zahir (VFP)
  • They won’t dare give permission for opposition rally now: Ali Zahir (Mihaaru)
  • “Phone Jagaha” opening: President Yameen has been cruel to President Maumoon: Ibu (Vnews)
  • MRM meeting hall opened in Malé (Raajje)
  • President Maumoon’s support is big on islands: Ibu (Avas)
  • We will secure rights of resort workers along with more opportunities: Faisal (Vnews)

Joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ and his running mate opened a campaign meeting hall in the capital. It was set up by the ‘Maumoon Reform Movement,’ a group of supporters and loyalists of jailed former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The 83-year-old former strongman – who joined forces with the opposition in early 2017 – was found guilty of obstruction of justice in June over the refusal to hand over his mobile phone.

Ibu praised Gayoom for ushering in multi-party democracy and paving the way for free elections in 2008. He slammed President Abdulla Yameen for jailing his elderly half-brother. The former president still has a strong base of support across the country, Ibu said.

  • Dr Shaheem departs to Dhaalu atoll for campaign (Mihaaru)
  • Shaheem to campaign this time in Dhaalu atoll (Avas)
  • Saying no to foreign influences is the Maldives’ strength, that is not isolation: Shaheem (Mihaaru)
  • Big rally to be held to show PPM’s real size (PSM)
  • PPM to hold big rally to show “official size” (Mihaaru)
  • We will show official size with big rally: PPM (Avas)

In the wake of the opposition’s massive rally in Malé, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives announced plans to hold a bigger rally next week to show its “real size, number, figure, colour and quality.”

Opposition supporters were “sleepless on social media” with jubilation over the turnout Saturday night, MP Ahmed Nihan told reporters. “We don’t want to say anything. Stay well satisfied. When we show our official rally, they will get the opportunity to pause.”

About 60 to 70 percent of the crowd at the PPM rally would be youth, the PPM parliamentary group leader said, suggesting that the opposition has lost the support of younger voters. They were forced to ferry supporters from across the country to make up numbers, the lawmaker said. The PPM could outdo the opposition in that too, he said.

Rival rallies took place during the weekend at Malé’s carnival grounds.

The PPM claimed 30,000 people showed up to its rally but opposition figures put the number of chairs at about 3,000.

The ruling party was also accused of forcing civil servants and staff at state-owned enterprises to fill seats. At previous rallies, attendance was marked before entrance through metal detector gates. Opposition supporters joked that a net fence was drawn to prevent people from leaving.

After Saturday night’s opposition rally, ministers and pro-government campaigners put the turnout well below 5,000 and claimed supporters were brought from 35 islands.

It was the first time in three years that permission was granted for the opposition to hold a large rally in the capital.

Before the mass rally, opposition activities were largely confined to the Maldivian Democratic Party meeting hall in front of Malé’s artificial beach. When gatherings were held, riot police cracked down swiftly and pushed people onto pavements or inside the hall.

Police also routinely took down banners and confiscated food trays and tables from MDP tea parties.

Street protests have been effectively banned in Malé since late 2016.