The head of Fenaka Corporation, the government-owned electricity, waste and sewerage utility, has offered to give jobs to opposition candidates in the upcoming local elections if they withdraw their candidatures.
Ahmed Shareef, the utility’s managing director and former ruling-party lawmaker, made the offer while speaking at an election rally in favour of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives in Thimarafushi, Thaa Atoll last week.
The local council elections are due to be held on April 8.
The PPM, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the Jumhooree Party are contesting, but the Adhaalath Party has boycotted the vote, citing the politicisation of the elections commission.
Shareef’s comments were captured on video and have been posted online.
In the footage, the Fenaka head suggests that opposition candidates are only standing for election because they “need a job.” He says that if the opposition candidates quit the race for the island’s three island council seats and one atoll council seat, he would personally find them employment.
“If they contest for the council independently or with the MDP because they need a job, I am ready to find them jobs. Leave it up to the PPM. Leave the four seats of the council to the PPM, we will find jobs for the four candidates. By we, I don’t mean the government. I will personally work for it. It is for the job, I am sure they are not contesting to develop Thimarafushi, for the job and to get an income. If so I am here to find them those jobs,” Shareef says.
Shareef goes on to state that should the people of Thimarafushi elect opposition candidates on April 8, the Government will not “accept them”.
Shareef also appears to suggest that the island would be cut off from government development funds should its people vote for the opposition.
“For the development of the island, if a wealthy individual contests for the council seat and wins, things can be done for the island, if he has that much money. But with regard to something the government does for us, how can a councilor from MDP, or a councilor who contests independently, talk to the government. Will they accept it? No,” Shareef says.
Shareef also encouraged those employed by government institutions in Thimarafushi to work to elect PPM councilors, and appeared to suggest that they might lose their jobs should the island elect an MDP-run council.
“I guarantee that if we do not get the majority of the council, there will be changes brought to the structure of our government institutions in Thimarafushi,” he warned
Government run institutions on Thimarafushi include a magistrate’s court, police station, health centre and school.
The MDP’s Thimarafushi branch strongly condemned Shareef’s comments in a statement released on Sunday.
“Offering jobs to the MDP candidates who are contesting for Thimarafushi council and asking them to cancel their candidacies… is corruption or bribing” the branch said.
“It also shows that the government is nervous to compete with the MDP’s candidates,” the party added.
Shareef was appointed to manage Fenaka in October following the sacking of his predecessor amid a corruption scandal in which the company lost MVR17million (US$1.1million) in a foreign exchange scam.
The country’s local elections have meanwhile been marred by controversy and allegations of state-run interference.
Initially scheduled for January 14, the civil court in December postponed the polls in order to give the PPM more time to prepare, a ruling that was heavily criticized by the MDP.
The PPM was thrown into disarray last year, following a bitter dispute between the party’s president, former president Maumoon Gayoom, and his half-brother President Yameen.
Correction: January 26, 2017
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the PPM and the MDP are the only parties contesting the local council elections. The opposition Jumhooree Party is contesting, too.