After a hard-fought campaign, the Maldivian Democratic Party elected candidates for the April 6 parliamentary polls in primaries held across the country on Friday.
With more than 86,000 eligible voters – nearly one-third of the country’s voting age population – and 270 ballot boxes on most inhabited islands as well as in India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, it was the largest internal election of a political party to date.
Turnout was high in most areas and voting was extended by an hour in polling stations with long lines.
Some 279 candidates sought the MDP ticket to contest for 77 seats after the party decided to field candidates in all 87 constituencies, insisting there was no binding agreement to jointly contest with coalition parters. Nine candidates secured the ticket uncontested and there were no candidates for the opposition-stronghold Faafu Nilandhoo constituency.
When provisional results were announced Friday night, five sitting lawmakers – Ihavandhoo MP Mohamed Abdulla, Vaikaradhoo MP Mohamed Nazim, Henveiru South MP Mohamed Abdul Kareem ‘Rukuma,’ Central Hithadhoo MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Hithadhoo South MP Ali Nizar – were defeated by challengers.
Former lawmaker and resort owner, Abdulla Jabir, and his wife Dhiyana Saeed, a former attorney general, also missed out.
Along with former lawmakers and several MDP leadership figures, former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is contesting for the newly-created Central Machchangaolhi constituency in the capital, was among the winners.
Only four women out of 22 female candidates won the MDP ticket.
But there has been criticism over alleged undue influence, favouritism by the party leadership, and the en masse recruitment of new members ahead of the polls.
More than 33,000 new members joined the MDP after the party’s candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the presidency with the backing of an opposition coalition in September.
Only those who were MDP members before December 7 were eligible to vote in the primaries.
Photo of President Solih voting by Nishan Ali for Mihaaru