The Progressive Party of the Maldives will hold primaries for some 64 of 276 local council constituencies on January 27, a spokesman has announced.
Candidates who wish to win the ruling party ticket will be vetted, and only those who score above 75 points will be allowed to contest, said Secretary General Abdulla Khaleel.
Primaries are being held for ten Malé City council seats, 16 atoll and 38 island councils, the MP said. Candidates have been selected for some 212 constituencies without a primary contest.
Some 50 of the 653 posts have been allocated for PPM’s allies, the Maldives Development Alliance and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party.
The local council elections were initially scheduled for January 14, but were postponed to April 8 after the PPM successfully petitioned the courts for a delay, citing its inability to prepare amid a leadership dispute between the party’s elected president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and President Abdulla Yameen.
The commission has also voided some 900 candidacy papers, and set a new date of February 6 to submit new papers, a move the opposition claimed was aimed at allowing the Yameen faction to field candidates.
The Yameen faction, who now controls the PPM, did not make any nominations when an extended deadline expire in December, blaming its inability to prepare on the loss of the party’s membership registry.
Khaleel said the party has compiled a nearly complete registry with the help of its branches and the elections commission. Statistics shared with the commission indicate that the party has some 40,000 members, he said.
The list of PPM members who are eligible to vote will not be publicised, but will be shared with the candidates, he said. Members who had registered with the party by December 15 will be allowed to vote.
MP Ali Arif, the party’s spokesman, warned members that some may not be able to vote because of errors with the membership registry.
“He or she be of the most hardcore PPM activists but this is possible and in that case we will have to base it on what the list says. If the person’s name is not on our list, they cannot vote in the primary,” he said.
He added: “God willing, this is an election the PPM will win with a strong majority. We will win all areas with a large majority.”
A new regulation by the elections commission meanwhile requires all political parties to share information of all candidates who contest in primaries and share results within three days of the vote.
The new rules follow the PPM-dominated parliament amending electoral laws to disbar individuals from contesting in elections independent if they have lost a party primary.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is the only party that has held primaries so far.
Elected island, atoll, and city councils were introduced in the Maldives for the first time under the decentralisation law as mandated by the 2008 constitution. The first elections were held in February 2011.
In the previous local council elections held in January 2014, the MDP won 457 seats (41.5 percent) and the PPM won 281 seats (25.5 percent).
The PPM’s coalition partners at the time, the Jumhooree Party and the Maldives Development Alliance, took 125 seats (11.4 percent) and 59 seats (5.4 percent) respectively.
The Adhaalath Party secured 45 seats (4.1 percent) – including a majority in three councils – while the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party won one seat (0.1 percent) and independent candidates won 132 seats (12 percent).
Voter turnout was 63 percent, well below the 90 percent turnout in the presidential election of November 2013.
Correction: February 7, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of constituencies for local council elections.