With less than 23 days to go ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed it remains confident of a first round victory with four campaign teams supported by thousands of volunteers working across the country.
MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party’s campaign was going “extremely well”.
“We have four campaign teams working round the clock throughout the country. We have a team that includes the parliamentary group, a team led by the running mate (Dr Musthafa Luthfy), a team led by the Speaker of Parliament (Abdulla Shahid) and a team led by Nasheed himself,” Ghafoor said.
Ghafoor described the MDP’s campaign team as “a government in the awakening” that comprised of members of the former MDP-led government fighting against those who ousted them, in a battle to “win back justice”.
Speaking during a previous campaign rally, former President Mohamed Nasheed asserted that the results of the elections are clear and that the Elections Commission should not worry about the possibility of a run-off election.
“We will not need to go for a second round. Tune onto your radios, subscribe for cable TV and pay your cable bills, for this picture by the will of God, is being witnessed throughout the country,” Nasheed claimed. “Mohamed Nasheed of Galolhu ward Keneryge will win this election with 121,000 votes in the first round.”
Gahfoor said today that the party fully expected to receive 57 percent of the vote, though Nasheed’s rivals in the campaign have all expressed similar confidence ahead of the first round. He claimed that the figure was based on the party’s door to door campaigns and the data collected from the regional campaign coordinators and campaign agents stationed throughout the country.
Thousands of people turned out to hear Nasheed speak earlier this week during a rally held to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Black Friday in 2004, when government security forces attacked anti-Gayoom protesters.
Ghafoor is himself a coordinator for the regions Shaviyani Atoll, Raa Atoll and Laamu Atoll which comprises 13 parliamentary constituencies, contended that out of the 8,000 people who registered themselves to vote outside the region, more than 50 percent had pledged their vote to former President Nasheed.
“When the coup was brought about, our government’s popular support stood around 50 percent. After the coup and the unveiling of all the hypocrisy with the change of government, our support base currently stands beyond 55 percent,” he claimed.
Polling and Policies
Meanwhile, MDP announced that is planning to place more than a thousand election observers throughout the country, an average of four observers per ballot box.
Ghafoor added that work was underway to train the observers ahead of the elections: “We will not tolerate any attempts by this unelected government to influence the vote. We are very cautious and very prepared for that,” he said.
Ahead of the campaign, the former ruling party has launched series of election policies as part of its mini-manifesto. The policies, said the party, were planned to boost the crippled economy and increase the number of jobs available to young people.
Examples of the policies have included more sports facilities, higher enrolments in higher education, the development of a mari-culture industry, and improvements to the country’s internal agriculture trade in order to reduce the country’s huge import bill.
The MDP also proposed a guest house policy which is intended to double the number of tourist arrivals in the country within the next three years, creating more job opportunities while also improving the quality of living across the islands.
With less than a month for the elections, Ghafoor claimed that the party’s strong policies and intense campaigning gave them the edge over the remaining candidates.
“MDP will easily win the elections securing the needed 50 percent plus 1 vote. I still believe PPM will be trailing behind us. I don’t think it will be a close contest. Waheed and Gasim will probably secure the third and fourth positions,” he said.
Asked if the possibility of involvement of large sums of money given to voters could affect the possible outcome of the election results, Ghafoor claimed that vote buying would not have much of an impact.
“I think the people are more aware of the candidates running in the election. But we have to admit it, money plays a significant role in Maldivian voting culture. However, money cannot buy loyalty,” he said.
“PPM I believe will come second because it is lead by the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He will obviously have loyal supporters. But it may be a different story when it comes to recruiting their young support base. Apart from Gayoom, both Gasim and even Waheed are using money to get votes,” he claimed.
Ghafoor also described the current election politics as that of a battle between the past and the future. He claimed that the remaining three candidates were proxies of former President Gayoom’s 30 year reign and had nothing new to offer to the people.
“This is a clash between the past and the future and we are the future,” he said.
Aerial view of the MDP’s August 12 rally near the tsunami monument: