Maldives ruling coalition gets majority in parliamentary polls

Male, March 23: Maldives President Abdulla Yameen’s party, with the help of its coalition partners, has attained majority in parliament in elections held over the weekend, an official said here Sunday.

The Maldivian parliamentary elections, which were held amidst the controversial removal of the head and deputy of the country’s Elections Commission, concluded largely peacefully Saturday.

Vote counting gave the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by former president Mohammad Nasheed, who was controversially ousted from power in 2012, a slim lead initially but it was soon overtaken by Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Xinhua reported.

Of the 85 constituencies, 34 seats were won by PPM while its coalition partners Jumhoory Party (JP) bagged 15 seats and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) five seats. Nasheed’s MDP secured only 24 seats and lost its majority in parliament.

There are also five independent seats up for grabs.

“A total of 75 complaints were submitted to the Elections Commission. These include three complaints about the voters’ names not being on the list, five about anti-campaigning and four complaints regarding bribery,” Elections Commission member Mohammad Manik told reporters.

Yet this was lower than the number of complaints received during the presidential election last year, Manik said.

He added that the turnout was higher in the outlying islands than in urban areas, including capital Male, where interest appeared modest.

A total of 302 candidates including 23 women contested the 85 seats in the country’s parliament. Capital Male holds the largest number of constituencies at 13, with seven in Addu City, and the remaining 65 constituencies are scattered across the island nation.

The run-up to the elections was steeped in controversy after the Maldives Supreme Court earlier this month handed down suspended prison sentences to the elections commissioner and his second in command.

The controversial ruling also removed the two from their posts leaving a virtually headless commission to oversee the parliamentary election.

The Maldives Supreme Court has been accused of attempting to undermine the independence of the Elections Commission.

The parliamentary poll was the biggest challenge faced by President Abdulla Yameen after he took office last November.

The Commonwealth and the European Union sent monitors to oversee the elections but their findings have not yet been published.

IANS