As campaigning for presidential elections in the Maldives came to a close ahead of Saturday’s polls, the question is if former President Mohamed Nasheed will win conclusively in the first round.
Mr. Nasheed, and his supporters in the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have no doubt that voters will give him the 50-per-cent-plus votes mandated in the Constitution for a victory in the first round. “I will meet you on 8th ,” he said.
The MDP organised two massive rallies in about a week to prove the point that Mr. Nasheed’s support base has only grown in the 18 months since he was ousted.
Friday’s concluding rally, in Majeedhee Magu, the main commercial street of Male, was a treat to watch. Mr. Nasheed walked the length of the street, waving to people, soliciting their votes.
The only other rally taken out on Friday was by Jumhooree Party, which has gained ground as campaigning progressed.
Its candidate Qasim Ibrahim’s strategy included an ‘assessment’, with notices printed in English and Dhivehi and distributed across the islands, on the suitability of the candidates for the top job.
Having 22 traits [parametres], it placed Mr. Nasheed at the bottom (he scored 0 for being law abiding, being religious and being sincere) while Mr. Qasim was placed at the top! The independent assessment was the outcome of a survey of 30,000 voters, the notice says.
Nevertheless, it appears that the race on Saturday would be for the second place. All other candidates — President Mohamed Waheed Hasan; Mr. Qasim and Yameen Abdulla of Progressive Party — are trying their best to force a second round.
Mr. Nasheed’s party has a registered cadre base of over 42,000 people.
In a country of 2,39,593 voters, that falls well short of the half way mark. In the first round of the 2008 elections, Mr. Nasheed managed just over 24 per cent of the votes and was placed second, while his opponent Maumoon Gayoom got over 40 per cent.
In the run-off between him and Mr. Gayoom, all other political parties in the archipelago backed Mr. Nasheed. Still, Mr. Nasheed managed just over 53 per cent of the votes, compared to Mr. Gayoom’s 45 per cent.
The 2013 elections are different. This time the common enemy is not Mr. Gayoom; it is Mr. Nasheed.
Mr. Nasheed has consistently refused to consider joining hands with any party.
If he does not secure outright win, he has another uphill battle awaiting him on September 28.