Dissidents gain in Maldivian election
MALE: Maldivian pro-democracy activists Wednesday said they had more than doubled their parliamentary strength in weekend elections amid moves for a rapprochement with President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said they had won 18 out of the 42 parliamentary seats up for grabs in Saturday’s election, but a spokesman for Gayoom said the dissidents got only 12 seats.
Verifying claims is difficult because all candidates must offer themselves as independents and shifting loyalties make it difficult to pin anyone down as either being pro-government or not.
MDP spokesman Mohamed Latheef said candidates endorsed by his party had impressive support, including the victory in the capital Male where both seats went to them. “We are elated with the result,” Latheef said. “However, this election was fraudulent from start to finish. Most of our MPs had been intimidated not to stand for re-election and three of our candidates who did stand were facing lengthy jail terms until a few weeks ago.” Gayoom’s spokesman Ahmed Shaheed said the election was free and fair.
“We have won 30 seats and we concede 12,” Rasheed told AFP. “The president is keen to push ahead with reforms and to make reforms his legacy.”
Gayoom told AFP Monday that he expected the reform process to be completed through the newly elected majlis - or parliament - this year so that the country can begin 2006 with a new constitution. “I think within one year’s time we should be able to complete the constitutional reform process... I am hoping that the majlis will be able to complete their work within one year,” the 67-year-old Gayoom said.
He said he himself was a “reformist” despite criticism of his iron grip on power and argued that he had been reforming the country since he became president in 1978. afp