The Maldives local council election campaign concluded with final rallies in Malé on Thursday night followed by marches and vehicle rallies across the country on Friday afternoon ahead of a 6 pm campaigning deadline.
Speaking at the Progressive Party of Maldives’ final rally at the industrial village of Malé, President Abdulla Yameen reiterated the ruling coalition’s central campaign message of voting for candidates who would work together with the government.
The May 6 election comes amidst renewed political turmoil with Yameen battling a new opposition alliance bolstered by the weight of his half-brother former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim was meanwhile detained and put on trial last month amid the opposition’s efforts to gain a parliamentary majority with defections from the divided ruling party.
Other opposition leaders are either in jail or exile and Gayoom is in India on a private visit.
Unlike the previous local council elections, campaigning has also been minimal and muted throughout the Maldives, particularly in the capital. But the campaign has been more active and enthusiastic in some parts of the country.
Addressing the final opposition rally in Malé via a video message Thursday night, exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed called on the public to vote for opposition candidates in order to uphold the decentralisation system introduced in 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.