Presidential Address, Final Campaign Pitch

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih delivered his annual state of the nation address at the opening of parliament on Thursday (3 February), highlighting successes and outlining policy goals for his administration’s final two years.

Key pledges:

  • 7,000 flats and 1,000 plots of land in Hulhumalé, at least 2,000 plots of land from Gulhifalhu and 2,000 plots of land from land to be reclaimed from the Giraavaru lagoon – which will be connected to the capital via the India-funded Thilamalé bridge – to be awarded to registered residents of Malé to solve the capital’s housing crisis
  • A 56 percent pay rise for teachers in May (monthly salary of secondary teachers at graduate level will increase from MVR12,628 (US$819) to MVR19,740 excluding overtime allowance)
  • 100-bed hospitals in Kulhudhuffushi, Laamu Gan and Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo in addition to new atoll and island hospitals
  • Over MVR2.6 billion to be spent on development projects for Addu City
  • A rise in the monthly disability allowance at the end of the year
Speaker Nasheed accompanies first couple to parliament.

Reaction: The Teachers’ Association welcomed the pay rise as “a change we have been longing to see” that offers “immense hope for the future of our education system”.

Opposition MPs boycotted the presidential address in protest against alleged undue influence over former president Abdulla Yameen’s trials and the “paralysis” of the Anti-Corruption Commission. The “dictatorial” president was accused of “selling the country’s independence to a neighbouring country”. The opposition also condemned alleged efforts by the ruling party to criminalise speech that affect foreign relations in a bid to silence the ‘India Out’ campaign.

Malé Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu, who was housing and infrastructure minister in Yameen’s cabinet, criticised the president’s pledge, saying the capital’s residents “deserve more than a few thousand plots and seven thousand or so flats” as it was possible to provide “at least 4,000 plots from Hulhumalé, at least 10,000 plots from reclaiming Gulhifalhu and 15,000 flats from Hulhumalé and 25,000 flats from Gulhifalhu.”

2. Feverish Campaign Ends For Komandoo By-Election

President Solih, Speaker Nasheed and Jumhooree Party leader Qasim

Parties made final pitches to voters in the Komandoo constituency as campaigning ended on Friday (4 February) for the most hotly contested by-election in recent history.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, opposition Progressive Party of Maldives, and the newly formed Maldives National Party fielded candidates for the parliament seat vacated by the death of MDP MP Hussain Waheed in December. Over the past two months, party leaders, lawmakers and activists held rallies and went door-to-door on the three northern islands that make up the constituency in Shaviyani Atoll, which has a combined voting population of 3,309 adults.

Accompanied by Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih travelled to Komandoo on Thursday for his second campaign trip, urging voters to stick with a lawmaker who would cooperate with the government’s development plans. He promised better pay for healthcare workers after announcing a pay rise for teachers earlier in the day. Former president Nasheed framed the election as a choice between the “safe shore” offered by the MDP or a return to former president Yameen’s “dictatorial rule” and controversial policy to resettle most of the country’s population in the Malé region. Leaders of the MDP’s coalition partners, Qasim Ibrahim and Sheikh Imran Abdulla, also joined the president after throwing their support behind his party’s candidate.

The PPM called on Komandoo constituents to vote against “the sale of the country’s independence” and to choose an MP who would hold the government accountable. A victory would “lay the foundation” for the party’s return to power, PPM MP Adam Shareef Umar told supporters at the final rally. Five days before the polls, the PPM tried to walk back remarks made by Yameen at a campaign event in Hulhumalé. “God willing if we are able to serve the people in 2023, whether it’s government company jobs on islands or jobs from institutions, we will take PPM people,” the opposition leader was quoted as saying. But the PPM insisted that the remarks were misreported as he had meant that PPM members would not be overlooked. Members of other parties would also be treated fairly, the party assured.

The MNP candidate meanwhile contended that several projects launched by the government came in response to the new party’s campaign, including an ice plant for fishermen, plans to develop resorts on nearby islands and land reclamation to connect Komandoo with an uninhabited island in the same lagoon. MNP leader Mohamed Nazim, a lawmaker and retired colonel, pledged to build a junior college on Komandoo.

Ex-president Yameen at an ‘India Out’ rally.

Why It Matters: Less than two years for the 2023 presidential poll, the by-election is seen as a bellwether to gauge public support for the MDP-led coalition government. As for parliament, the MDP will either retain its 65-seat supermajority in the 87-member People’s Majlis or be one member short of the three-quarters majority needed to amend the constitution.

Update: MDP candidate Mohamed Rashid won the seat with 1,401 votes (49 percent), according to provisional results from the Elections Commission. The PPM candidate trailed behind with 40 percent as the MNP candidate took 11 percent. The turnout was 89 percent.