Home » Muizzu’s People’s National Congress Storms to Power in Maldives

Muizzu’s People’s National Congress Storms to Power in Maldives


Maldives President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC) won a landslide victory in the April 21 parliamentary elections. It has secured 66 seats in the 93-member house.

Fresh from Muizzu’s win with 54 percent of the vote in September’s presidential election, the PNC’s battle-tested campaign teams secured the supermajority amid a relatively low turnout of 75 percent, down from 81 percent in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

Bolstered by five independents endorsed by Muizzu and four seats won by coalition partners, the pro-government majority will stand well above the two-thirds needed to remove judges and the three-quarters required to push through constitutional amendments.

The trend from previous election cycles continued with voters granting new administrations a free hand to govern and pass laws in order to deliver manifesto pledges, eschewing opposition oversight for stability.

After its own historic 65-seat haul five years ago, the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suffered a humiliating defeat, winning just 12 seats and losing strongholds such as the capital Malé, the southernmost atoll of Addu and former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s native island of Hinnavaru. The opposition leadership, including the speaker, deputy speaker and majority leader, all failed to win re-election.

Notwithstanding the MDP’s unpopularity, the polls reinforced a two-party status quo with the contest largely fought between the main opposition and the ruling PNC. Aside from 11 independent candidates, the four others elected on party tickets were leaders of three smaller parties, including two tourism barons – Villa conglomerate’s Qasim Ibrahim and Sun Siyam resorts’ owner Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, who retained their seats for a fourth consecutive term despite having the worst attendance records.

Contrary to expectations, breakaway factions of both the PNC and MDP led by former Presidents Abdulla Yameen and Mohamed Nasheed did not meaningfully affect the outcome. None of the candidates from Yameen’s newly-formed People’s National Front (PNF) or Nasheed’s The Democrats won seats. Most PNF and Democrats’ candidates fared so poorly that vote splitting did not cost any seats to either the PNC or MDP.

Yameen was freed two days before the elections after the High Court overturned his 11-year prison sentence on bribery and money laundering charges and ordered a retrial.

Speaking to the media for the first time since his conviction in December 2022, Yameen accused his former allies in Muizzu’s government of exerting influence over the judiciary to stall his appeal. Promptly out on the campaign trail, the sidelined pro-China strongman vowed to resume his “India Out” campaign and called for the cancellation of a deal with a Sri Lanka company for Muizzu’s flagship project, the creation of a new city through the reclamation of a lagoon south of Malé. Yameen slammed the concession of 70 hectares on long-term leases in exchange for the contractor financing the dredging and reclamation work. He urged voters to send representatives who would oppose the “sale” of scarce national resources.

After announcing a hiatus from politics to serve in Ghana as secretary-general of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Nasheed returned a few days before the polls. Campaigning for Democrats candidates, the former president mainly attacked the Solih government’s deficit spending and failure to solve Malé’s housing crisis.

Both foreign and domestic observers commended the country’s fourth multi-party parliamentary elections as peaceful, transparent and well-administered.

But longstanding concerns remained unaddressed. The local chapter of Transparency International, which deployed 270 observers and volunteers to polling stations, highlighted “vote buying, lack of transparency in political finance, abuse of state resources, [and] barriers for women’s equal participation in the electoral processes.”

Of 43 female candidates, only three won seats, including the president’s sister and two former lawmakers, representing the lowest gender balance in South Asia.

Media reports and anecdotal evidence point to an entrenched culture of widespread vote buying. Transactions were conducted brazenly outside polling stations. “The public will has become something that is up for sale for politicians to buy,” a journalist was quoted as saying in a post-election report by local outlet Dhauru.

The launching of new projects and leveraging of high-salaried political appointments and jobs at state-owned enterprises were also widely cited as key factors that skewed the results in the government’s favor.

In the week before the election, a state-owned developer was awarded several projects to build new airports, hospitals, roads, and social housing units. Hundreds of employees at government-owned fish factories, powerhouses and other companies were promoted. A new office hired more than 50 staff a day after it was opened.

For voters on more than 180 islands outside the capital’s urban center, assuring basic services such as sewerage is foremost, cementing the incumbency bias with a preference for candidates from the party in government who could act as intermediaries between the executive.

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