Maldives holds first fully democratic parliamentary election.


The people of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean will vote on Saturday in the country’s first ever fully democratic parliamentary election.

The election will be a key test for President Mohamed Nasheed – but also for Britain’s Conservative party, which has coached his candidates in the art of contesting polls that are free and fair.

Mr Nasheed, a former political prisoner of conscience who was once granted political asylum by Britain, scored a surprise victory last October after islanders turned against his predecessor, Maumoon Adbul Gayoom, overwhelmingly voting him out in a presidential poll that the hardline ruler accepted.

The election today will be closely observed in London. The Conservatives have over the last five years sent regular delegations to support Mr Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party.

Earlier this year Richard Spring, the vice chairman of the party, led a team to the island and last month MDP activists were trained by Sheila Gunn, John Major’s former press spokesman.

The election will be critical to Mr Nasheed’s success in being able to deliver on a range of international and domestic commitments, including his desire to use British scientists to study the impacts of climate change. He wants to develop the Maldives as a global “laboratory” for studying the effects of sea level rise as nowhere on the islands is more than a metre and a half above the waves.

Mr Nasheed’s MDP will be contesting 74 of the 77 seats in the People’s Majlis or parliament. His main opponent will be the former ruling Dhivelhi Rahyithunge Party led by Mr Gayoom. Mr Nasheed has predicted that his MDP will win a majority.

“I’m quietly confident” said Miss Gunn, “and I would have thought the MDP will get around 50 seats. However, the result is difficult to predict as Gayoom is campaigning very hard and there is a feeling among some voters that if Nasheed is president then the MDP should not also run the parliament.”

The global recession has led to a sharp decline in tourists visiting the islands and greatly increased the costs associated with importing food and goods.

from: www.telegraph.co.uk

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