The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced a robust roster of 111 candidates who will vie for 43 constituencies in the upcoming parliamentary primaries. These primaries, slated for 3 February, serve as a critical precursor to the parliamentary election scheduled for March.

The primaries will witness a dynamic mix of incumbent lawmakers and fresh faces, all contending for the opportunity to represent their constituencies. The MDP has disclosed that the highest number of candidates contesting in the primaries for a single constituency is four. The party has preemptively awarded tickets to 36 candidates, including several sitting lawmakers, who were the sole candidates to register interest in their respective constituencies.

Among the notable figures securing tickets are the Speaker and Member of Parliament for North Hithadhoo, Mohamed Aslam, and the Deputy Speaker and MP for Hoarafushi, Ahmed Saleem. Jeehan Mahmood, representing Hinnavaru Constituency, is the only female lawmaker to have confirmed her ticket thus far.

Former State Minister for Housing, Akram Kamaludeen, has also secured the party’s nomination. He aims to fill the vacancy left by outgoing MP and former speaker, President Mohamed Nasheed, who has opted not to seek re-election for the Central Mahchangolhi seat.

The MDP has announced its intention to contest all constituencies in the forthcoming 20th parliament. However, according to the list of primary constituencies published by the MDP, no candidate has expressed interest in 14 seats. Despite this, some senior officials of the party have expressed interest in contesting for some of those constituencies.

The upcoming parliamentary election is scheduled to be held on 17 March. The nomination period will commence on 30 January and conclude on 14 February. The tenure of the incumbent 19th parliament, comprising 87 lawmakers, is set to end on 28 May 2024. The 20th parliament will see an increase in representation, with an additional six constituencies, bringing the total number of seats to 93.

In the last parliamentary elections, the MDP secured a supermajority with 65 of the 87 seats—the only time a single party achieved such a large majority in parliament.

However, the party recently lost 14 parliament members to the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC). Observers have criticised this mass defection, attributing it to dissatisfaction among sitting lawmakers over the necessity to compete in party primaries for seat retention.