The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) finds itself at a political crossroads following an unanticipated electoral setback in the first round of the Maldivian presidential elections Despite earlier confidence in securing a decisive victory, incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih came in second with 38% of the vote, trailing Dr Mohamed Muizzu of the People’s National Congress (PNC), who garnered 45%.

MDP Chairman Fayyaz Ismail urged supporters to stay optimistic despite the disappointing result. In the run-up to the election, President Solih had exuded a high level of confidence, going as far as to claim that he was assured of 130,000 votes. However, this proved to be overly ambitious, as he secured just 85,260 votes. Acknowledging the defeat, Fayyaz attributed it to a low voter turnout and a lack of enthusiasm among MDP supporters.

“We believe that is the main reason [for the defeat],” Fayyaz stated, referring to the lack of turnout that saw only 80% of eligible voters participating. This figure marked the lowest voter turnout in recent history for a Maldivian presidential election.

The MDP has embarked on an internal review to identify the reasons behind the electoral shortfall. Fayyaz pointed to a sense of overconfidence within the party and admitted that some supporters had not taken voting seriously.

With the second round scheduled for 30 September, Fayyaz expressed hope in turning the tide. He cited the precedent of 2013 and hinted at the possibility of forming a significant coalition to bolster MDP’s chances.

President Solih himself acknowledged the need to form coalitions to secure a majority in the run-off. The president hinted that talks were underway, possibly even with Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, who leads the breakaway bloc, The Democrats. The party secured 7% of the vote, potentially offering a critical mass of voters who could be swayed in the next round.

The second round of elections offers the MDP a chance for redemption. Fayyaz voiced optimism that those who desire justice and fairness in the country would rally behind the MDP. “We believe we can change that,” he said, emphasising the party’s focus on getting more people to vote.

As both sides prepare for a politically charged run-off, the MDP will undoubtedly be pulling out all the stops to regain lost ground. The presence of about 20% of no-show voters provides an untapped pool that could be crucial in swinging the election. With all eyes set on this prize, the MDP hopes to turn its electoral fortunes around on 30 September.