The priority political parties give to different election issues may be gauged from the campaign time they devote to each issue. Based on this one could easily compile a list of top election issues as seen by the parties. But what are the top election issues as seen by the voters? This is more difficult to gauge accurately as it would require an expensive survey. But a fairly good idea may be obtained by interviewing voters from different backgrounds. From such exercises it appears that political party priorities and voter preferences appear to be quite different.
Top issues for parties based on the time devoted:
- Religion: Both MDP and DRP claim to be the sole defenders of the faith. DRP accuses MDP of plotting to bring Christianity to the Maldives. MDP accuses President Gayoom of fostering an irreligious culture.
- Competence of candidate: DRP accuses Anni of lack of experience, incompetency and inciting lawlessness. MDP counters by claiming it has a better team, and accuses Gayoom of being corrupt and a failure.
- Drugs: MDP accuses Gayoom of failing to curb the spread of drugs. DRP accuses Anni of being sympathetic to drug addicts.
- Past record: DRP claims it has an impressive development record. MDP dismisses it saying it is not enough compared to the opportunities and resources.
- Reforms: MDP claims the reforms of the past 4 years were due to their pressure. DRP says the reforms were initiated by President Gayoom.
- Development promises: In the second round of the election, manifestos have taken a backseat in both DRP and MDP camps.
Top reasons for voter preference, based on interviews:
- Personality: Most voters were not able to tell why they liked a particular candidate. Many people who voted for Gayoom said they simply liked him. Anni appears to be a bit behind Gayoom in this area. There are many people who say they would have voted for Hassan Saeed, had he been in the second round.
- Perceived sincerity and trustworthiness: More than the actual promises, most voters gave preference to how they thought each candidate will keep those promises. Interestingly voter decisions on the sincerity of a candidate were not based on any objective criteria, but subjective perception.
- Perceived competence: Capability of candidates was also decided by the voters based on subjective impressions. For example, while many voters thought Hassan Saeed was capable, few of them actually knew any details of his work.
[Note: this is not a scientific study and no claim is made for the accuracy of the findings.]