Spokesperson and Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef, has alleged that the breakaway opposition party of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been offering cash incentives and development funds to island groups, in a bid to persuade them to join the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).
“There are many social clubs in the Maldives with the purposes of developing islands. Many have been offered cash incentives and funds for development activities if members join the party. Even individual members have been offered,” said Shareef, who has made similar claims to local media this week.
PPM Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf was not responding to refute the allegations at time of press.
“We’re not about to file a court case, but this is happening on a wide scale. If the clubs involved need funding, members are inclined to accept. We couldn’t afford to lodge so many cases,” Shareef said, when asked if the party had any evidence to back the claims.
Prior to the PPM’s inaugural convention on October 15, the EC verified and approved the membership forms of 3,019 party members.
Several thousand people attended the convention at Dharubaaruge, including at least one prominent ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist.
The 971 delegates present elected Gayoom interim leader unopposed, while his half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen was elected acting parliamentary group leader.
Yameen’s party, the People’s Alliance (PA), recently split from the main opposition DRP which remains under leadership of Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. The relationship between the PPM, formerly known as the Z-DRP faction of the opposition, and the DRP leadership remains strained.
Shareef expressed surprise at the large numbers of people who attended the convention, and acknowledged that support for Gayoom’s party had the potential to affect the DRP’s membership base.
“This was a 30 year regime and we have to accept that there are pockets of support everywhere. During Gayoom’s time he did a lot a lot of work and has many supporters, and we have to recognise this,” Shareef said, but questioned the PPM’s “ability to work together as a party.”
“I don’t see any future for PPM. They are saying that 99 percent of [DRP members] are joining the party but we don’t see any such thing happening. At the same time there are a lot of people who have remained steadfast and believe the DRP has a future, and that the leadership has the experience and qualifications to run the country,” Shareef said.
The breakaway faction consisted of Gayoom’s immediate family and “former DRP members who failed in elections while they were in the DRP,” Shareef said. “PPM is a family enterprise, promoting a private hidden agenda in the name of the national interest.”
Gayoom had capitalised on growing dissatisfaction with the government, Shareef contended.
“At the grassroots level, people are very unhappy, and the swing voters have been moving away from the government. This is why Gayoom chose now to form his new party. In 2008-2009, and even midway through 2010, there was no political space.”
The division was as much ideological as it was acrimonious, Shareef explained.
“Many people do not believe the DRP is able to hold the government accountable, because we do not create violence or street protests. Many people think the opposition should make the country ungovernable, even the media and opinion leaders. I’m not sure if they understand it themselves, but it makes it very dangerous, as it risks the whole society falling and becoming a failed state,” Shareef said.
“We believe we are a responsible opposition and we oppose the government’s polices where they are wrong, and support them when they are right. There is nothing personal and we are not out for revenge, and we do not see the ruling party as personal enemies.
“Gayoom’s family and his inner circle view them as personal enemies and are out for revenge, using chaos and anarchy to try and stop the government from doing any work. We are clear we want a stable government, and to change it through elections, but the immediate family of Gayoom has a different idea. They want street action, so that every day the government is under pressure, while we voted for a presidential system of government that gives the President a free hand to run the country [while he is elected].”
Beyond the poaching of its member base, the DRP faced new financial challenges with the departure of the former President, Shareef said.
“Finance is a great challenge. The current DRP leadership is not as rich as PPM’s top leadership. It presents a challenge, but I like to believe money is not everything.”
Road to 2013
Shareef was a founding member of the MDP, Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader in Nasheed’s shadow cabinet, then later a deputy to Gayoom, and now a deputy to Thasmeen.
With the split in the opposition, and the collapse of all the MDP’s coalition agreements, Shareef predicted that “given current trends” the 2013 presidential election would effectively be a replay of the 2008 election in which Nasheed won power in a run-off election against the incumbent Gayoom, due to the support of coalition partners.
The MDP would need to gain 51 percent of the vote in the first round to secure a clean win, while “none of the opposition parties will secure enough votes to reach the 51 percent mark,” Shareef said. “Meanwhile the MDP has chased away all its coalition partners, and they cannot now turn around and say ‘We can work together’, because nobody will believe them.”
Faced with a run-off, the disparate opposition groups would temporarily unify over the common ground of ousting the MDP, Shareef predicted, giving power to the largest opposition party.
“Look at the last three elections. In the first round of the 2008 Presidential election Gayoom got 40 percent, while the rest of the then opposition got 60 percent. In the second round the opposition totaled 54 percent. The MDP lost ground in the parliamentary elections, and the majority of the islands voted for the DRP in the local council elections,” he claimed.
“The incumbent government has the resources of the state to get votes, and can get at least 20-30 percent just by being in power. At present trends, the 2013 will be a replay of 2008, and as things stand now, whoever is in opposition will go to the second round. But we need a leader who is not out to take revenge.”