Running mate: former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel
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Abdulla Yameen is an MP and the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He variously headed both the State Electric Company (STELCO) and the State Trading Organisation (STO) during Gayoom’s administration.
Yameen is contesting the election as a candidate for the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), which split off from the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) following an acrimonious falling out between Gayoom and his anointed successor, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
Yameen won the PPM’s primaries in March 2013 with 63 percent of the vote, defeating former policeman and firebrand political activist Umar Naseer. Following his defeat Naseer publicly accused Yameen of rigging the election, and of being backed by a coterie of “gangsters, drug cartels and Gayoom’s children.” Yameen rejected the accusations and Naseer was ultimately evicted from the party.
Yameen – together with rival presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim – were arrested and briefly detained during Nasheed’s administration in June 2010 on charges of bribery and attempting to topple the government, after MPs accused the pair of conspiring to pay off MPs to obtain the two-thirds majority in the chamber necessary to impeach the president. Yameen was defended by present Attorney General Azima Shukoor, while Gasim was defended by his running mate in the 2013 election, Dr Hassan Saeed. They were swiftly released.
The former Presidential Commission – subsequently dissolved by Waheed’s administration – later accused Yameen of involvement in the sale of millions of dollars worth of oil to the Burmese military junta via the STO’s branch in Singapore, having commissioned forensic accountancy firm Grant Thorton to investigate the trade. Yameen rejected allegations of his involvement and disputed the illegality of such a trade.
Yameen’s running mate, Dr Mohamed Jameel, served as Justice Minister under former President Waheed and as Home Minister under Waheed’s, until he was dismissed from cabinet after defecting from the DQP to the PPM.
Dr Jameel is a vocal opponent of former President Nasheed, describing the prevention of his return to power as a “religious obligation”, publicly criticising the judiciary for failing to convict and bar him from contesting, and accusing the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of terrorism.
As Deputy Leader of the DQP he was investigated by Nasheed’s government for ‘hate speech’ in late 2011, after publishing a pamphlet entitled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’, alleging that Nasheed’s government was part of a “Jewish Zionist conspiracy” seeking to “spread Christianity” and “undermine Islam in the Maldives”.
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The PPM’s campaign, ‘Team Yageen’, has taken a strong ‘law and order’ line, appealing to fear over rising crime in the Maldives, campaigning in favour of implementing rather than commuting the death penalty, and pledging harsher prison sentences for crimes such as ‘obstruction of police duty’.
The party has pledged short turnarounds on criminal investigations, the installation of mass surveillance mechanisms across the country, and state-of-the-art forensic facilities. The party has also accused the MDP’s youth policy, dubbed ‘Entertainment without Fear’, of targeting the country’s drug addicts and prison population.
Although an early and enthusiastic proponent of the government coalition’s drive to evict Indian infrastructure develop GMR – at the time the country’s single largest foreign investor – in recent months the PPM has taken a conciliatory approach towards restoring Indian relations, hanging the fallout of the decision on Waheed. However the party has not expressly stated that it would consider inviting the developer back to the Maldives.
Yameen, along with Gasim, has also pledged to pursue oil exploration and encourage foreign investment in its extraction, noting that the rising price of the commodity made extraction more feasible.
The PPM has further proposed the development of a cargo transit port in the Maldives, and increasing the size of the tourism industry by a further 26,000 jobs.
The party has also targeted young voters, promising both the creation of desirable jobs, and the transformation of Hulhumale into a “Youth City” with apartments for young people otherwise unable to start married life due to a lack of housing options in the congested capital city of Male. He pledged to build a bridge connecting the island to Male, and introduce 90,000 new jobs for young people across the Maldives by the end of his five year term.
The PPM has further pledged a focus on women’s rights under a PPM government, with women promised the opportunity to stay at home and work via internet in the instances they faced “special conditions”. The party has further stated that the PPM would ensure a way through which wives could claim “ some percentage” from a husband’s business enterprises.
“Women are valuable people who produce and raise persons who are very important to the nation. They are often at the forefront of everything. We will change the work environment in such a way that suits women,” Yameen pledged.
Yameen has also pledged to halve the presidential salary and slash the wages of political appointees by 30-50 percent should he be elected in September. He has also pledged to cut the salaries of independent institutions – which include the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Political Integrity Commission (PIC) – a step he has described as pivotal for the country to avoid a sovereign default.
He also vowed to work towards reducing the salary and allowances of parliament members. At the same time, he pledged to increase the wages of civil servants.
Analysis of support base
Yameen has the public endorsement of former President Gayoom and many of his family members active in the current government. As a result the PPM’s support base includes many of those who backed Gayoom in the 2008 presidential election – a sizeable population across the country which saw Gayoom receive 45.32 percent of the vote in the second round of the 2008 election, and who may see in Yameen a similarly stable ‘strongman’ government.
While the coalition government has galvanised anti-Nasheed voters – indeed preventing Nasheed’s return to power appears to be a core shared policy platform – the PPM’s challenge in the election will be gathering enough of these anti-Nasheed voters under its own banner to not just force a second round, but also edge Gasim’s Jumhoree Coalition out of second place.
In this sense the PPM’s main adversary in the first round is likely to be Gasim’s potential to split the vote and bump the PPM to third place in the first round, and a into a weaker negotiating position. Were this the case, the two sides would be forced to forgive deep rivalries and hurriedly hammer out a power-sharing arrangement before the more unpredictable second round.
Yameen has campaigned heavily and has an army of youth supporters hanging up flags and painting walls pink. He also has also signed a coalition agreement with the newly-created Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) of MP and tourism tycoon and MP, Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam, who also owns the local Sun news outlet.
Registered party members (figures as of March 2013)
PPM – 22,383
MDA – 3349
Parliament seats (as of 18 August, 2013)
PPM – 19 (of 77)
PA – 1 (of 77); the People’s Alliance, formerly Yameen’s party prior to the formation of the PPM).
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