Gayoom denies PPM split over Dhiggaru by-election

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has denied rumours that a faction within the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) is supporting independent candidate Moosa Naseer Ahmed in the upcoming Dhiggaru constituency parliamentary by-election.

Naseer, a Meemu atoll councillor and vice president of the Local Government Authority, had sought the ruling party’s ticket last month, but withdrew his candidacy ahead of the primary.

Gayoom’s eldest son, Ahmed Faris Maumoon, won the primary with a margin of 147 votes after competing against another Meemu atoll councillor.

Speaking to reporters yesterday upon his return to Malé after launching Faris’ campaign in Meemu atoll, Gayoom said he does not believe that senior PPM members encouraged Naseer to run as an independent.

Gayoom, leader of the PPM, said he enjoys strong support in Meemu atoll and that he expects to win the vacant Dhiggaru constituency parliament seat.

Gayoom said he was not aware that any member of PPM was working against Faris, adding that president Abdulla Yameen could not attend the campaign launching due to a heavy schedule.

Naseer was meanwhile expelled from the PPM on Monday by the party’s disciplinary committee.

PPM secretary general Mohamed Tholal told newspaper Haveeru that Naseer was dismissed for breaching the party’s charter by standing as an independent after the party chose its candidate through a primary.

Naseer had had told online news outlet CNM last week that he decided to contest as an independent at the behest of Dhiggaru constituents, who he said wanted a Meemu atoll or Dhiggaru native as their MP.

Naseer had represented Meemu atoll in the Special Majlis from 1983 to 1996 and served as the Meemu atoll member of the People’s Majlis from 1996 to 2000.

The by-election, triggered by a 25-year jail sentence handed down to former PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, is scheduled to take place on June 6.