Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan has claimed the “vast majority” of supporters will remain loyal to the party despite uncertainty over the future allegiance of senior figures like Umar Naseer and Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed.
MP Nihan told Minivan News today that should either Naseer or MP Ilham leave the PPM, most members would still remain loyal due to their support for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the principles under which he founded the government-aligned party.
The comments were made as the PPM’s internal disciplinary council yesterday concluded a hearing against Umar Naseer, who recently lost out on standing as the party’s presidential candidate during its primary.
He later alleged that his sole opponent in the contest, MP Abdulla Yameen; was backed by the Gayoom family and PPM parliamentary group, controlled all of the party’s organs, including the council and election committee, and had “rigged” the primary in his favour by ballot stuffing, falsifying the count and “pouring black money” to buy votes.
He further alleged that criminal gangs, convicts and drug smuggling “networks” were part of Yameen’s campaign team.
Yameen, who is also half brother of former President Gayoom, denied the accusations, while the PPM later asked Umar to apologise for his remarks or face disciplinary action.
Umar’s case was yesterday (April 14) sent to the PPM Council’s for a decision on whether he should face expulsion from the party after refusing to apologise to Yameen or defend himself at the subsequent disciplinary hearing.
Nihan added that the next council meeting concerning Umar’s position in the PPM was “expected shortly”, although no decision had yet been taken over whether he would be allowed to remain with the party.
Despite the party’s rhetoric, Umar was quoted in local media today as claiming he would reveal his future political plans at a rally scheduled for Friday (April 19).
“I will let my supporters know the path I have chosen,” he was quoted as telling Haveeru.
Meanwhile, Ilham Ahmed today announced his decision to resign his vice presidency role within the PPM, refusing to provide further details to local media at the time.
MP Nihan claimed that the resignation was not thought to be related to Umar Naseer’s disciplinary hearing yesterday.
He went on to state that Ilham had in the past been a strong supporter of Gayoom dating back to before the PPM was founded after a number of its MPs broke away from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
“He was elected with the blessing of Maumoon. Ilham has always played the political game well,” said Nihan.
Taking the example of other previous Gayoom supporters such as MP Ali Waheed – who eventually joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – Nihan alleged that some in the party believed Ilham had strong business links with presidential candidate and MP for the fellow government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), Gasim Ibrahim.
“We heard Ilham’s been connected with Gasim for sometime now,” he added.
Nihan said that both Ilham and Umar currently remained with the party and could play a significant role ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
However, Nihan said that should they both defect to other political parties, he did not expect more than several hundred PPM members to leave with them.
He added that even in the case of a possible defection from the two senior party members, both would also be limited in terms of viable political parties they could side with. Nihan also questioned the stability of forming political coalitions in the Maldives.
“The Maldives will not be stable under a coalition,” he said. “We also have to consider the international community in all this, such as the UK, and our neighbours in India and Sri Lanka, there is a big struggle at present.”
MP Ahmed was not responding to calls at time of press, while a spokesperson for Umar Naseer claimed he “did not give interviews to Minivan News.”
When contacted earlier today, the PPM office in Male’ said it did not “know anything” regarding Umar Naseer’s hearing.
Addressing developments within the PPM today, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that the government-aligned party had used the People’s Majlis to attack President Dr Mohamed Waheed in what he claimed was an “unprecedented” move.
Hamid argued that amidst speculation over the respective futures of Umar Naseer and Ilham Ahmed, the PPM was finding itself “alone” politically, while the president was by contrast expanding a coalition of parties ahead of September’s elections.
“Political entities – aside from MDP – are all remnants of the past. They are products of the past dictatorship, and they are now splintering. It’s a classic example of a dictatorship breaking up, fragmenting,” he claimed.
“It’s a [Gayoom] family thing being played out politically. His family is split in two between backing Waheed or the PPM and Gayoom is keeping both sides afloat, so he can play the game to the end and win.”
Meanwhile, Two PPM MPs publicly criticised President Waheed at today’s sitting of parliament, with MP Ali Arif slamming the country’s leader for “harassing” the legislature. He also accused President Waheed of discontinuing public services and development projects, while using state funds to finance his election campaign, according to local media.
PPM MP Shifag ‘Histo’ Mufeed, formerly of the MDP, alleged that the president was planning to use an expected MVR185 million (US$12 million) from raising the airport departure tax to US$30 for his presidential campaign.
“I think this is the biggest atrocity after the Nexbis atrocity,” Shifag said, referring to ongoing legal wrangling over an agreement to use a border control system provided by a Malaysia-based IT firm that was approved by the government.
The implementation of a similar Airport Development Charge (ADC) by Indian infrastructure group GMR was previously a major point of contention for senior figures in the Waheed administration, eventually paving the way for the US$511 million foreign investment project to be declared void by the government last year.