The religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) has declared it has entered into a coalition agreement with resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP).
The AP recently severed its coalition agreement with President Mohamed Waheed, following his remarks to the AFP newswire that it was “better to work with” the self-claimed Islamist party, despite suggesting some elements in the party held “extreme views”. He told media at the time that excluding the party from mainstream politics risked marginalising its members, having a “negative long-term effect”.
In a statement announcing its new coalition partner, the AP praised Gasim’s campaigning for the 2013 election and said it believed the presidential candidate was “the person most capable of defending the country from foreign influences, to safeguard the country’s highest of priorities, and that he is capable of working in an independent manner.”
Local news outlet Sun Online observed that the AP had similarly allied with the JP ahead of the 2008 presidential election, noting that the party’s then spokesperson and current Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, had qualified the alliance on the grounds that “a person capable of controlling four wives is more than capable of controlling the country.”
Following its departure from Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition last week, the Adhaalath Party was reported to have been in talks with the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).
While the extent of the Adhaalath Party’s electoral support in the coming elections is uncertain (the party received 0.9 percent of the votes in the 2009 parliamentary election), its numbers make up the bulk of the ranks of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and it remains a loud voice in Maldivian politics.
Independent MP Ibrahim Muttalib, while not elected as an Adhaalath MP, has since declared association with the party. His bills have included motions calling for a blanket ban on the sale and import of pork and alcohol in the Maldives, a luxury tourism destination with an economy dependent on over 100 resorts targeting the lucrative UK, German, French and Russian markets.
Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile remains one of the country’s single largest importers of alcohol, with customs records for 2011 showing his Villa Hotels chain – including the Royal, Paradise, Sun, and Holiday Island resorts – importing approximately 121,234.51 litres of beer, 2048 litres of whiskey, 3684 litres of vodka and 219.96 kilograms of pork sausages annually, among other haram (prohibited) commodities restricted to ‘uninhabited’ islands.
The Adhaalath Party also endorsed a flogging sentence given in February to a 15 year-old rape victim found guilty of a separate fornication offence, on the grounds that “if such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath.”
After an Avaaz petition calling for the repeal of the sentence reached more than two million signatures – double the country’s annual tourism arrivals – Waheed’s administration pledged to appeal the matter. The case remains stalled in the High Court.
Gasim in March 2013 complained he had lost US$16 million as a result of a selective tourism boycott, orchestrated he claimed by his political rivals the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
While in coalition with Waheed, the Adhaalath Party also notably clamped down on singing and dancing, including requesting in April 2012 that the Education Ministry cancel the Maldives’ inter-school singing competition on the grounds that singing was haram in Islam.
Gasim was meanwhile heavily critical of the MDP’s recently-launched youth policy, titled ‘Entertainment without fear’, accusing former President Nasheed of being a “monster” guilty of “every despicable act ever to be found in the world”.
“He doesn’t understand what the law says, so a crazy person like him may say that he would give the opportunity for people to limitlessly entertain themselves. Look, it is not something Allah has given us human beings,” Gasim declared.