At least one MP of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has claimed the party is on the brink of “disintegrating”, and will almost certainly split due to infighting.
DRP MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that realistically, the formation of separate parties could only be stopped by nothing short of a “miracle” reconciliation between its current leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and the party’s ‘honorary leader’, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
A growing split between Thasmeen – endorsed by Gayoom on his retirement and elected unopposed – and a faction consisting of dismissed former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and serving party members including MP Ahmed Mahlouf, has engulfed the party since December.
The Umar Naseer faction of the party campaigned alongside former president Gayoom during a tour of a number of islands ahead of last month’s local council elections.
However, the disputes between these factions this week have appeared to reach crisis point as members of Gayoom’s family publically criticised the current leadership on television.
Gayoom’s daughter Yumna Maumoon said Thursday evening that DRP members were concerned that Thasmeen was ruling the party dictatorially, as well as failing to properly oppose the government of President Mohamed Nasheed. An official DRP statement later denied Thasmeen was able to act in such a way under the party’s required conventions and suggested its leader still had the full backing of members.
Yet according to Nihan, some in the party are already considering potential names for a new party potentially based around the identity and ideas of Gayoom himself, but it was a development he said that was ultimately regretful for the DRP.
“[Until yesterday] I have been actively campaigning for the party since it began. It is therefore a very sad moment that the party is disintegrating,” he said. “We have worked for the best of the party and for the legacy of Gayoom so we can all experience better things. This now seems unlikely due to misconception and misinformation.”
Although no decision is claimed to have been taken as to then formation of a new political party, Nihan added that it was clear that Gayoom, who remains honorary leader of the DRP, was “very unhappy” with the recent conduct of Thasmeen.
Nihan said that concerns had been raised about comments allegedly made by Thasmeen on broadcast media such as DhiTV, where he was alleged to have shown disrespect to the former president.
These concerns come on the back of leaked audio excerpts allegedly of DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef stating a preference for the rival Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) over a DRP led by Gayoom. Shareef later claimed that the recordings were his voice, but had been doctored out of context and leaked to the press.
Nihan said that now Thasmeen had publically spoken out in a manner that was disrespectful to the former president and DRP leader, the situation of factions within the party had been complicated further.
The MP went on to praise Yumna Maumoon’s decision to speak out for her father. “What she did was excellent, coming out in support of her family,” he said.
Nihan stressed that the situation was not irreparable, but that keeping the DRP as a singular entity was unlikely.
“Maybe if some sort of miracle happens and these people can sit together and sort out their problems there may be a resolution,” he said. “Otherwise there will be a new party.”
While claiming to not side with either supporters of Thasmeen or Naseer in the DRP dispute, Nihan said he believed that it was down to the current party leader to try and solve the problems threatening to split the party.
Nihan said that should the “inevitable” occur and the factions go their separate ways in the political landscape of the Maldives, the survival of the DRP name was irrelevant compared to the importance of having Gayoom’s backing.
“It is important to remember that Mr Gayoom is retired and will not contest, he has clearly indicated that he will not run,” said Nihan. “However, we [the party] will always be with his ideas of politics.”
Nihan claimed that if a new party was to be formed, he had already received unofficial suggestions about new titles via SMS; such as a possible party under the Dhivehi acronym of the DRSP.
Adding that no formal decisions had been made on the issue, the MP said that the rights to use the actual DRP name was not thought to be too important as opposed to ensuring the support of Gayoom himself to party members and voters.
However, Nihan claimed that as he had been the designer of the party’s sailboat logo, under recently passed intellectual property laws, he held the rights to the image.
“I designed the logo, which received over 700 votes to be adopted as the symbol of the party on 21 July 2005,” he said. “If anyone tries to make a big deal of the issue then we can claim it. They have never paid me for the use of [the logo].”
DRP leader Thasmeen, Ahmed Mahlouf, Umar Naseer and representatives for Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were all unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, DRP MP Rozaina Adam said that according to the party’s rules, former President Gayoom’s position as ‘Honorary Leader’ did not give him a say in the political running of the party.
“The political leader of the party is Thasmeen. He is the one who is legally responsible for the actions of the party. It is the DRP Council that votes on a course of action, not former President Gayoom,” Rozaina said.
She speculated that much of the tension within the party revolved around the Council’s decision last year to send former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer to the party’s disciplinary committee, which made the decision to remove Naseer from the DRP.
“It was the Council that voted to send Umar Naseer to the disciplinary committee, which made a decision regarding the issue, not Thasmeen himself,” Rozaina said, adding that it was doubtful whether Thasmeen even had the authority to change the decision of the committee.
The DRP had a review committee, Rozaina said, “but Umar did not even apply for that. Instead he went and complained like a little boy to Mr Gayoom, to try and get him to change the decision.”
A split was looking inevitable, she suggested.
“Right now it looks like we are heading towards that. A lot of members in the Gayoom faction have been talking about creating a new party. It probably will split – I don’t see us getting along or working together.”
Even in the event of a split, Rozaina said it was unlikely that the opposition’s parliamentary majority would be threatened. While there were five DRP MPs on Gayoom’s side, both sides were still working against the ruling MDP, she said.
The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), led by former Attorney General Hassan Saeed, has already joined Thasmeen’s side of the DRP as a new coalition partner.
Rozaina said the party’s other coalition partner, the People’s Alliance, had been leaning in support of Gayoom’s side.
“There’s been a lot of rumours that [PA Leader and half brother of Gayoom] Abdulla Yameen is behind all this, and that this is something he has been planning from within,” Rozaina suggested.
DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that while he had no comment on any specific allegations, he was “very happy” with the democratic processes within the party.
“Every decision is made in a democratic manner,” he said.