Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, has been unveiled as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s running mate for September’s election.
Thasmeen’s appointment was confirmed by DRP Parliamentary Group Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom, who claimed the move would allow the president to provide a viable alternative to the country’s two largest political parties.
The announcement was welcomed by one electoral rival in the form of the DRP’s government coalition partner, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which labelled Thasmeen as “the weakest link” among all the current candidates standing in September.
The DRP last month announced that it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed and his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) in the upcoming election. The Adhaalath Party was reported in local media today as giving its full support to the partnership of President Waheed and MP Thasmeen.
Dr Mausoom said that this coalition, under the banner, ‘forward with the nation’, still remained open for other parties to join ahead of September’s vote despite today’s decision.
At present, Dr Waheed and Thasmeen will be standing against PPM presidential candidate MP Abdullah Yameen and his running mate, former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who was dismissed from the current government last month after announcing his decision to stand with the party.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed will also be standing for election as candidate for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but has yet to unveil his running mate. Nasheed resigned from office in February 2012 under controversial circumstances following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.
Meanwhile, the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) has previously said it was undecided over whether to join President Waheed’s coalition, while expecting to nominate a presidential candidate at its national conference later this month.
The JP is headed by MP and local business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.
Considering the rival candidates expected to stand during September’s presidential election, DRP MP Dr Mausoom said the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition has been formed as a “natural reaction” to the previous governments of former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed.
“I think for people who do not see the merit in backing former Maldives Presidents Gayoom and Nasheed there is now an alternative,” he claimed, adding that both candidates would be a return to “square one” for democracy in the Maldives.
Mausoom claimed that President Waheed woukd now unite support behind a third option in Maldivian politics, that was opposed to the MDP and PPM – presently the country’s two largest political parties in terms of MP number.
He said that the coalition’s appeal as an alternative to both the Nasheed and Gayoom administrations would be its main strength.
“This is just the beginning,” Dr Mausoom added. “Thasmeen spoke today of the achievement’s of President Waheed’s government over the last year, in spite of difficult circumstances he faced.”
While both the MDP and PPM has dismissed the viability and effectiveness of coalition government in Maldives politics, Mausoom argued that the DRP had continued to back President Waheed along with several other parties in order to put national development first.
“We are at a point where we all have to climb down from party ideology and put the national interest first,” he said.
Mausoom claimed that the country’s previous coalition governments had been formed on a “circumstantial” basis, both in bringing former President Nasheed to power and then backed President Waheed. However, he claimed that parties within the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition backing President Waheed during the election were “pro-actively” united in their goal for national development.
Speaking to Minivan News today, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that Thasmeen’s appointment as Dr Waheed’s running mate was not seen as a concern by the party and would actually serve as a positive development for its own election campaign.
Thasmeen took over as head of the DRP following former President Gayoom’s temporary retirement from political life in 2010.
Nihan argued that the PPM, which was founded in 2011 by a faction of MPs who broke away from the DRP alongside former President Gayoom, were “well aware of the political strength of Mr Thasmeen”.
“We are the only people who can make an informed judgement on [Thasmeen]. He is the weakest link among all the wannabe leaders at present,” he said.
Nihan said that the party would therefore carry on with it plans to begin campaigning in the north of the country ahead of September’s election.
“This is the very least of our concerns as a party,” he said.
Nihan nonetheless said that the party continued to remain concerned at what it alleged was President Waheed’s continued use of state funds and resources to support campaigning for the coalition.
“This is our one crucial concern. President Waheed needs to facilitate a free and fair election, but he has today used government speedboats to transport coalition members. This should not be seen n a democratic society,” he said. “Back in 2008, President Gayoom would have used his own party’s speedboat for campaign purposes.”
Meanwhile, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed contended during an interview with state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on May 16 that President Waheed and the DRP has been forced to form a coalition out of necessity.
Nasheed therefore questioned the president’s coalition’s claims that it presented a “third way” for voters as opposed to the policies of the MDP and PPM. Nasheed reiterated his belief that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with the Maldives’ presidential system of government.
“I do not see a citizen who wants ‘another way.’ What is the path to deliver this way [to development]? We do not hear [political parties] talking about that,” he said. “We are presenting one path to that [development]. We believe MDP’s policies will bring prosperity to the people. I do not see this third way you referred to as ‘a way.’ I see it as two men with no other way. That is not a political philosophy,” he said.