The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has become the first party to officially back a candidate in the second round of the presidential election, throwing its support behind the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Mohamed Nasheed.
The decision made at a party council meeting earlier today saw 12 votes cast for the MDP and three for their run-off rivals the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), with seven party members undecided.
MDP spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy today explained that there had been no official communication between his party and the DRP, emphasising that the move had been the DRP’s “own decision”.
Fahmy suggested that the move would bring 10,000 votes to his party – intimating that President Dr Mohamed Waheed himself had not attracted any votes for his coalition with the DRP in the first round.
The MDP have argued that they need only few thousand votes – in addition to the 95,224 received on Saturday (45.45 percent of the total) – to claim a second round win.
DRP MP’s Abdulla Mausoom and Rozaina Adam took to Twitter soon after the council’s decision with the MDP’s ‘kuriah, kuriah’ (‘forward, forward’) election slogan appearing on both members’ feeds.
Economic Minister Ahmed Mohamed voted in favour of backing PPM and is reported to have stormed out of the council meeting telling the press he intended to support the PPM regardless.
While leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has previously said he would not remain in the DRP if the party’s council decided to enter a coalition with the MDP, the MP for Kendhoo said at a press conference after the council meeting today that it would be “irresponsible” for a senior politician to withhold support based on previous statements.
“Therefore, I intend to participate in President Nasheed’s campaign as DRP leader and fully participate in efforts to seek support for President Nasheed in the upcoming presidential election,” he said.
Thasmeen reportedly said that he considered the current political reality and decided on the path that would minimise the “spirit of political vengeance.”
Minivan News was unable to obtain further comment from the DRP prior to publication.
Going into the elections, the DRP aligned with President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP), with leader Thasmeen as Waheed’s running mate. Both candidates officially ran as independents, however, due to a prior registration issue linked with the size of the GIP.
Speaking with Minivan News the day before the election, Waheed explained that he felt the strength of the DRP could compensate for his party’s relatively small support base. The DRP is currently the country’s third largest party, with 21,411 members according to the Election Commissions most recent figures. It also has 10 members in the Majlis.
However, as it became clear that Waheed had gained the fewest votes on polling day – just 5.13 percent – the DRP’s Mausoom hinted that the party would be looking for new affiliations heading into the second round.
Registered in 2005, the DRP was formed as a vehicle for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to compete in the country’s first multi-party presidential elections in 2008. After the 30-year leader lost power to the MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed, the DRP remained the major opposition in parliament.
Thasmeen was anointed party head following Gayoom’s short-lived retirement from politics. However, the former’s willingness to negotiate with the MDP led to a 12-page letter of complaints from the former leader and an acrimonious split in 2011, followed by the departure of Gayoom loyalists to the newly-formed PPM.
Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid has been the highest profile defection from the DRP in recent months – joining the MDP to rapturous celebrations in April – though the party has seen a steady drain of support as PPM’s numbers have risen.