Former President Mohamed Nasheed met Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim at the business tycoon’s residence in Male’ last night.
Speaking briefly to press after the one-hour meeting, the presidential candidates of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and JP coalition said the pair had discussed matters of national interest and maintaining stability and public order.
Following the first round of the presidential election on September 7 – where Nasheed emerged the front runner with 45.45 percent of the vote and Gasim narrowly missed out on the second round run-off with 24.07 percent – the JP alleged vote rigging by the Elections Commission (EC) and contested the results at both the High Court and Supreme Court.
Asked if a possible coalition between the parties was discussed ahead of the run-off between Nasheed and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen – who came second with 25.35 of the vote – Gasim said “it has not reached that point yet,” adding that he bore no ill will toward anyone.
Nasheed meanwhile said that Gasim was “a family friend since childhood” who has offered good advice and counsel throughout the years.
The former president added that he expected Gasim to make a decision on either a coalition partner or whom to endorse after the conclusion of the ongoing Supreme Court case.
Asked how much confidence he had that the JP leader would back the MDP candidate, Nasheed said Gasim would “never have to come behind me, but we can always work together.”
Nasheed was accompanied at the meeting by MDP parliamentary group leader MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
No decision until court case is over
In the wake of the meeting between the presidential candidates, the Adhaalath Party and former deputy leader of the PPM, Umar Naseer – members of the JP coalition – expressed concern at Gasim’s decision to meet Nasheed, and declared that they would leave the coalition if the JP leader decided to back Nasheed in the run-off election on September 28.
Local media reported that after his meeting with Nasheed, Gasim also met MDP MP Ali Waheed, the party’s parliamentary group deputy leader, and former State Minister for Transport Hassan Shujau at his residence.
The JP meanwhile put out a press release last night insisting that Gasim and Nasheed did not discuss forming a coalition or withdrawing the Supreme Court case.
The statement noted that since the first round of the polls on September 7, Gasim has met former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and spoke with PPM candidate Yameen on the phone “more than once to discuss national affairs.”
“Honourable Gasim’s policy is to talk with political leaders of all political ideologies in the country on matters of national interest and encourage maintaining stability and peace,” the statement read.
The party claimed that Nasheed had visited Gasim at his residence twice before last night’s meeting but was unable to meet the JP leader before the third attempt as he was not home the previous times.
The JP statement reiterated that the party would not consider forming a coalition or endorsing a candidate in the second round before the conclusion of the Supreme Court case.
“The Jumhooree coalition’s presidential candidate Honourable Gasim Ibrahim believes that the rights of thousands of Maldivian citizens were lost because of the Elections Commission rigging the vote and committing a number of acts in violation of election laws. The nation is at the brink of turmoil and unrest. Therefore, more than anything else, Gasim Ibrahim’s efforts at present is focused on restoring the rights of citizens that were lost due to electoral fraud,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, joining a growing international chorus backing the credibility of the September 7 election, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement yesterday noting that “the conduct of the first round had been widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”
“The Secretary-General urges all political leaders to live up to their responsibilities, respect the democratic process and continue to allow for a peaceful, inclusive and credible vote to take place in the second round of the presidential polls on 28 September, as scheduled and in accordance with the Constitution,” the statement read.
“He stresses the utmost importance of the will of the Maldivian people being respected throughout the process.”
The UN Secretary General’s appeal followed a statement by Commonwealth Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon declaring that international opinion was “firmly behind” the need for a second round of the presidential election as planned for September 28.
“There are always losers in every election everywhere, but the winners here must be the people of Maldives. The results of their votes must be paramount to the process and the result,” McKinnon said.