Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, interim leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), has signalled that he may run for the presidency in 2013.
Gayoom told Indian newspaper The Hindu yesterday (December 11) that he may consider contesting in a presidential election expected in August or September next year.
“Things change very frequently. So I am keeping my options open,” Gayoom was quoted as saying. “[If I run] it won’t be out of my choice, if ever, it will be out of compulsion. Because I feel I have served the country for 30 years and I feel it is up to other people [now].”
Gayoom however insisted that he preferred not to run.
Since its formation in October 2011, the government-aligned PPM has postponed its national congress on three occasions, despite the party’s charter or regulations stipulating that a congress must be held within six months of registration.
The party held its inaugural convention in October 2011.
In October this year, local daily Haveeru reported that that the party cited “political turmoil” as the reason for the delays.
Gayoom meanwhile told The Hindu that the party’s presidential primary will take place in February after the national congress currently scheduled for January 2013.
“Asked if current President Mohamed Waheed stood a chance to be nominated by PPM as its candidate for presidency, Mr Gayoom said that this can only be decided after Dr Waheed joins the PPM,” The Hindu reported.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed – who defeated Gayoom in the 2008 presidential election with 54 percent of the vote to Gayoom’s 45 percent – said at a rally last month that he believed President Waheed will become PPM’s presidential candidate with Gayoom’s backing.
Nasheed alleged that his former vice president held secret consultations with the PPM figurehead before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7.
“Dr Waheed has been scheming with President Maumoon for about two years, that I know of,” he said. “Sometimes in an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll, other times in Alivaage [Gayoom’s former residence]. They have been discussing and talking in different places. Anyone who thinks of carrying out a coup d’etat will know that one thing you need for it is a disloyal vice president.”
“What I have said is that our administration supports the earliest date for Presidential elections allowed under the Constitution. That in my mind will be July, 2013. I am hoping that the election will be at that time,” he was quoted as saying.
In the same month, former President Gayoom publicly welcomed the prospect of Dr Waheed competing in a primary for the party’s ticket.
In May, PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer told local media that Dr Waheed could potentially become the party’s presidential candidate. Naseer however claimed earlier that Waheed would not stand for re-election.
Naseer, along with PPM parliamentary group leader and brother of its interim leader, MP Abdulla Yameen, are the only two candidates that have announced their intention to compete in the primary.
Naseer has however said that he would not compete against former President Gayoom.
Dr Waheed meanwhile is currently leader of the GIP, which has no representation in either the People’ Majlis or local councils and just 3,170 registered members, according to the latest figures from the Elections Commission (EC).
By comparison, PPM currently has 17,111 members and is the minority party in parliament. The party has also won ten out of 13 by-elections held since its inception last year.
Speaking at a PPM rally last month, Gayoom urged senior leaders of the party to be mindful of the party’s unity during their campaigns for the upcoming primary.
At a press conference in September 2011, where the formation of the PPM was announced, Gayoom refused to rule out a presidential bid, stressing that he had not made a decision and would do so “when the time comes.”
“My answer is that the time [for a primary] has not come and we’ll know when it does,” he said after being asked repeatedly by reporters if he intended to run again.
On whether his role as leader of the new party contradicted an announcement in February 2010 that he was retiring from active politics, Gayoom said he made the decision based on the assurance that the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) would function “according to certain principles.”
Gayoom left the DRP to form the PPM following an acrimonious split within the DRP and a public spat with his successor and former vice-presidential candidate, DRP Leader and MP for Baa Atoll Kendhoo Ahmed Thasmeen Ali
“At the time and even up till yesterday, I was at the most senior post of one of the largest political parties in the country,” he said. “So how can it be said that the person in the highest post of a political party is not involved in politics? Up till yesterday I was in politics. Today I am forced to create a new party because of the state of the nation and because it has become necessary to find another way for the country.”