Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said yesterday that he had not ruled out the possibility of current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan standing in the next general election as a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate.
“The president, or anyone else, can join PPM if they want, and if they win the [party’s] primary, they will become our presidential candidate,” Gayoom was quoted as saying by Sun Online.
When questioned on elections by Indian newspaper The Hindu during his recent visit to Sri Lanka, President Waheed himself said he was “contemplating” running for “a second term” in office after coming to power in February. He added at the time that a final decision on the matter would be taken over the next few months.
Waheed is currently leader of the Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP), which has no representation in either the People’ Majlis or local councils and just 898 registered members, according to the latest figures from the Elections Commission (EC).
By comparison, the PPM has 17,298 members with another 1,233 membership forms awaiting processing. The PPM is the minority leading party in the People’s Majlis. PPM spokesman Ahmed Mahlouf was not responding to calls at the time of press regarding Gayoom’s comments.
Under parliamentary rules of procedure, bills to raise or lower taxes and import duties can only be submitted on behalf of the government by an MP of the president’s party.
The GIP has not been invited to this week’s inter-party talks, which seek to reach consensus on how to proceed following the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report on August 30.
President’s Spokesman Masood Imad has said that Waheed will appear at the talks, but in his capacity as leader of the country rather than leader of his party.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Faiz, Deputy CEO of Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) and a GIP council member, told Minivan News today that Waheed’s decision regarding his party affiliation was his own to make.
When asked whether he would follow Waheed to the PPM, should he join the party, Faiz responded:
“I am a supporter of Waheed as an individual. My political path will follow any route Waheed’s career takes.”
When speaking with reporters before leaving for India last night, Gayoom is reported as saying that he had yet to rule out his own candidacy for the PPM primary, for which no date has yet been set.
Back in May, the PPM’s Deputy Leader Umar Naseer said that, although anyone could contest the PPM primaries, he did not expect Waheed to stand for a second term. He added that he would back Gayoom should he decide to stand for the nomination.
The former President of 30 years, Gayoom retired from active politics in 2010, becoming Honorary Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – the party he founded to contest the country’s first multi-party presidential elections in 2008.
However, after losing the election to Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), divisions within the DRP led Gayoom to form a breakaway party – the PPM.
Following the controversial resignation of Nasheed in February this year – which resulted in former Vice President Waheed taking up the presidency – the MDP have campaigned relentlessly for early elections.
President Waheed maintains that he is bound by the constitution, which mandates that polls be held no earlier than July 2013, as well as stating repeatedly his belief that further legislation is needed to prepare the country for fresh elections.
“We do not have a legal frame work for a coalition government. And, unless we put these basic building blocks of legislation in place, we will face the same problems again,” he told The Hindu last week.
“What’s the point of having an election if you haven’t solved some of these problems?” he asked.
“Those who have been demanding early elections before the end of the year now realise that it was premature…We have a Constitution. I will uphold that Constitution,” he told The Hindu.
Back in April, the US government pledged US$500,000 (MVR7.7 million) for an elections programme to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.