The Jumhoree Party (JP) has said “many more MPs” are expected to pledge support to its leader, MP Gasim Ibrahim, following the conclusion of the upcoming presidential election – claiming an unspecified number have already pledged to work with the party.
The claims were made as the JP, held its first major event in the capital in order to publicise an election alliance formed with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).
Minivan News witnessed several thousand people in attendance at yesterday’s event, which saw several speakers including Gasim take to a specially constructed stage to address supporters and confirm that MP Ahmed Rasheed has switched to the party from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
The rally was held in the same location, where the MDP staged a meeting on Monday (August 12) to bring several thousand supporters together both as a show of strength and to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Black Friday in 2004.
Both parties events this week appeared to have been similarly attended, with MDP sources estimating that around 6000 seats had been set out for supporters during its rally.
With the election scheduled for September 7 – three weeks from today – JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal said that yesterday’s rally was planned as a “major event” to show the support base behind the Jumhoree coalition.
Speaking during the event, Gasim dismissed criticisms of his wealth by rival candidates in the election, adding that none of his competitors could be described as poor men.
He also pledged with his hand on the Quran that he would not take the smallest amount of funds from the public “against the constitution”.
Other speakers during the event slammed former President Mohamed Nasheed, accusing his administration of irreligious policies.
According to customs records for 2011, Gasim’s Villa Hotels chain – including the Royal, Paradise, Sun, and Holiday Island resorts, in 2011 imported approximately 121,234.51 litres of beer, 2048 litres of whiskey, 3684 litres of vodka and 219.96 kilograms of pork sausages, among other commodities restricted to islands classified as ‘uninhabited’ in the Maldives.
Speaking today, Ajmal claimed the party unofficially estimated some 10,000 to 15,000 attended the event, with some 20,000 supporters said to have been invited – although he believed not all had been able to travel from across the country.
He added that the JP had not itself provided boats to bring supporters to Male’ for the rally, opting instead to provide fuel for transportation and some unspecified “facilities” for supporters when they reached the capital.
With MP Ahmed Rasheed having now joined the JP, Ajmal claimed that many more parliamentarians were “trying to work” with the party, though declined to give further details to media at time of press.
“These names have not yet been finalised. Because of the political situation at present, we will wait until after the election, though there are many MPs working with us,” he said today.
In the build up to next month’s scheduled voting, Ajmal said the JP had several further campaign plans that would be divulged at a later date.
He added that the JP remained confident it would achieve a comfortable second round election victory should no candidate obtain 51 per cent of the first round of voting.
However, Ajmal said that based on the strength of the country’s internal polling and research, there was growing optimism that Gasim could claim the presidency during the first round on the strength of what it perceived was growing grass roots support across the country.
“Our vice presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed said last night that it was reasonable to believe that if we work hard and continue with our great momentum, we might achieve 51 percent [in the first round],” he said.
PPM anticipates two candidate contest
Despite the JP’s confidence ahead of the election, the government-aligned PPM earlier this month maintained that former President Mohamed Nasheed of the MDP and its candidate, Abdulla Yameen, were the only two candidates capable of winning the election.
PPM MP Ahmed Nihan at the time dismissed any notion that the JP posed a threat to its own presidential campaign, accusing Gasim of using his financial power to buy support during his campaigning that would not translate to actual votes on polling day.
The MDP meanwhile has this week reiterated its belief that a first round victory was possible, with the PPM receiving the second largest number of votes, while expecting President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Gasim to finish in third and fourth place.
“The PPM I believe will come second because it is led by the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He will obviously have loyal supporters,” MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said this week.
“But it may be a different story when it comes to recruiting their young support base. Apart from Gayoom, both Gasim and even Waheed are using money to get votes.”
Ghafoor described the current election politics as a battle between the past and the future, claiming the MDP’s three opponents were proxies of former President Gayoom’s 30 year reign and had nothing new to offer to the people.
Sources within President Waheed’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition have over the last week also expressed confidence of being able to obtain a first round election win despite expressing concern over a “money game” it alleged was being played by certain candidates.