Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf has hit out at opposition politicians switching their allegiances for financial gain, claiming he too was offered a bribe to defect.
Mahlouf claimed that he had been “personally told” that Ali Waheed would be switching his political allegiance for money, and further alleged that he had himself been offered US$2 million to join and vote in favour of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
“I don’t believe selling myself is a choice, but ever since I have known some of these MPs they have always wanted money,” he said.
Mahlouf alleged that it was only Ali Waheed who had taken money to join the MDP – a move he claimed was a coup for the country’s governing party.
“[Waheed] was loved by the DRP, but now that he’s gone he is nobody,” Mahlouf said. “President Nasheed will have the same feeling, so this is a good deal.”
Mahouf said that although the defections, which come as a number of DRP parliamentarians have switched sides in parliament, was a sad development for opposition supporters. However he said he believed it was on the other hand a positive development in regards to the loyalty of the remaining politicians.
The DRP MP’s allegations of bribes being used to entice opposition politicians to switch parties were refuted by MDP spokesperson Ahmed Haleem, who claimed that Ali Waheed’s defection reflected political ambition and not financial concern.
Haleem added that although it remains essential for the MDP to obtain a political majority in parliament to pass a reform agenda blocked by partisan opposition majority, recent defections by MPs including the former DRP Deputy Leader were made on political principal and not bribes.
“Ali Waheed and Abdu Raheem – these are young ambitious people that are not part of the Gayoom regime. The MDP is the country’s only true democratic party, unlike the DRP which is more like a family organisation,” he claimed. “Waheed has a future in politics in this country and I believe he is a clean guy. So while we need a parliamentary majority for the MDP, we do not want to be spending money we don’t have to get it. This is politics, not a football transfer market.”
Questioned over whether some MDP supporters would be sceptical of the intentions of a former opposition MP like Ali Waheed, who in his first speech as an MDP member last week accepted he had been “critical” of President Nasheed and his government in the past, Haleem said he believed members were overall happy at the defection.
“I think all MDP supporters will be very happy, our members are determined in that they want change in this country,” he said.
The DRP has attracted significant local media attention in recent months with factional infighting between supporters of serving leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. One reason for the strife, according to Mahlouf, was division over how to respond to the government’s financial reform program and decision to devalue the rufiyaa against the US dollar.
Speaking at rallies and gatherings held this week against government economic reforms, following a week of protests earlier this month in Male’, Mahlouf, who is linked to the Z-DRP faction of the party, said that the so-called “youth movement” behind the protests had decided to give the government time to try and address financial concerns before resuming demonstrations.
Haleem meanwhile claimed that while the protests had lost momentum due to a growing public acceptance and understanding of the need for economic changes bought forward by President Mohamed Nasheed, as well as the “weakening” of the DRP.
“I think you will find that 99 percent of people are fed up with the DRP, even three of the party’s members have [defected],” Haleem said. “People are accepting that financial changes are needed and the president has been stating these aims more clearly. We are a civilised country and we need direct taxation – such as the tourism general service tax (TGST) – the President is not just changing the political but also the economic situation in the Maldives.”
Speaking last night during a rally held at the artificial beach area of Male’, Mahlouf claimed that demonstrations held over the last few days had been organised by Thasmeen’s supporters and a number of local NGOs rather than the “youth movement” that had instigated protests earlier in the month.
“We need to be responsible politicians right now and protesting every night is not the only solution to the economic issues,” he said. “We did a good job supporting the protesters, but it’s time to give some time to the government to try and make changes before we consider more protests.”
Addressing crowds of DRP supporters during last night’s gathering, which he said had drawn “huge crowds”, Mahlouf used his speech to attack the recent defection of a number of DRP politicians such as Ali Waheed to the MDP cause, as the party of President Nasheed seeks to entrench its long-sought parliamentary majority.