Additional reporting by Ismail Humaam Hamid and Mohamed Saif Fathih
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) marched in Malé last night in a bid to rally supporters for a massive demonstration on February 27.
MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the February 27 gathering would usher in “a second February 7,” referring to the day former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned in 2012 following a police and army mutiny.
The allied opposition parties claim the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has repeatedly violated the constitution. They have held nightly protests since February 11 calling on President Abdulla Yameen to resign. The PPM has described the protests as an attempt to disrupt the peace and dismissed the opposition’s claims as baseless.
“When a government oversteps its bounds, the public must stand up. We must come out tomorrow night as well. Especially on February 27, the second February 7, everyone must come out onto the streets, with their families, as if it were an Eid,” Waheed told reporters.
Opposition supporters, led by MDP’s Nasheed and JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, set out from Usfasgandu at 8:30 pm, circled the city of Malé and stopped at police barricades in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority building.
Four opposition supporters carrying MDP flags were arrested from the Republican Square after the march ended at 1:00am.
Speaking to reporters last night, Nasheed said Yameen’s administration had lost all legitimacy with the JP’s recent split from the coalition.
“There is no support for President Yameen. We believe Maldives needs fresh elections,” he said.
Gasim told reporters the JP had been forced to the streets to establish justice and end executive influence on independent institutions.
“I believe in a government of the people by the people,” he said.
As the opposition marched, the PPM held a rally at the Alimas Carnival in support of President Yameen and announced two MPs and 15 councilors had defected from the JP to the ruling party.
In the crowd
Businessmen Ali Hussein, 49, said he was protesting to prevent a slide into authoritarianism: “If we do not protest now, Yameen will do whatever he can to stay in power.”
Aishath Ismail, 32, concurred, saying “We have to get rid of the government for the sake of our children.” The opposition rallies represented the real public, she said, alleging a PPM march on Thursday evening had been attended by “paid thugs.”
The PPM’s 400-strong march prior to its evening rally, consisted mostly of young men wearing pink head bands. Some had their faces covered. Tourism Minister Adeeb said MDP labeled young men as thugs, and said only the elderly supported the opposition.
An Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital worker at the opposition rally who wished to remain anonymous said she was a loyal MDP supporter and had no issues working with JP supporters, despite their key role in Nasheed’s ouster in 2012.
“We can stomach it. Yameen’s government has no principles. They are robbing the people, they are all thieves,” she said.
Meanwhile, Latheef, a loyal supporter of Gasim said the “MDP and JP are the same, with similar ideologies, even if they fight from time to time.”
“The whole country is in ruins. How can Yameen rule when he is so frequently out of the country?”
MDP Chairperson Waheed described the turnout as “an encouragement” to all citizens and said 20,000 people would participate in the Feb 27 rally.
President Yameen last night called on Gasim to remember the events of February 7 and end his alliance with the MDP. He also warned Nasheed he would not hesitate to implement a jail sentence, referring to stalled criminal charges over the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
Yameen’s former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim is currently in police custody on charges of treason and terrorism.
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