Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – have met Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, seeking the third-placed candidate’s endorsement ahead of Saturday’s presidential run-off.
Speaking to press after meeting the MDP leaders at his residence in Male’ last night, Gasim said the party’s presidential candidate had also called asking for his support in the poll against PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen.
“I said [to Nasheed] we have made our statement on behalf of our party. There have been no further developments to say anything at the moment against our statement, [which was] to not support any presidential candidate, under the present circumstances. Nonetheless, we are close friends, we are not enemies,” Gasim said.
Nasheed emerged the frontrunner in the November 9 revote with 46.93 percent while Yameen polled 29.73 percent. The JP candidate finished third with 23.34 percent of the vote.
As no candidate reached the required 50 percent plus one vote, a run-off election has been scheduled for November 16.
While Gasim announced on Sunday night (November 10) that the JP council had decided not to back either candidate, he told reporters last night that “everything is subject to change”.
“Not that I’m saying it will change. What they mentioned is a request of theirs. Each of us should believe that taking the right steps always after thinking about the nation is the best way. So what I have to say is that I can’t make a definite statement, even personally on my own, at the moment,” said Gasim.
“But there are possibilities of saying later what I wish or think, isn’t there? So there is no enmity. There is close friendship. With everyone. There is no personal problem,” he said.
Meeting with Gayoom
In a message aired on his Villa Television on Sunday, Gasim had said the JP had decided not to back either candidate “because, based on past experiences, people who worked to bring [a candidate] to power gets blamed and feels shame due to certain things that the president does while in power.”
The JP national council reportedly voted against a proposal to support the PPM candidate.
PPM candidate Yameen had visited Gasim shortly before the provisional results were announced and claimed at a press conference that Gasim “has expressed his support for us.” The party told local media yesterday that it was still hoping to persuade Gasim to back its candidate in the run-off.
Gasim received former President Gayoom at his residence this afternoon and told the press that he would ask the JP council to reconsider its decision not to support either candidate.
Gayoom told reporters that respect for Gasim among the public would increase if he decided to endorse Yameen.
Referring to Nasheed’s appearance on the state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) last night, during which he defended the party’s Islamic credentials, Gasim said that the MDP candidate had dispelled “doubts and suspicions concerning Islam.”
“He has said that Islamic norms and principles will be followed in his government. That was something that people had been talking about repeatedly. He has cleared up something that we had also misconceived,” he said.
Speaker Shahid – who joined the MDP in April – thanked Gasim for his remarks.
“False allegations” regarding religion had been made against the MDP to create doubts among the public, Shahid said.
MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih noted that the party “began our efforts for reform with Gasim.”
“What we learned after today’s discussion is that we can work with Gasim again like we did before. Both sides have that assurance. There is no difference between our thinking and ideology to develop the country and Gasim’s,” he said.
Gasim concurred with the Hinnavaru MP and noted that he had “praised President Nasheed’s economic policy,” which was “nearly identical” to the JP’s policy.
“I would like to believe that I am more of a reformist than a politician,” he added.
Gasim was a founder member of the MDP and served as the Speaker of the Special Majlis convened in June 2004 to revise the constitution.
Following his brief imprisonment on August 13, 2004 in the wake of a crackdown on an unprecedented pro-democracy gathering, Gasim was appointed finance minister during the final years of President Gayoom’s 30-year reign.
Gasim resigned from Gayoom’s cabinet in July 2008 saying he did not want to take the blame for failed budgets and ran for president on the JP ticket.
After coming fourth in the first multi-party democratic election in October 2008, Gasim backed MDP candidate Nasheed against the incumbent.
However, the MDP-led coalition quickly disintegrated and Gasim resigned as Nasheed’s home minister 21 days into the new administration.
Speaking in a TVM programme on October 14 about pro-government parties fielding one candidate against Nasheed, Gasim said a survey of his supporters showed that 60 percent would not vote for Yameen even if he endorsed the PPM candidate.