The defection of Thimarafushi MP Ahmed Shareef to President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) on Monday was a “betrayal”, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan has declared.
Nihan said that with rumours circulating over the last two to three weeks concerning Shareef’s planned defection, PPM members within Thimarafushi were concerned about the MP’s move, as well as expressing wider criticisms about the conduct of President Waheed and the GIP.
However, he stressed that the PPM remained “very much committed” to the coalition government backing President Waheed. The present government came to power following the controversial transfer of power on February 7 last year, which saw President Mohamed Nasheed resign from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.
Nihan said following Shareef’s decision to defect from the party, rumours continued to circulate that another PPM MP was potentially considering joining with President Waheed ahead of September’s scheduled elections.
He said that the PPM was committed to supporting President Waheed’s government “for the sake of the nation”, despite calls from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) earlier this month to support an interim government ahead of September’s elections in order to secure “free and fair” voting.
“I strongly believe that PPM will continue to [President Waheed’s] government, but at the end of the day [the GIP] are the ones who are playing games here,” he said.
Despite the party pledging its ongoing support to the current government, the PPM has publicly levelled some criticisms at President Waheed this month about his alleged use of state resources for campaigning, as well as his decision to sack Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as home minister.
The government at the time claimed that Jameel’s position was terminated over his decision to stand directly against President Waheed in September’s election as running mate to PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, which it claimed has created a conflict of interest.
Yameen was later quoted during a PPM rally that cabinet ministers in a coalition government are not obliged to assist the president’s election campaign.
He also claimed that PPM has not been given the number of government posts promised by Dr Waheed more than a year ago with the formation of the coalition government.
Nihan claimed that despite these concerns, the PPM had continued to back President Waheed’s government, adding that with the party having the second highest number of MPs within parliament behind the MDP, it had “defended” the president government in a number of crucial votes of late.
“Since February 7, 2012, we have been the key party in securing votes for Dr Waheed,” he said, adding that the “majority” of supporters who had welcomed President Waheed to various islands would have been members of the PPM.
However, with the defection of MP Shareef to GIP, Nihan claimed that that the party and its supporters would be concerned should any more of its elected representatives be asked to join the GIP.
“We hope [Presdent Waheed] will not take any more MPs from the party,” he said.
Speaking to local media today on his decision to defect to the GIP, MP Shareef said he had opted to change parties in a move he said would “most benefit” his constituents.
“I have decided to join President Waheed’s party. The party will carry out the arrangements,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.
GIP Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls at time of press. Meanwhile, Minivan News was awaiting a response from the coalition’s media team on Shareef’s decision.
Ahead of September’s election, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has announced that it will join the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed.
Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) currently has 3,930 registered members while the DRP has 21,411 members, according to the Elections Commission (EC). The DRP is also the third largest party in parliament while the GIP has no representation in either the legislature or local councils.
The government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) meanwhile announced earlier this month that no decision has been made on whether to join a coalition backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September’s election, as it prepares to officially choose its presidential candidate and leader.