The incipient Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) began a recruitment drive at Dharubaaruge convention centre this morning to collect 3,000 signatures needed to officially register the party.
The Elections Commission (EC) approved the request to form the party last week after verifying an initial 50 application forms and authorised the fledgling party to begin recruiting members.
Briefing press at the convention centre today, Dunya Maumoon, eldest child of party figurehead and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said that the party’s target for the first day of official recruitment was to sign up 3,000 members by 12:00am.
“The registration will go ahead until 12 tonight. Everyone is invited to come and sign for the party,” she said. “Our hope is that the party will become a good and strong party.”
MP Ahmed Mahlouf – one of seven MPs who quit the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to form the Progressive Party after months of factional strife – said that the registration process was delayed due to the tragic drowning incident of four school children and the principal of Hiriya School on Friday.
The registration forms will be submitted to the EC at the beginning of next week, he said, adding that his “personal target” was to sign up 40,000 members to the party.
The MP for Galolhu South claimed that senior members of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had joined the party.
The recruitment drive is going ahead at present only in Male’, Vili-Male’ and Hulhumale’, Mahlouf said.
Dunya added that the party would establish a mechanism to collect registration forms from the atolls in the coming days.
The DRP has meanwhile informed the party’s former ‘Zaeem’ or ‘Honorary Leader’ Gayoom that his name has been omitted from the registry upon request. Gayoom announced last week that he had left the party he had formed in July, 2005.
Reports meanwhile surfaced in local media today that allegations of corruption had been lodged at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) against MPs Mahlouf, Ahmed Ilham and Ahmed Nihan Hussein Manik.
Haveeru reported that Mahlouf was accused of owning the “Jeans Shop” in Male’, issuing cheques to take large sums from politicians, and falsifying his annual financial statement.
Ilham was meanwhile accused of involvement in illegal businesses in Sri Lanka owned by MP Abdulla Yameen, who has announced his intention to contest in the party’s presidential primary.
Nihan was accused of purchasing a Demio brand car and 8181 vanity plate or domain.
The three MPs played a prominent part in the breakaway Z-faction in its struggle against the DRP leadership.
“I want to say that I will definitely try to get some money from the person who is trying to defame me,” said Mahlouf. “If I was greedy for money, I would be at MDP now. I have said in the media before that we have been repeatedly offered large sums to join the MDP.”
The allegations were “a joke”, said Mahlouf, as accusing Nihan of owning a car and Ilham of traveling to Sri Lanka did not amount to corruption.
Mahlouf claimed that according to information he received the complaint was filed at the ACC by former DRP MPs Ali Waheed, Alhan Fahmy and Abdulla Abdul Raheem. All three had defected to the ruling party.
“We’re talking about people who have been sold,” he said. “In addition, there is a hand of [DRP Leader Ahmed] Thasmeen [Ali] in this.”
The “Jeans Shop” was a family business owned jointly by his mother, father and two siblings, Mahlouf said, and that “it is not owned by me.”
Ilham meanwhile said that his family lived in Sri Lanka and he visited regularly for holidays and medical treatment.
“I don’t do business and have never done any business in the past,” he said, claiming that the person who filed the case at the ACC had apologised to him and admitted to “doing it for money.”