Vice President of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and recently elected President of Football Association of Maldives (FAM), MP Ilham Ahmed, has said he may consider competing in the party’s upcoming presidential primary.
The Gemanafushi constituency MP told Minivan News he was considering contesting in the primary, but declined to give any details claiming that he had already given information to media.
Ilham told local media Haveeru that several supporters had called him and requested he contest.
Other candidates for the party’s presidential candidate include former Vice President of PPM Umar Naseer and PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Yameen – half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The PPM has previously said the primary will take place at the end of February although a specific date is yet to be announced.
“I am very seriously considering all the possibilities,” Ilham told Haveeru.
He also said his decision to potentially contest the primaries was not intended to split votes and defeat another candidate, as his competing would not disadvantage other contenders, he claimed.
“If a three candidate formula comes up in the primaries, it will be the ordinary party members who will make a decision,” he said.
He added that his presidential slogan would be “100 percent islanders’ presidency” or “vote for the 100 percent island man”, should he contest.
“When I compete for the presidential primary, people will consider whether to vote for candidates belonging to the capital Male’, or an islander,” he said.
Ilham further claimed it was a trait of “human nature” to always seek higher positions, and that he was no different.
“I also have the right to contest the primary. I am the Vice President of one of the largest political parties in the country. The largest association in the country is FAM. I have been elected the FAM president. Therefore I also have that interest to go for a higher post. That is human nature,” he said.
“When I am already elected as Vice President of PPM and President of FAM, people will obviously ask me to contest in the PPM primary and give me their support,” he added.
Ilham said it is very important that a presidential candidate of PPM maintain a good relationship with other government-aligned parties, suggesting that it was very difficult to predict who those parties would support in the event of a run-off election.
He added that the only way for PPM to win the election in the first round was to seek the support of other government-aligned parties including business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP), Dr Hassan Saeed’s Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).
“We need to have a very good relationship with [other coalition parties]. It is important not to attack them on podiums and other political platforms. A coalition agreement is only possible if we have a good working relationship [with them]. I refuse to rule out the possibility that any of them may join forces with former President Mohamed Nasheed,” he said.
He also contended that his age and lack of experience were not a challenge to a government, should he be elected as president.
“I believe that being 36 years-old means I am very young. But, by the will of Allah, if I get elected as president, I would not be alone. I would also have a very tough team. That means, when I become president, current Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim would remain in his position. Current Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb will be given the same position. Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad will also stay in his position,” Ilham said.
Team Umar welcomes Ilham as a contender
Speaking to Minivan News, Senior member of Team Umar and PPM Youth Wing President Ibrahim Nazim said Umar’s team would welcome Ilham as a challenge should he decide to contest in the primaries.
“The PPM is a very open and a democratic party. We welcome any potential contenders. It shows the strength of the party’s internal democracy,” he said.
However, Nazim said that according to feedback from party members, Umar Naseer is the only candidate who would be able to win the primaries and that his team was expecting a “landslide” victory.
“The only person who can beat Umar Naseer is former President Gayoom. Even Ilham has his supporters too, but he will not be able to beat Umar Naseer,” he said.
According to Nazim, Umar Naseer is backed by a large majority of grass root members and members who have backed former President Gayoom since the formation of political parties in the country.
Nazim also alleged that some people are joining PPM with the sole intention of electing a certain candidate, but said that those tactics would be useless given Umar’s support base.
MP Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who is also contesting the primaries – was not responding to calls at time of press.