President Dr Mohamed Waheed has obtained the 1,500 signatures required to register himself as an independent candidate in the upcoming election, his ‘forward with the nation’ coalition has said.
Amidst the possibility of his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) facing dissolution for not having the 10,000 members required to officially register a political entity in the Maldives, President Waheed this week announced his intention to stand for election as an independent candidate.
The incumbent will stand as an independent alongside his running mate, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – leader of the government aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).
Candidates unaffiliated with a political party are required to submit signatures of at least 1,500 supporters with their official application to stand in the upcoming presidential election, according to local media.
In order to meet this total, President Waheed held a signing ceremony at the presidential residence of Hilaaleege in Male’ on Wednesday (July 17) evening.
Minivan News observed an estimated 200 people present at the ceremony by around 10:00pm, where the president’s family members and news reporters were seen mingling with supporters. The signing event concluded at midnight.
In a statement released Thursday ( July 18 ), the ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ claimed it had seen an “overwhelming response” from the public to sign the petition backing President Waheed’s candidacy, with over 500 people attending the ceremony during the course of Wednesday evening.
“While we have already exceeded the legal minimum we will continue to sign up supporters in the coming days,” the statement said.
Minivan News understands that President Waheed also conducted a door to door campaign to obtain signatures for his candidacy, with the coalition anticipating similar event will continue into next week. An exact number of signatories was not received at time of press.
President’s Waheed’s coalition until last week consisted of several government-aligned parties; including the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), the DRP and his own GIP.
However, the DQP yesterday announced it would be following the AP in leaving the president’s coalition to back the campaign of resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim instead.
DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom has said the defection of both the AP and the DQP from the ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ “did not change the game at all” in terms of its strategy to secure the election during a second round of voting.
A second round will be held between the top two candidates during polls scheduled for September 7 should either fail to secure at least 51 percent of the vote.
“We know that the 2013 election will require a second round of voting and that all candidates wish to be in the grand final. We are optimistic that we will be in this final,” he said.
Mausoom has previously claimed that the DRP – both as an individual party, and later as members of President Waheed’s coalition – remained the main alternative viewpoint for voters disenfranchised by the “polarised views” of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) or the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Dr Mausoom added that even with the defection of the Adhaalath and the DQP, President Waheed still presented a coalition of people rather than individual parties, with more “political figures” expected to come out and back him before voting commences later this year.
He therefore said the coalition was confident it would still appeal to voters as alternative to MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nashhed and the PPM, led by former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The MDP and PPM presently represent the country’s two largest parties in terms of parliamentary representation.
While anticipating “moments” in the run up to the presidential election where political figures – either out of financial or ideological reasons – would switch to rival candidates and parties, Mausoom said it would ultimately be the general public who decided on the next president. He argued that Dr Waheed’s record as president following last year’s controversial transfer of power would therefore be recognised by voters during polling.
“President Waheed has done a wonderful job of keeping the government together and shown what a great leader he is,” Dr Mausoom said. “Things are going to plan and we are confident during the second round [of voting] that the people will opt for [the coalition].”
However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today rejected claims that the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition would receive sufficient support to see President Waheed elected to office.
MDP MP and Spokesperson claimed that the majority of voters would opt to reject President Waheed as a candidate owing to the controversial transfer of power that brought him to power and the conduct of his coalition government since. The MDP has continued to allege that former President Nasheed’s government was ended prematurely by a “coup d’eat” on February 7, 2012 following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.
“The bottom line is people will vote overwhelmingly against the coup. It is regrettable [President Waheed] is still hanging on,” he said. “Pretender Waheed has already cost the state upwards of a billion US dollars since the coup.”
Meanwhile, the PPM announced this week that no formal decision had yet been taken on whether to retract its support for the coalition government, despite growing “complaints” from its members over the conduct of President Waheed.
MP Ahmed Nihan today told Minivan News that both the PPM’s senior leadership and ordinary members held significant “concerns” over the conduct of President Waheed in the build up to this year’s presidential election, with the party accusing the incumbent and his supporters of unfair campaigning.
The PPM is the largest party in terms of MP numbers presently serving within the coalition government backing President Waheed.