Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has been endorsed as leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and its presidential candidate, during the party’s third annual congress.
841 delegates out of 882 attending voted for the proposal by the party’s council to automatically make the DRP’s leader its presidential candidate. A further proposal put forward by Umar Naseer and Aneesa Ahmed calling for a primary election was overruled as it was contradictory.
Yesterday evening, during a dinner for DRP supporters, former party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said the party “must unite and work in the spirit of democracy.”
”The DRP should be a party that does not fear to debate democratically,” he said. ”It should be a party that believes having different minds and different thoughts is democratic, and should work united.”
Gayoom said the party had to realise that “obeying the will of the majority is the spirit of democracy.”
Gayoom previously endorsed Thasmeen as his successor during his announcement that he was retiring from politics. Thasmeen was then elected leader by default as no other member of the party stood against him.
However Naseer, former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and DRP member, said that Thasmeen “must not [automatically] be the DRP’s candidate for the presidential election; it has to be taken by a vote.”
Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told newspaper Miadhu that the DRP would not be democratic or successful if it continued its “clan-style” decision making, noting that the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has “by far the best internal democracy in the country”.
MPs from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), including MP Ahmed Easa, had criticised Thasmeen’s automatic election as “undemocratic”, particularly after Gayoom’s public endorsement.
“It’s unbelievable that nobody else stood up for the DRP leadership,” Easa commented.
Two days after Thasmeen’s election as leader, president of coalition party People’s Alliance (PA) Abdullah Yameen, widely believed to have leadership ambitions, sued Thasmeen for debts of US$100,000 in the civil court. The DRP however quashed speculation that the DRP-PA coalition was under strain.
DRP spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef confirmed that Yaameen was invited to the congress but did not attend.
Last night Gayoom rallied the party, telling the assembled congress that the party should remain united, “even though I am no longer the party’s leader.”
”DRP is a national tree growing up from a seed we buried, and to water and provide food for the tree is a responsibility of all the members,” he said.
The DRP should boost the role of its MPs in parliament and ensure the party continued to have wide appeal, he suggested, while pursuing the goal of winning the next presidential election.
DRP MP Ali Waheed said Gayoom’s words were still in his ears.
”He showed us the example, we all will follow him,” he said. ”We will do our best to work united and reach our goals.”
After the congress the DRP would start its journey to win the next presidential election, he said.
DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said the party was encouraged by Gayoom’s words.
”We will reach our targets within the next leadership,” he said, ” and walk on the path Gayoom showed us. Gayoom is the founder of DRP, 98 per cent of it belongs to him.”
Umar Naseer, a candidate for DRP’s vice presidency, said he was very encouraged by the speech, and if elected “would give all my will to follow Gayoom’s advice.”
”Even if I lose, I will not stop our work,” he said.
Ibrahim Shareef said the party would work as much as it could to follow Gayoom’s advice.
”Without a doubt we would win the next presidential election,” he said. “Half of the people who voted for MDP are now against them.”
He responded to Shaheed’s description of the party as “clan-like” by calling him a ”political prostitute”, with ”words that do not have any political weight.”
MDP spokesman Ahmed Haleem said the MDP had closely watched the DRP congress and noted that ”Gayoom’s brother Yameen was missing.”
That meant the DRP was now in control of Thasmeen, he said.
”I think the next leadership of DRP will be great,” Haleem said, ” Thasmeen is a very talented person and he is very democratic.”