The Elections Commission (EC) has said that it still considers Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to be the leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) despite a technicality that dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer claims disqualifies him from the position for failing to report the minutes of the party congress at which he was appointed.
Naseer made the claims yesterday in a text message sent to local media, alleging Thasmeen’s apparent failure to submit the minutes of the 2010 party congress to the EC within 15 days.
According to the message, this means that under party rules, Thasmeen should no longer officially be recognised by the commission as the party head.
An EC spokesperson claimed that although the party had failed to submit the minutes and recordings of last year’s DRP congress, during which it outlined its current leadership as required under its regulations, the commission did not have the mandate to disqualify Thasmeen from his appointment on such grounds.
“Thasmeen has failed to submit the minutes of 2010 DRP Congress to the Elections Commission within 15 days as stipulated by ‘Siyaasee Party ge Qavaaidh 2005,’” Umar claimed in a release sent by SMS. “It means that as far as the (EC) is concerned, Thasmeen is not the leader of the DRP.”
Umar Naseer, Thasmeen and fellow DRP MP Ahmed Maussom were either unavailable or unwilling to comment on the issue when contacted by Minivan News.
However, DRP MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that claims that Thasmeen could no longer be considered as the head of the DRP first surfaced yesterday evening in a report by local media organisation SunFM.
Nihan, citing SunFM, claimed that under the EC’s own mandate, details and a recording of the national congress held by the party to approve new leadership needed to be sent to the regulatory body within 15 days of the event being held.
The DRP MP claimed this still had not happened so far, representing a “clear breach” of party regulation by its leader.
Nihan, himself a supporter of the Z-DRP faction of the party that is critical of Thasmeen’s leadership, said he believed the matter was not just an administrative error and had serious implications for the party.
“This is very serious, the smallest matter can often have the largest consequence and the EC must find a way to solve the issue,” he said. “We [as a party] must do things according to laws and procedure and Thasmeen should be accountable for his mismanagement.”
In addressing the EC’s claims that it could not remove Thasmeen for failing to supply minutes from the congress, Nihan claimed that the body should also probe the DRP leader for potentially breaking the party’s laws and regulations.
The MP added that although he had not received any official notice that the DRP’s leadership were meeting about the matter, as a council member for the party he expected an official response from the Thasmeen’s side by the evening. “I’m sure a meeting will have taken place today about this, but I have no details,” he said.
Addressing the claims, EC Vice President Ahmed Hassan Fayaz told Minivan News that although he was aware of a clause in the party’s existing regulations relating to supplying official minutes to the commission, the EC did not have authority to strip a party leader of his position.
“When you to fail to inform the EC of a party decision such as a leadership, we cannot reject that person’s authority, it doesn’t work like that,” he said. “For example, when someone is born, if health authorities are not informed of the birth it does not mean that the child does not exist.”
Fayaz claimed that Thasmeen’s appointment at the congress, which was supported by Gayoom before he became openly critical of his successor earlier this year, had been witnessed by hundreds of party delegates as well as covered by local media ensuring that it was well-documented decision.
The EC vice president said that the issue was therefore an internal party issue for members.
“Perhaps the party secretariat failed to provide the minutes [within the deadline],” he said. Fayaz claimed that the DRP regulations relating to submission of the minutes did not give the EC the power to remove the party’s leader from his post. “If a formal complaint was made over the issue than we would look into it,” he said. “However, it would more be in a manner where we would offer advice to the party on how to proceed with this matter. We cannot dictate to the DRP about leadership if it has failed to inform us of its minutes.”
The claims that Thasmeen should no longer be registered as the head of the DRP reflect an increasingly bitter divide between two different factions that are contesting to represent themselves as the country’s main opposition party to the public.
Umar Naseer’s dismissal by the party last December led to factional infighting in the party between the serving leader and other MPs loyal to Naseer and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who founded the party back in 2005.
Since then, each of these factions has engaged in criticism of each other resulting in threats of potential legal action and separate presidential bids.