Interim Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer has said that he and Parliamentary Group Leader MP Yameen Abdul Gayoom are the most likely candidates to contest the party’s primary elections scheduled for February 2013.
The presidential Primary of the PPM is scheduled to take place after its congress. Since its formation in October 2011, the government-aligned PPM has postponed its national congress on three occasions, despite having a charter of regulations stipulating that a congress must be held within six months of registration.
In October this year, local daily Haveeru reported that that the party cited “political turmoil” as the reason for the delays.
Naseer’s remarks about standing in the upcoming party primaries comes at a time when current interim leader of PPM, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has also highlighted the possibility of his running for re-election.
Both Naseer and Yameen Abdul Gayoom was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told Indian newspaper The Hindu yesterday (December 11) that he may consider contesting in a presidential election presently expected to be held in August or September next year.
“Things change very frequently. So I am keeping my options open,” Gayoom was quoted as saying. “[If I run] it won’t be out of my choice, if ever, it will be out of compulsion. Because I feel I have served the country for 30 years and I feel it is up to other people [now].” Gayoom reiterated that he preferred not to run.
Speaking to local Newspaper Haveeru about the comments, Umar Naseer said that Gayoom had the right to contest for re-election in the next presidential elections – a decision he believed would make the country’s former autocratic ruler the “obvious top candidate” to finish the race.
“I would definitely back Gayoom if he is to contest the elections. He is our ‘ace of spades’. You cannot say that the ace of spades is not the ace of spades,” he said.
Naseer suggested that if Gayoom ruled out his intention to “come back to power”, it would undermine potential public excitement ahead of the primary vote.
“If he says he won’t contest the elections that would mean the ace of spades becoming two of diamonds, doesn’t it?” he added.
Umar Naseer previously contested the 2008 presidential election under the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and was defeated after winning just 1.39 percent of the vote in the first round – a total of 2,472 votes. Following the defeat, Naseer at the time refused to support another candidate.
Local media and senior politicians have previously speculated that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan could also be a potential PPM candidate to stand in next year’s general elections.
However, Gayoom, in his most recent interview with the Hindu newspaper, suggested that such a development could only happen if the president joined his party.
Gayoom has previously welcomed the prospect of President Waheed competing in a primary for the party’s ticket.
“The president, or anyone else, can join PPM if they want, and if they win the [party’s] primary, they will become our presidential candidate,” he said at the time.
PPM Deputy Naseer has himself echoed similar sentiments about the possibility of the president standing for the PPM whilst speaking at a rally in May. The comments were made despite previous statements that President Waheed would not stand for re-election.
President Waheed himself, in an interview given to the Hindu, said that he was “contemplating” running for a “second term” in office, but said that a final decision on the matter would be taken at a later date.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed – who defeated Gayoom in the 2008 presidential election with 54 percent of the vote to Gayoom’s 45 percent – said at a rally last month that he believed President Waheed will become PPM’s presidential candidate with Gayoom’s backing.
Nasheed alleged that his former vice president held secret consultations with the PPM figurehead before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7.
“Dr Waheed has been scheming with President Maumoon for about two years, that I know of,” he said. “Sometimes in an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll, other times in Alivaage [Gayoom’s former residence]. They have been discussing and talking in different places. Anyone who thinks of carrying out a coup d’etat will know that one thing you need for it is a disloyal vice president.”
Uncertainty remains over what potential plans President Waheed may have for the elections presently scheduled for next year.
President of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) Sheikh Imran Abdulla has previously called on all government-aligned political parties to unite and back a single candidate, preferably President Waheed as an ‘umbrella-candidate’.