JP open to negotiations with PPM, says Gasim

The Jumhooree Party (JP) is open to discussions with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) as the party does not believe the coalition agreement has been terminated, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim has said.

Speaking at a press conference at the JP headquarters in Malé yesterday (June 17), Gasim said he was pleased that President Abdulla Yameen had said that the parties could discuss problems with the coalition agreement, adding that the JP was ready to join discussions at a time and place of the PPM’s choosing.

“We are ready to go forward in the best interest’s of the nation’s peace and stability,” the business tycoon said.

Unlike other political arrangements, Gasim stressed that the coalition agreement between the parties was signed in the presence of witnesses with the signatories swearing by God to uphold the agreement.

“How can it be said that such an agreement has been dissolved without any just reason? I am certainly frightened that they decided that such an agreement has been dissolved,” the MP for Maamigili said, adding that he feared the “wrath of God” as a result of the PPM’s actions, which would affect “innocent people” as well.

He noted that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had signed the agreement on behalf of the PPM in his capacity as the party’s leader.

Gasim said that the JP has yet to be officially notified in writing of the termination of the coalition agreement.

The PPM had announced in a press statement that the party’s council decided unanimously on May 26 that the agreement “has been brought to an end by the Jumhooree Party as of today” after Gasim contested for the post of Majlis speaker.

Holding up the agreement and reading out clauses at the press conference, Gasim said that the PPM had so far not been able to explain which part of the agreement that the JP breached.

Gasim also contended that the PPM had violated the agreement by failing to either consult the coalition partner before nominating individuals to independent institutions – such as President Yameen’s nephew Maumoon Hameed for prosecutor general – or provide 33 percent of political posts in the executive as stipulated in the agreement.

Campaign trail

After initially announcing that the party would remain neutral, the JP’s council decided to endorse Yameen three days before the second round of the presidential polls on November 16 after JP candidate Gasim finished in third place in the first round with 23.37 percent of the vote.

Gasim claimed yesterday that he had spent MVR20 million on Yameen’s campaign ahead of the run-off polls on November 16 as the coalition agreement stated that the parties should support each other.

Gasim said he gave part of the money at the request of Yameen and his running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed while the rest was spent for JP members to visit islands on campaign trips.

Moreover, Gasim claimed to have spent a further MVR20 million for the PPM during the parliamentary election campaign.

“I sent an amount no less than MVR20 million to President Maumoon and President Yameen,” he said.

Of the coalition candidates to whom Gasim provided financial assistance, the JP leader said former MP for Kinbidhoo, Moosa Zameer, was the only PPM candidate to have lost.

Gasim went on to criticise the two JP MPs  – Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeed Abdul Gadhir and Nolhivaram MP Hussain Afeef – who signed for the ruling party this week, noting that the pair had signed an agreement under oath to remain in the JP until the end of their five-year terms.

He noted that members of coalition partners switching parties was a violation of the agreement.

Gasim said he had heard that the pair were given MVR10 million each to switch allegiances as well as suggesting that the MPs had told him the government had threatened to cease development projects in their constituencies.

Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed had also told the JP leader that they decided to sign for PPM as they could not continue their work without doing so, Gasim said.

JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed meanwhile argued that the ministers should have resigned from the cabinet before signing for the ruling party as the pair had been appointed to JP slots.


President’s coalition denies Adhaalath Party leadership “dissatisfied” with campaign

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) has yet to overtly raise concerns over the manner in which President Dr Mohamed Waheed is campaigning ahead of September’s presidential election, despite media reports suggesting the party is considering backing out of the coalition.

Abdulla Yazeed, a spokesperson on the media team of President Waheed’s election campaign, told Minivan News “no dissatisfaction” has been raised by the AP at a leadership level concerning its campaigning.

However, the spokesperson said media speculation over dissatisfaction by certain parties in the president’s coalition had seen the number of campaign activities increased.

The claims were made after the AP’s consultation council reportedly decided to leave the coalition if campaign activities did not pick up.

AP President Sheikh Imran Abdullah was quoted in local media as saying that the party’s consultation council held a meeting on Thursday (July 4) to discuss a motion submitted by three members concerning the AP’s future in the coalition.

“The consultation council decided tonight for the leadership to seek a solution because the coalition’s activities are not progressing and if a solution is not found that we might have to leave the coalition,” Imran was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru.

He added that the coalition’s campaign was at a standstill.

Responding to the claims, President Waheed’s Gaumee Itthihad Party (GIP) Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza yesterday told Sun Online that “some members of the AP” wished to remain in the coalition, a decision he claimed would be backed by the majority of the party.

Both Sheikh Imran and Abbas were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Coalition Spokesperson Yazeed told Minivan News that a number of campaign activities were already underway by the president’s supporters, including the recent launch of manifesto policies and a door-to-door meeting with the public both in Male’ and the outer atolls to bolster support for the president.

“The coalition has a member base of 45,000 – equivalent to that of the Maldivian democratic Party (MDP),” he claimed.

With President Waheed having departed on an official visit to Sri Lanka yesterday (July 5), his running mate, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, has been campaigning in Shaviyani Atoll in recent days.

Speaking at a rally on the island of Kanditheemu, Thasmeen was reported in local media as pledging that a Waheed government would establish pre-schools with adequate capacities and highly trained teachers on every inhabited island in the country. There are 196 inhabited islands in the Maldives.

Thasmeen and DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom were not responding to calls at time of press.

Meanwhile, current Housing Minister and AP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Muiz today took to social media service Twitter to express disappointment over not being informed of the tour of Shaviyani Atoll by other coalition members.

He later removed the tweet.

PPM criticism

President Waheed’s campaigning has also come under criticism from the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in recent months.

While the party has continued to support President Waheed as part of his coalition government, MP Ahmed Nihan last month said the PPM remained concerned at what it alleged was his continued use of state funds and resources to support campaigning for the coalition.

“This is our one crucial concern. President Waheed needs to facilitate a free and fair election,” he said.


Not much support from political parties to back one candidate in 2013 elections: ‘Madhanee Ihthihaadh’

‘Madhanee Ihthihaadh’, a coalition of NGOs, met with four of the smaller active political parties on Sunday to hold discussions regarding preparations for the 2013 presidential elections.

The smaller parties which attended this meeting were the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP), Maldives National Congress (MNC), Maldives social Democratic Party (MSDP) and People’s Party (PP).

According to the latest figures on the elections commission website, IDP has 3484 members, MNC has 1474, MSDP has 1897 and PP has 1730 members.

At a press conference held after the meeting, President of the NGO Coalition, Mohamed Didi, who is also the current Minister of State for Islamic Affairs, said that this was only the beginning of a series of meetings to come. He said that the meetings were centred around discussions in preparation for the 2013 presidential election.

“What we have been able to agree on so far is that we will continue having more meetings like this and that we can come up with more solutions on how to work together,” Didi said.

The NGO Coalition said today that there wasn’t much support from any political party for the idea of backing one single candidate in the 2013 elections. Didi also stated that they intended to continue discussing the idea with the larger political parties.

Vice President of the NGO Coalition and Minister of State for Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed said that he believed larger parties were reluctant to back a common presidential candidate because each party had plans to have their own candidate run in the elections.

“We tried as hard as we could to get all the larger parties to back a common candidate, but we are not getting as much cooperation from this government’s coalition as we had initially assumed,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed however said that this decision by the parties was acceptable in a democratic society, and that the parties may be acting in line with the wishes of its’ members.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom has previously said that there is a possibility that President Waheed could be PPM’s presidential candidate for 2013.

The current unity government has members from the President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP), Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP), Qaumee Party (QP) and the NGO Coalition.

PPM, JP and DRP have been previously reported in local media expressing interest to bring out separate candidates for the 2013 presidential elections.

IDP, MNC and PP offices were not responding to call at the time of press. The contact number of MSDP listed in the Elections Commission website is disconnected.


MDP to launch door-to-door recruitment campaign ahead of 2013

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will begin a three-month door-to-door recruitment campaign after a launch at Dharubaaruge.

“We want every existing member to recruit one more member,” the party’s parliamentary group leader, Ibrahim Solih, told Minivan News.

The launch of the campaign signaled that the party was gearing up for the 2013 Presidential Campaign, he acknowledged. Two officials from the UK Conservative Party had recently visited the Maldives to offer advice in the running of the campaign, he said.

MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik told local media that the party would try to reach 50,000 members by January, and said that the information gathered during the door-to-door campaign would help the party prepare for the 2013 election.

“We’ll re-visit every island, every house in the Maldives within the coming two months,” Moosa said.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s new party, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), has meanwhile claimed to have more than doubled its membership in recent months from 9,000 to 20,000 members.

After months of factional strife and a litany of grievances aired in the media, Gayoom withdrew his endorsement of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali in March this year, accusing his successor of “acting dictatorially” and violating the party’s charter in the controversial dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

The formation of the PPM as distinct from the larger opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) will split the opposition vote, making MDP unlikely to be threatened in the first round of the presidential election. However the party needs to achieve 51 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off, which would likely see MDP standing alone against a hastily-formed alliance of opposition parties and embittered former coalition partners such as the Jumhoree and Adhaalath parties.

DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef observed to Minivan News in October that “given current trends”, the 2013 presidential election had the potential to be a replay of the 2008 election in which Nasheed won power in a run-off election against the incumbent Gayoom, due to the (short-term) support of coalition partners.

Faced with a run-off, the disparate opposition groups would temporarily unify over the common ground of ousting the MDP, Shareef predicted, giving power to the largest opposition party.

“Look at the last three elections. In the first round of the 2008 Presidential election Gayoom got 40 percent, while the rest of the then opposition got 60 percent. In the second round the opposition totaled 54 percent. The MDP lost ground in the parliamentary elections, and the majority of the islands voted for the DRP in the local council elections,” he claimed.

“The incumbent government has the resources of the state to get votes, and can get at least 20-30 percent just by being in power. At present trends, 2013 will be a replay of 2008, and as things stand now, whoever is in opposition will go to the second round.”

To avoid a close fight in the second round, the MDP faces the challenge of attracting enough supporters to the polls in the first round to reach the 51 percent needed for an outright win.

This may mean appealing to the youth as much as the established membership base. The UN’s population report this year indicated that 40 percent of the population are aged 15-24, meaning a large number of young people are becoming eligible to vote every year.

Young people were a core demographic for the MDP in the 2008 presidential election, but since then there has been an anecdotal trend of growing political disenfranchisement, spreading distaste for the ‘he said, she said, go-nowhere’ flavour of Maldivian politics, and frustration at ongoing social issues such as high youth unemployment and lack of educational opportunities.

As such, the MDP’s key opponent in 2013 is as likely to be voter apathy as it is any opposition party.


Gayoom, Z-faction MPs quit DRP to form new party

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, founder and ‘Honorary Leader’ (Zaeem) of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), resigned his post and left the party today followed by MPs of the DRP’s breakaway ‘Zaeem’ faction.

DRP Media Coordinator Ali Solih confirmed to Minivan News today that apart from Gayoom’s letter of resignation, the party has so far received letters from MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Nihan Hussein Manik and Ali Arif.

The Z-faction began collecting signatures to register a new party last night with Gayoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen becoming the first person to sign. Yameen has resigned as leader of minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) and declared his intention to contest in the new party’s presidential primary.

Former DRP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed, who quit the party yesterday, was the second signatory after the MP for Mulaku.

After months of factional strife and a litany of grievances aired in the media, Gayoom withdrew his endorsement of DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali in March this year, accusing his successor of “acting dictatorially” and violating the party’s charter in the controversial dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

Of the four deputy leaders elected in its third congress in March 2010, only Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef now remain. Deputy Leader Ali Waheed defected to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in May.

In his letter of resignation submitted today, Gayoom said he was “forced” to leave the party he had formed on July 21, 2005 because the DRP had become “politically toothless.”

“And you [Thasmeen] keep saying clearly in the media that you do not need my counsel,” reads the letter shared with local media. “The consequence of that was the loss of hope citizens had in this party. And DRP getting the bad name of the party that gives way to the government while remaining in name a responsible opposition party.”

Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that he expects the registration forms to be submitted to the Elections Commission (EC) tomorrow.

“We decided to form this party because found out that we cannot work along with DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and we had difficulties in working within the DRP parliamentary group,” Nihan said. “So the only way we can work in accordance of with our principles is to form a new party.’’

While the Z-faction has been functioning independently of the DRP council since April this year, Nihan added that supporters of former President Gayoom had met him on numerous occasions to request that he create a new party.

“We requested him to change his mind and to form this party many times, but then he did not wanted to form a new party, but we are very grateful that he has now changed his mind and decided to form this party,” he said.

Nihan said the main goal of the party was to return to government by defeating the MDP in the next presidential election.

“Many experienced politicians have expressed interest in this party and have singed to this party, and I was surprised that many MDP supporters as well as many citizens that have never joined a party has signed up,” he claimed.

“It is to be noted that we will go for a primary to elect our presidential candidate, and this is a party open for everyone, the ladders to climb up are open for everyone,” he said.

A name for the new party has not yet been finalised, Nihan said.

Z-faction spokesperson and Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf meanwhile reiterated that Thasmeen was “making deals with the government.”

Mahlouf called Thasmeen “incompetent and dictatorial,” adding that it was “not possible for anyone to work with him.”

“Thasmeen always put his interest and that of his family and associates above everything else,” he said.

DRP Media Cordinator Ali Solih said Thasmeen will publicly respond to the points raised in Gayoom’s letter.

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, a member of the DRP council, meanwhile told local media yesterday that the Z-faction’s breakaway activities would see the party “cut up to little pieces.”

Meanwhile President Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said at a press conference today that he doubted whether the former President would attract as much support as he expected.

“Maumoon won’t be able to gather as many members as he expects and I feel that he won’t get the support he expects either,” Zuhair predicted.


DRP to seek public opinion ahead of 2013 presidential campaign

The main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) will begin travels across the country “in about two months” to seek public opinion in preparation for the 2013 presidential election, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said last night.

Speaking at a ceremony in Funadhoo in Shaviyani Atoll to mark the party’s sixth anniversary, Thasmeen explained that it was necessary to find out the concerns of young people, who will make up the majority of the electorate in 2013, as well as the needs and opinions of other age groups.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Thasmeen speculated that a majority of voters were unhappy with the current government “because of the difficult situation the Maldivian people are facing now.”

“Therefore, we can only bring the country back to the right track if DRP wins the upcoming presidential election,” he said.

Thasmeen also expressed gratitude to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on the occasion of the party’s sixth anniversary, who was made the DRP’s ‘Honorary Leader’ at its national congress in March 2010.

The Z-faction of the DRP meanwhile launched separate activities to celebrate the anniversary at a rally Thursday night.

The breakaway faction formed around the party’s ‘Zaeem,’ led by dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Nasser, opened a new office last week for use by Gayoom.

Speaking at the anniversary rally, Gayoom invited DRP members who wished to seek an  audience with him to make appointments at the new office, which is located in Boduthakurufaanumagu a short distance from the DRP’s main office.