A serving Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP has alleged that a spin-off faction formed by some of her colleagues is working to remove current leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to forward their own presidential candidate – from another party.
Expressing these concerns, DRP MP Rozaina Adam today hit out at supporters of the Z-DRP faction, formed by a number of her fellow party members in the wake of infighting between serving leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and party founder Maumoon Abdul Gayoom over claims they were endangering the party’s election prospects.
She claims that the Z-DRP, who support Gayoom over his self-appointed successor Thasmeen, are endangering their own party’s election prospects in a coup to forward their own candidate and interests.
While Gayoom continues to hold the title of “honorary leader” of the DRP, Adam said she believed the former president’s involvement with the Z-DRP group was at the centre of the present disputes and infighting.
“There is no legal basis for what [Gayoom] is doing,” she said, referring to the former president’s attacks on the party leadership and its aims of removing Thasmeen from the leadership. Adam said that the divides within the DRP was weakening the party as the country’s main political opposition, as well as negatively impacting its support base.
Just yesterday, the DRP branch office of Adam’s Thulusdhoo constituency announced via a statement that its local supporters would consider “shifting sides” in regards to their political allegiance if the party failed to resolve the reported split.
“We call on former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and DRP Zaeem (honorary leader) to solve the internal dispute within the party,’’ read the statement, signed by the Deputy Head of the Thulusdhoo Branch.
Adam said that she was sceptical whether the party’s supporters would opt to join another party, especially in the case of the governing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), though she accepted that the DRP’s reputation may have suffered among supporters.
“I do think [the party’s infighting] creates confusion for supporters, but I don’t think they will change party; that is not likely,” she said. “However, I don’t think that this movement [Z-DRP] is working for what’s best for the DRP. We see people in the party supporting People’s Alliance (PA) leader party leader Abdullah Yameen as a possible leader.”
Adam alleged that some MPs linked to the Z-DRP faction were actively trying to unseat Thasmeen solely to install another candidate such as Yameen, Gayoom’s half brother, or another politician wanting to claim the DRP’s presidential ticket for their own “agenda”.
“[Their motives] are based on pulling Thasmeen down and installing their own candidate,” she claimed. “[Ahmed] Mahlouf – a fellow DRP MP linked to the Z-DRP – has already stated that he would rather support President Mohamed Nasheed [of the MDP] than our own leader in Thasmeen. I suspect [the Z-DRP] have a candidate in mind for the presidency. I don’t know who this will be, but I believe it is not for the benefit of the party.”
Adam’s comments were made as fellow DRP MP Ahmed Nihan, himself aligned to the Z-DRP movement, said he believed there was widespread support within the wider party to appoint a new leader to replace Thasmeen by next year ahead of a general election scheduled for 2013.
Speaking to Minivan News, Nihan said that despite infighting within the party, there remained widespread support among his fellow DRP members for a new candidate to contest for the party as the 2013 presidential candidate. Amongst this apparent interest in changing leadership of the DRP, the MP claimed that he expected neither Thasmeen nor former President Gayoom to stand against President Mohamed Nasheed in the 2013 election.
The Z-DRP, which has been described by politicians and media outlets as both a political movement and an individual faction of the DRP standing to oppose Thasmeen, was formed amidst disputes in the party initially between supporters of Thasmeen and the party’s dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.
After these initial disputes led to Naseer’s dismissal from the party in December, the infighting has evolved into outright criticisms between the only two men to have stood as leaders of the DRP.
After announcing this week that Gayoom had been requested to stand as a temporary leader of the Z-DRP and chair its member meetings until a new DRP leader was instated, Nihan said that this did not mean the former president would return from retirement to stand as a presidential candidate in 2013.
“Maumoon [Gayoom] is not coming out of his retirement to enter politics, but there is something much bigger for him to do. There is a moral obligation that if anything goes wrong [with the DRP], as party founder he must help find a solution,” he claimed. “Gayoom is not changing his mind to run in the next election, we will have a new leader by then.”
In addressing the capacity of the Z-DRP’s support to enact a potential change in leadership, Nihan rejected the descriptive term of a faction used by media to describe the group. The MP added that the Z-DRP was just the name of a movement that reflected wider concerns amongst party members that he claimed strongly believed Thasmeen had “failed” to oppose the government in policies such as allowing India-based infrastructure giant GMR to manage and overhaul Male’ international Airport.
“Gayoom does not want the DRP to be split up. Whatever our name is we are members, serving members of the DRP,” he claimed. “I don’t believe we are in a faction [Z-DRP], we are founding members of the party including myself, Ahmed Mahlouf and Duniya Maumoon. The majority of the DRP are behind us.”
Nihan said he was certain that a large number of the party’s general members “strongly believed” that Thasmeen was not doing enough to hold the government accountable. “Thasmeen has failed and our supporters have requested reforms,” he said. “We are calling for an agreement on holding a conference within a given time frame.”
According to Nihan, this conference could come in the form of an extraordinary party meeting or in the form of the congress scheduled for 2012. In the last party congress held back in 2010, Thasmeen was appointed by Gayoom himself as party leader.
Nihan said that any potential change in leadership ahead of the 2013 elections should be made would by a vote reflecting the choices of party members. “At present, we are hoping we may be able to schedule a congress or party meeting with members concerning leadership possibly by August,” he said.