Jumhoree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim confident of securing presidential election in first round

Business tycoon and leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), MP Gasim Ibrahim, has expressed confidence he will win the upcoming presidential election in the first round of voting.

Speaking at a rally in the party’s Male’ headquarters yesterday (June 16), Gasim was quoted in local media as claiming that he was well placed to become the Maldives’ next president based on a recent spike in the JP’s membership.

According to the latest statistics from the Elections Commission (EC), the JP’s current membership stands at 12,154 members (five percent of eligible voters) with a further 1,374 membership forms pending approval.

The JP, a member of President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s coalition government, recently announced that it would decide whether to contest the election alone or within a coalition after the conclusion of its national conference later this month.

However with the party expected to officially unveil its leader during the congress, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said the JP anticipated fielding its own candidate during the election.

“What I will say is that our articles and regulations state that our leader has to run as a presidential candidate. We have to run for the seat on our own,” he said last week.

Raheem added that the party did nonetheless have criteria under which it would look to join a coalition.

Speaking last night, Gasim predicted a growing number of MPs would join his party and unite behind him in order to back a candidate he claimed could steer the country from corruption.

“[That leader] is Gasim Ibrahim,” he said.

Gasim is also the chairman of the Villa Group, which owns resorts, shipping lines, electronic stores and a cement packing factory in the Maldives. Gasim also owns private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV), and is a member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

The MP for Maamigili claimed a surge in his party membership suggested that people were now thinking about what was best for the country and which party offered the best solution to the nation’s woes.

Gasim maintained that the public ultimately did not wish to elect a leader who would defy them, claiming instead that they wanted an experienced person capable of running the country.

“Even a fishing vessel must be handed over to a good captain,” he stressed.

Gasim claimed that with his wealth he had provided education for a lot of students, as well as covered medical expenses for a number of citizens.

If elected president in September, Gasim pledged to continue providing further help to the people, something he claimed the public were already aware of.

JP Spokesperson Moosa Rameez was not responding to calls at time of press regarding the comments.

The election is set to take place on September 7, and the Elections Commission (EC) has announced that a total of 241,000 people will be able to cast their vote in the second multi-party presidential vote to be held in the country since ratification of the 2008 constitution.

Two major political parties in the country – the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – have so far announced their intentions to field candidates.

Incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed has also announced his intention to stand, backed by a coalition including his own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP), the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

The opposition MDP is fielding former President Mohamed Nasheed, who controversially resigned from office following a violent mutiny by sections of the police and military on February 7, 2012.

Both Nasheed and his party continue to allege his government was toppled in a bloodless coup d’etat, accusations that were later rejected by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI).

The PPM will meanwhile be fielding former President Gayoom’s half-brother, MP Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, as its presidential candidate. Yameen secured the party’s ticket after a fierce presidential primary against former PPM activist Umar Naseer. Naseer was later dismissed from the party after making accusing Yameen vote rigging in the primary.

First round claims

Election rules dictate that a candidate must secure over 50 percent of the popular vote to secure the presidency in the first round. Should no candidate secure a simple majority, a run-off second round election is then required to be held 20 days later between the top two candidates.

Former President Nasheed, who commands the single largest political support base in the country in terms of party membership, has previously predicted that he would win the election within the first round with a 57 percent popular vote. The party claims to have been pledged 125,000 votes already – 52 percent of total eligible voters, or almost 60 percent of the first round assuming an 85 percent voter turnout (as the figure stood in 2008, another ‘high stakes’ election).

Former DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef said the party, which is backing President Waheed in the election, did not believe there was a single party in the country capable of securing an outright win in September.

“No party in the country will get more than 35 percent of the vote during the first round, even the MDP which remains the biggest single party,” he said last month.


MDP Parliamentary Group call for Gasim’s removal from JSC

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have called for the removal of opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) leader and MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – the commission mandated to appoint and investigate complaints against judges.

Gasim is a well-known business tycoon, media owner and leader of the opposition-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP). He was in 2010 accused by the government of treason and bribery after phone calls of his conversations with People’s Alliance MP and the former President’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen were leaked to the media.

Gasim replaced opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Afrashim Ali on the JSC, after Afrashim was dismissed by parliament 38-34 in favour amid claims of misconduct and corruption. Gasim was then narrowly appointed to the judicial watchdog after 38 members of of the 77 member parliament voted in his favour, to 36 against.

Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, observed at the time that Gasim “is a man of wealth, and every seat he has ever sat on has benefited him. We can expect the same from the JSC. I don’t think anyone is under any other impression. The people’s representatives have sold out to the devil, and this is a very sad day.”

DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef also expressed reservations at the time, suggesting the Gasim’s extensive business interests could prove a potential conflict of interest when overseeing the Maldivian justice system: “That is a real possibility. I think the judiciary must be totally free from political influence. We have to see how this unfolds – this is a small country and it is hard to have complete impartiality.”

“What is required is sincerity. We need to build a judiciary that is competent, efficient and capable of delivering justice,” Shareef told Minivan News in June 2011.

Speaking at an MDP rally today, several MDP MPs and senior figures accused Gasim and Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Shahid – both of whom are members of the JSC representing parliament – of not fulfilling their legal duties on the committee.

The MDP called on Gasim and Shahid to carry out the responsibilities at the JSC and conclude cases presented against Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, to end the current political tensions in Male’. The JSC’s investigation of the judge stalled after the Civil Court issued an injunction to its own watchdog body, which the JSC obeyed.

The MDP Parliamentary Group expressed concern that the judicial watchdog was defunct while the situation of the country was deteriorating, accusing the JSC of taking no action against the judge which had allowed him “to destroy the entire judiciary.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Spokesperson for MDP Parliamentary Group’s Mohamed Shifaz said that they had not officially decided to remove Gasim.

”What we want most is a professional JSC. If removing unprofessional persons to professionalise the JSC is the only way then we will do it,” Shifaz said. ”It is possible that the MDP Parliamentary Group will make such a decision.”

He said that JSC members attending protests and trying to defend a particular judge was not very professional.

”I believe that JSC members protesting is an ethical issue,” he said, in reference to Gasim who has been a key opposition figure throughout last week’s rallies in Male’.

Speaking at the MDP rally last night, MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said that the citizens of the Maldives handed the administration to President Mohamed Nasheed to establish justice.

Gasim did not respond to calls and text messages at time of press.