MDP holds street rally in front of Gasim’s residence

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has held a street rally in front of Gasim Ibrahim’s residence in order to show solidarity with the Jumhooree Party (JP) leader in defending the Constitution.

The rally themed ‘In Defense of the Constitution’ held last night was attended by senior members of the MDP, with Maamigili MP Gasim also coming out of Maafannu Villa for a brief period of time to meet with the crowd.

Speaking at the rally, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the parties were having informal talks to create a platform to defend the Constitution, which will emerge as one of the friendliest and most cooperative the nation has seen.

“We are protesting near Maafannu Villa or near any other political figure to protect the Maldivian Constitution. We should not be concerned about following someone or leading someone, rather Maldivians must rally behind the national flag and defend the constitution”, said Waheed.

MDP Vice president Mohamed Shifaz who also addressed the rally last night announced that the party will hold a protest march on Friday (January 23), starting at the Raalhugandu area in Malé.

The party has also announced that it will be holding rallies on street corners to raise awareness regarding the “destruction of the Maldivian Constitution”.

Yesterday’s rally marks a continued rapprochement between the opposition and the JP – which was officially aligned with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives until May last year, after having given crucial backing to Abdulla Yameen in the 2013 presidential race.

Yameen eventually beat MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in a much-delayed poll after the Supreme Court’s controversial annulment of the first round following complaints lodged by third-placed candidate Gasim.

A warming of relations

MDP Spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News today that it is time to leave the rocky past behind and for “all political parties including Mr Gasim’s Jumhooree Party to stand together with the MDP to defend the Constitution”.

“Defending the Constitution is not only the MDP’s job but everyone else’s too. The MDP is fighting for a cause in which, if anybody or politician is subjected to injustice or unfairness, the MDP would defend them and the Constitution”, said Fahmy.

Meanwhile, JP Spokesperson Ahmed Sameer stated that if all parties reflect on the experiences of the past and work with “sincerity and good will”, the JP is confident that the party will be able to work with the MDP.

“I do not see why MDP and JP cannot travel on the same boat. If are able to do fruitful work for this cause, perhaps it will pave way for further cooperation in the future”, Sameer said.

The previous alliance between the MDP and the JP – as part of Nasheed’s coalition government in 2008 – lasted less than one month. Gasim subsequently joined the anti-government movement in 2011 before the controversial resignation of Nasheed in early 2012.

Movement between the two parties has been frequent, however, with a number of prominent politicians switching between the two – most notably former MDP President Dr Ibrahim Didi and Vice President Alhan Fahmy both leaving for the JP in 2012 before returning in 2013.

After returning to the MDP following the JP’s decision to back Yameen for the presidency in late 2013, Dr Didi said that the two parties were similar in their reformist ideology.

“To tell the truth, 80 percent of Honourable Gasim’s heart is still with the MDP. This is a very clear reality. Even if he had to make a decision under duress, he is a person who worked in the front ranks since 1984 to bring reform to the Maldives,” he said.

Speaking at a rally in the capital Malé last weekend, former President Nasheed said that, despite their political differences, he would not allow President Yameen to destroy the JP leader Gasim.

“Gasim’s property cannot be looted. Gasim’s character and body cannot be harmed,” he told supporters. “We shall rally in his defense”.

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MDP and PPM colluded in Speaker vote, says JP

The Jumhooree Party (JP) has suggested collusion between the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in Wednesday’s secret ballot to elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker for the People’s Majlis.

JP leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim narrowly lost the Speaker position to PPM MP Abdulla Maseeh. But MDP’s ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik won the position of deputy Speaker against PPM’s Abdul Raheem Abdulla.

The JP also condemned the PPM’s unilateral decision to end a coalition agreement made between the two parties in November’s presidential election.

The PPM had announced the dissolution claiming Gasim’s decision to run as Speaker breached the agreement.

But JP has pointed out that the agreement does not address the issue of Majlis Speakership and said Gasim’s exercising his right as an MP must not impact the agreement.

The party has also accused PPM of being irresponsible, claiming the PPM failed to hold discussions on the dispute over the Speaker, failure to appoint JP nominees to political positions as per the agreement, and failure to officially inform JP of the dissolution of the agreement.


VP says government work unaffected by coalition split as JP ministers suspended

The breakup of the Progressive Coalition will not affect the work of the government, insists Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed following Jumhooree Party’s (JP) exit from the group.

Jameel’s comments to local media come as the President’s Office confirmed Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim and two of his junior ministers – all JP members – had been asked to ‘stay at home’.

After coalition partner Gasim Ibrahim chose to stand – albeit unsuccessfully – for the Majlis speaker’s position yesterday, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) released a statement officially ending the coalition agreement.

“In accordance with the unanimous decision of the PPM council at an emergency meeting on the night of May 26, 2014, we announce that the coalition agreement made between this party and the Jumhooree Party has been brought to an end by the Jumhooree Party as of today,” read the statement.

The party had previously threatened to dissolve the pact should JP leader Gasim stand in competition for the post.

Additionally, in response to Gasim’s complaints that the PPM had breached the coalition agreement by not providing his party with only 29 of the 40-90 promised appointments, President Abdulla Yameen claimed many of its nominees had been unqualified.

Tourism Minister and head of the cabinet’s economic council Ahmed Adeeb earlier this week expressed his intention to ask Yameen to replace JP’s political appointees in the event of a split.

The two junior ministers suspended today have been named by local media as State Minister for Transport Ahmed Zubair and Deputy Minister of Transport Ikram Hassan.

President’s Office spokesman Ibrahim Muaz told local media that the suspensions were in relation to the coalition split, and will remain in place until the matter is resolved.

Balance of power

While the PPM’s Abdulla Maseeh won the vote at the opening of yesterday’s 18th People’s Majlis, the narrow victory appeared to suggest the impact the split will have on the government.

“Gasim holds the balance of power – I think this will destabilise the government seriously,” said opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today. “We suspect it won’t last for five years.”

Hamid pointed to his party’s experience of governance, following its own short-lived coalition with Gasim’ JP in 2008. After concerted anti-government pressure and months of street demonstrations, the MDP government fell in early 2012.

The PPM currently controls 44 percent of the Majlis – 37 seats – while the opposition MDP hold 29 percent – 25 seats. The JP controls 18 percent of the house – 15 seats, with the Adhaalath’s sole representative and two independents making up the 85-seat legislature.

PPM MP Maseeh received 43 votes to secure the speaker’s chair yesterday, with Gasim receiving the support of 39 members.

The fine balance left in the wake of the coalition split was also evident in the election of MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who took the deputy speaker’s position with 42 votes to his PPM opponent’s 41.

In yesterday evening’s statement, the PPM cited the JP’s co-operation with the MDP in Moosa’s election as further cause for the coalition split – depicting the dissolution of the agreement as the JP’s decision.

Speaking with local media, Vice President Jameel said that the JP was going against the citizen’s wishes by working with MDP – who last month endorsed Gasim’s candidacy for speaker.

Jameel today argued that unity against the MDP had been the basis of the coalition.

The parties entered a formal coalition agreement ahead of last year’s presidential election run-off between the MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed and PPM’s Yameen after Gasim has placed third.

Gasim’s endorsement of Yameen proved to be crucial in the PPM-led coalition’s narrow victory in the second round of November’s presidential polls.

“From JP leader Gasim to everyone in all levels, were working against the MDP’s actions. For example, the GMR issue and the detention of Judge Abdulla. Are they now saying all of that is fine? I am saying this because [Gasim] has spoken of how it is easy for the two of them [Gasim and Nasheed] to work together,” said Jameel.

“It is the citizens who suffer the most when JP acts against the spirit and aim of the coalition. It is now questionable if JP can work with any party in a coalition,” said Jameel, before telling local media to expect further developments in the coming week.


JP nominees for political appointees unqualified, says President Yameen

Jumhooree Party (JP) has failed to gain allocated seats in political positions because nominees put forth by the party are unqualified, President Abdulla Yameen has said.

“The privatization board dismissed nominees put forth by Gasim because they are unqualified,” Yameen told the press at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport yesterday evening.

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim had claimed Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had breached the ruling coalition agreement’s by refusing to give the party a 35 percent stake in political appointees.

Gasim’s comments came in response to the PPM executive council’s warning on Monday night that the coalition would dissolve if he stood for the position of People’s Majlis Speaker. The PPM would consider such a move to be a breach of the agreement, the party said.

But Gasim accused PPM of breaching the agreement first, claiming the JP had received only 34 seats of the 300 political appointees. He has also refused to retract his decision to contest for the position of Majlis Speaker.

Yameen said it was important for a PPM MP to be elected to the position: “The speakership is very important to the ruling party. Then only can we do what we want to do with ease.”

“Gasim does not trust us. That is why he is standing despite us nominating someone else,” he said.


Reeko Moosa to stand for deputy speaker of the Majlis

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP elect ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has announced he will contest for the position of parliamentary deputy speaker.

Members of the 18th People’s Majlis are to be sworn in tomorrow.

Moosa said he has held discussions with parties in the ruling coalition Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Progressive Party of the Maldives on the matter.

Meanwhile, MDP’s acting president Mohamed Nasheed has announced the MDP will back Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim for the position of Speaker.

The JP and PPM are at loggerheads over the speakership issue. The PPM has said the coalition will fall apart should Gasim decide to contest, though Gasim said he will not withdraw his name.


Adhaalath Party blames vote-splitting and bribery for poor elections result

The Adhaalath Party has today said that it lost many seats it ought to have won in the Majlis elections due to bribery and undue influence from competing candidates.

“We saw it both from the ruling party and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) but we really did not want to buy votes –  instead we tried to change the way people think,’’ party Spokesperson Ali Zahir told Minivan News.

After fielding 12 candidates in Saturday’s polls, the religious party saw just a single MP elected to the 18th People’s Majlis – Anara Naeem for Makunudhoo constituency in Haa Dhaal atoll.

“It was really sad that a lot of money transactions were involved in it, it was an obstacle to electing the most capable person to the parliament.’’

Senior members of the MDP have themselves noted the use of similar techniques in Saturday’s poll – pointing the finger at coalition parties – while civil society and international observers have expressed alarm at such practices.

“It wasn’t the best results, or the results we expected,’’ Zahir told Minivan News today. “There are many reasons behind the loss.’’

Zahir said that one of the many reasons was the decision by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) to give party tickets to candidates to contest in constituencies that Adhaalath had taken.

“It made the people divide their votes which the coalition should have got,’’ he said.

He said that the party had not started discussion on the issue with its, unofficial, coalition partners.

Following Adhaalath’s exclusion from the coalition’s parliamentary election plans, PPM Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla told the press that the party was not “an official partner of the Progressive Coalition.”

Adhaalath was excluded from the governing coalition’s seat allocation, which eventually allocated 30 seats to the PPM, seven to the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), and 28 to the Jumhooree Party (JP).

After failed negotiations with the JP in February, JP leader Gasim Ibrahim slammed the Adhaalath Party’s decision to contest in JP-reserved constituencies.

“Their actions are not in the general interest, in the name of Adhaalath (justice) they are doing everything in the wrong way,” said Gasim. “We gave them four seats. They did not accept it.”

Both Gasim and President Abulla Yameen have admitted that vote-splitting detracted from the size of the Progressive Coalition’s margin of victory.

Zahir today said that the workload of the senior party members had prevented the further discussion of the result within the party’s ranks, noting that talks with the government may follow such analysis.

He said that the party believed it had still made progress compared to the 2009 elections result – in which the party won no seats.

“Adhaalath Party is very different from all the other parties that contested in the parliament election – Adhaalath Party is a party that had to start from the bottom,” said Zahir.

“We will not stop our political activities and be silent,’’ he said. “We will compete in all the future elections and work to get better results.’’


Government seeks to “revert back to centralisation”, says MDP

Threats to disband Addu City Council are “impossible” and show lack of “political understanding” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

The statement follows warnings from President of Local Government Authority (LGA) and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim that the council could be disbanded if it did not cooperate with the government.

The six member council was one of two administrative divisions – along with Malé City – designated as cities in the 2010 Decentralisation Act.

Both are dominated by the opposition MDP, with all six of Addu’s council seats being won by the party in recent local elections.

Speaking at a government coalition campaign rally held in Addu’s Hithadhoo island earlier this week, Nazim said that residents did not cooperate with the government and that this can create problems, local media reported.

“Action may have to be taken against them, and could lead to dissolving the council”, he was quoted as saying.

Speaking at the same rally, President Abdulla Yameen remarked, “while the MDP may say that they would hold the government accountable if they win a majority in parliament, they would in reality create problems for the government.”

In response to these comments, the MDP have released a statement characterising Nazim’s “unlawful threat” as a “warning to stop the empowerment and development of Addu City citizens.”

The opposition party accused the government of attempting to dissolve the Addu City Council in order to revert the country to autocratic rule.

“However, the people of Addu City have always shown that they will not bow to such dictatorial actions,” the statement read.

Spokesperson Hamid told Minivan News that the threats made by Nazim were impossible, and a sign of the government’s “desperation” and lack of political understanding.

“Decentralisation is very much welcome and they have tried to revert back to centralisation” he added.

As part of its Majlis election campaign, the MDP has pledged to amend the Decentralisation Act in order to empower local councils. Former President Nasheed has said the party’s aim was to secure financial independence for local government.

“We want each council to conduct business transactions using the island [to generate income] for establishing sewerage and water systems, build roads or even construct a harbour or do work needed for the school – we want to find a way for you to undertake these efforts on your own,” said Nasheed last month.

Budget for Addu

Prior to Nazim’s remarks, President Yameen told residents in Hithadhoo that the 2014 state budget comprised of developmental projects that would solve the problems in Addu City.

Speaking at a parliamentary campaign event held on Tuesday (March 18), the president said that apart from the projects that will be run via the state budget, he had also planned other developmental projects for Addu by obtaining funds from other sources, reported Haveeru.

“According to my information, 50 percent of the finance needed to deal with the land erosion problem has been arranged by the Saudi government. We have written a proposal to Kuwait Fund to attain the remaining 50 percent funds as loan aid,” Yameen was quoted as saying.

In addition, Yameen said that work on building the Islamic Centre in Hithadhoo will commence in June this year.

If the public wanted to see these plans completed, the governmental coalition would need to acquire the parliament’s majority, Yameen said, calling upon the people to vote for candidates representing the government’s Progressive Coalition.

Shortly after this year’s budget was proposed, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig suggested the financial difficulties facing his council were a result of the failure to implement the Decentralisation Act properly.

“Right now decentralisation in this country is just for show,” Sodig told Minivan News in December. “The government and Majlis need to resolve these issues if the citizens are to benefit from decentralisation in a meaningful way.”

Under the landmark legislation, the LGA is tasked with monitoring councils, ensuring standards, improving technical capacity, and coordinating with the central government.

The LGA board consists of a cabinet minister appointed by the president, a member appointed from the MCC, four atoll councillors elected from among members of atoll councils, a representative from civil society appointed by parliament, a member of the general public appointed by parliament, and a member elected from the Addu and Malé city councils.


Coalition leaders campaigning for independent candidates

Leaders of the ruling coalition are campaigning for independent candidates in constituencies where the parties in the Progressive Coalition have fielded candidates, online news outlet CNM reports.

Former President Dr Mohamed Waheed – who joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in December – has participated in campaign activities for his sister-in-law, Ifham Hussain, who is contesting as an independent candidate for the Hanimadhoo constituency.

The official coalition candidate for the Hanimadhoo constituency is Hussain Shahudhy from the Jumhooree Party (JP).

A JP campaign official expressed concern with Dr Waheed’s campaigning for a rival candidate, alleging that the former president drove around the island with the independent candidate last night in government vehicles.

Waheed has also been campaigning for the Adhaalath Party’s candidate for Haa Dhaal Nolhivram, former State Minister for Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed.

The Nolhivaram constituency was reserved for the JP in the coalition’s seat allocation deal.

Aneesa Ahmed, a PPM council member, has meanwhile been campaigning for Adhaalath Party candidate Anara Naeem in Haa Dhaal Makunudhoo, another constituency assigned for the JP.

JP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Saud however told CNM that the party was not concerned with Dr Waheed or Aneesa’s campaigning.

“The head of the coalition is President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]. So it is President Maumoon who will talk on behalf of the coalition as its most senior leader. I don’t know the reason why they are acting contrary to how President Maumoon says,” he was quoted as saying.

Neither Dr Waheed nor Aneesa was available for comment.

Leaders of the coalition parties have meanwhile been urging independent candidates to withdraw and endorse coalition candidates.


MDP wants parliamentary majority to oust government, says President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has called on the Maldivian public to grant the ruling coalition a majority to fulfill its campaign pledges, and said the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is seeking a parliamentary majority in order to oust the government.

Speaking at a campaign event for Gemanafushi candidate Jameel Usman held last night, Yameen said Majlis approval is essential for development projects and said the government cannot bring development without Majlis cooperation.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, while campaigning on behalf of the MDP this weekend, denied that his party would seek to obstruct development should it win a majority in the house.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and its allies the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) are contesting the March parliamentary elections as a group, with 50 of the 85 seats allocated to the PPM, 28 to the JP and 8 to the MDA.

The former MP for Mulaku constituency, Yameen also launched a scathing criticism of the first democratically elected parliament, claiming the Maldivian public had lost confidence in the current Majlis.

Salaries and allowances of MPs do not match their work, he said and called on the public to elect courageous and educated individuals who are willing to work against corruption.

“Maldivian citizens do not want the People’s Majlis to be a place where people who have committed huge crimes or committed offenses against the law go to get immunity,” he said.

At a separate campaign event also held last night for Laamu Atoll Isdhoo candidate Ahmed Rasheed, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed requested that the public give the coalition a majority.

The public had elected Yameen to the presidency and must now grant the coalition a majority so that the government can fulfill its pledges, he said.

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom asked independents who are contesting Majlis elections to withdraw their names and support coalition candidates instead.

“A PPM member or any other party member must not run against a coalition candidate. If you do so, it will be very sad for us. That is because it will divide votes of those who hold the same ideology. If votes are divided, we will lose the seat,” he said.

Speaking at MP ‘Red Wave’ Ahmed Saleem’s campaign launch ceremony in Malé, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said the PPM candidates would bring peace and stability to the Maldives.

“Let us not provide an opportunity for those who call to take the law in our hands, for fear and citizens to be weakened every time there is a disagreement,” he said.

The current government had allocated MVR400 million to provide recreational facilities and vocational training for youth, he said.

The government will introduce unlimited health care under the Aasandha scheme on Monday to mark the PPM’s 100 days in government, Jameel promised. Unlimited Aasandha will end begging for financial aid for chronic illnesses, he said.

In Addu City, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim inaugurated the campaign for the Hithadhoo Uthuru constituency, and pledged to establish a 100 bed hospital in the city.

“We will build a 100 bed hospital in this island, god willing, as a pledge by this government. This hospital will not go elsewhere,” he said noting the current 50-bed hospital is not sufficient to cater to Addu City’s population.

The PPM government will also establish water and sewerage systems in Addu City by the end of the year, he promised.