Four senior members of the Jumhooree Party (JP) have quit the party following the party council’s decision yesterday to endorse the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen.
Former JP President Dr Ibrahim Didi, Spokesperson Moosa Rameez, Campaign Manager Dr Ahmed Shamheed and Male’ City Councillor Ahmed Hameed ‘Fly’, as well as former Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari signed for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today.
Speaking to the press at the MDP office this afternoon, former President Mohamed Nasheed said the support of the new members would boost the party’s campaign ahead of Saturday’s run-off election against the PPM candidate.
“We wanted to work together with the Jumhooree Party only for their support. We know there are people of other ideologies in the party. So it would have been very difficult to implement our manifesto and our policies with people of that ideology. In my view, what has happened now has been for the best,” the MDP presidential candidate said.
Dr Didi – former MDP president – said he returned to the party to ensure consolidation of democracy in the Maldives.
“The Maldives is divided into ideologies, that is the reformist ideology and the 30-year autocratic family rule ideology,” he said, adding that JP leaders had also worked for reform.
“We have to go forward, go forward swiftly, we cannot take a U-turn,” he said.
Didi stressed that he did not have “any disagreement with or animosity” towards JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim.
“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.
Asked to elaborate on his claim that Gasim decided to back Yameen under duress, Didi said he could reveal details without the business tycoon’s consent.
Didi also claimed that he joined the MDP to ensure “Gasim’s safety and security.”
Didi noted that Gasim had said at a JP rally that most of the party’s members shared MDP’s reformist ideology, adding that he was “certain” that MDP would win the election on Saturday.
Gasim had previously said that 60 percent of his supporters would not vote for Yameen even if he endorsed the PPM candidate.
Nasheed also expressed confidence that the MDP would garner the 6,000 votes needed from Gasim’s 48,131 votes to win the election.
Asked if fears of a return to autocracy were well founded, Didi said there were “signs” of the PPM seeking absolute control over the judiciary and undermining democracy with a family dynasty.
JP formed to change the 30-year government, say departees
Meanwhile, Dr Shamheed, former Transport Minister, said he became interested in politics during his school years as he had to pay a school fee while people of Male’ did not.
Shamheed said he decided to stick with the decision to support MDP in 2008 to establish democracy in the country.
“Gasim Ibrahim said three or four times in our council yesterday that it would be most comfortable for him, that he wanted to, and his heart desired going with President Nasheed,” he said, adding that he was “forced” to make the decision to back PPM.
Former JP city councillor Hameed said the JP was formed for the purpose of changing the 30-year government and called on young politicians in the party to join MDP to secure their political careers.
The JP council decision was subject to external influence, he alleged, which has “destroyed our efforts for reform.”
Echoing the sentiments of his colleagues, Moosa Rameez recalled that he was “a jail mate” of Gasim after the pair were arrested and incarcerated for over three months following a crackdown on an unprecedented pro-democracy demonstration on August 13, 2004.
He added that he made the decision to join the MDP “for Gasim’s sake.”
Dr Bari meanwhile said he had renewed hope for Islamic affairs under an MDP government based on the party’s manifesto, educated young religious scholars in the party, “and especially assurances from President Nasheed in his recent speeches.”
“Even though I wasn’t in the MDP before, I was in the MDP government for three years. President Nasheed is not a new person to me. What he has said about me is the truth. I would like to note at this opportunity that he has sincerely accepted my advice in the cabinet,” he said.
As a founder member of the Adhaalath Party, Bari said he had to leave because of the actions of its new leadership.
Islam could not be advanced without social and economic development, Bari said, adding that he decided to work with the MDP because of the party’s manifesto.
On Nasheed’s remarks that he was the only minister with “veto power,” Bari referred to cabinet decisions not to approve a tourism slogan and decline an offer to build a casino based on his advice.