JP, PPM fail to agree on contesting election with single candidate

Jumhoree Party (JP) presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim will individually contest the election rerun scheduled for Saturday (October 19), after failing to agree terms with his rivals on uniting behind a single candidate against the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal confirmed that talks between Gasim and fellow candidates President Dr Mohamed Waheed and MP Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had failed to result in an agreement to form an election coalition.

President Waheed announced Friday (October 11) that he would be withdrawing from the election rerun set for October 19, after polls held last month were annulled by the Supreme Court.

Waheed, who came in last place during the now defunct first round of polling on September 7 with 5.13 percent of the popular vote, said he had taken his decision in the “greater interest”of the Maldives, citing concerns about the integrity of the independent Elections Commission (EC).

The election, which saw an 88 percent voter turnout, was unanimously considered credible and democratic by more than 1000 local and international election observers.

Local media has meanwhile quoted the president as saying he would not back back any particular candidate ahead of the vote, despite previously pledging support to the PPM ahead of the cancelled run-off vote that was to be held on September 28.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said he could not officially confirm the president’s stance on not backing a candidate at time of press.

The decision means that just three candidates will contest Saturday’s poll; MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen of the PPM and Gasim Ibrahim of the JP.

Ajmal said that with Dr Waheed, Yameen and Gasim failing to agree on terms for fielding a single candidate to stand against Nasheed, the JP’s candidate would contest the polls individually along with his running mate Dr Hassan Saeed, as he had during the vote on September 7.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday (September 12), Gasim accused the PPM of being the main obstacle in agreeing to back President Waheed as a single candidate against Nasheed.

“I said the others must choose that path as well. Then it will be President Waheed who will contest elections. [I asked for that] because that is the path for success. However that did not happen. I myself told PPM’s President, [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] that I was ready to do that,” he told local media during the press conference.

“When I had proposed this, PPM cannot lie and say [we] did not agree to a single candidate. Politics is dirty, but it shouldn’t be this dirty.”

PPM presidential candidate Yameen has meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru he did not believe the party would receive a sufficient number of votes by uniting behind Waheed. He raised an additional concern, that the incumbent’s running mate during the September 7 vote was Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, adding that it was against the law to change a choice of running mate.

Thasmeen and his party have since pledged support for the MDP during the election.

“We cannot see a way to lawfully change the running mate. There is no way to change Thasmeen as Waheed’s running mate. So even in this sense, from a legal point of view, President Waheed is not a choice,” Yameen was quoted as saying.

The PPM presidential candidate was not responding to calls at time of press.

Cancelled vote

Gasim narrowly finished in third place during last month’s cancelled vote, taking 24.07 percent of ballots cast, with Yameen receiving 25.35 percent of the votes cast.

MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finished as front runner in the poll, securing 45.45 percent of the popular vote.  However, he fell short of the 50 percent ‘plus one vote’ needed to secure the presidency during the first round.

Despite both local and international observers praising the September 7 poll and the conduct of the Maldives’ EC, the Supreme Court ultimately backed concerns raised by the JP over alleged voter irregularities and ordered a rerun of last month’s poll in its entirety.