DRP enters coalition with President Waheed, commits “political suicide” claims MDP

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has  said it will stand in a coalition with President Dr Mohamed Waheed during September’s elections as part of an agreement to strengthen its position in the political “middle-ground”.

Party spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef told Minivan News that with the DRP battling for space in the middle ground between the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), it had opted to form as broad a coalition as possible to try and ensure a second round electoral victory.

“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, adding that the party continued to rule out working with the PPM beyond the present government.

Speaking following the coalition announcement today, the MDP accused the DRP and its current leader – one-time presidential candidate MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – of committing political “suicide” by continuing to side with a government the opposition party’s supporters accuse of coming to power in a “coup d’etat” last year.

Earlier this year the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party both announced their intentions to join a coalition with President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP).

Both the DQP and GIP are small political parties currently facing potential dissolution for lacking the minimum requirement of 10,000 members as stipulated in the recently passed Political Parties Act.

“Too hardline”

DRP spokesperson Shareef said today that competing directly against the GIP or other government-aligned parties like the Jumhoree Party (JP) would only allow the PPM – as the country’s second largest party in terms of MPs – to emerge as a front runner during a potential run-off vote.

He went on to accuse the PPM, which was formed from a breakaway sections of DRP supporters loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as being “too hardline” to benefit the Maldivian people.

“This is a party to belongs to one family, or a supreme leader,” Shareef said, referring to Gayoom, who previously formed the DRP in 2005 during his 30 year rule of the country.

He added that even with the MDP presently being the country’s largest party, it was not itself capable of obtaining even 35 percent of the vote – a 51 percent share is required to form a government.

Shareef said considering the MDP’s likely support, being part of a coalition gave the DRP a better chance of securing election during a second round of voting, adding that increased polarisation between the country’s two largest parties during the last seven years was “leading the country nowhere”.

“There is no chance of a first round victory, so unless we have a strong coalition, those of us in the political middle ground would be forced to support the MDP,” he claimed.

Shareef added that no demands has so far been made by the party with regard to securing senior cabinet or government positions such as the vice presidency, should the coalition be voted into power.

“It would be nice to have [the vice presidential position], but we are not asking for cabinet posts or a certain share of ministers, we believe that unity is needed right now,” he claimed.

Since the controversial transfer of power that on February 7, 2012, which saw former President Mohamed Nasheed resign from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military the DRP has been part of a coalition government with other former opposition parties including the PPM, JP, DQP and the Adhaalath Party.

Asked whether a similar coalition of parties similar to those already serving under the current administration would be electable, Shareef said he believed President Waheed had served the country admirably to hold so many rival political figures together.

“When you have a government that comes into power by accident it will always be a lame duck [administration],” he claimed. “President Waheed has done an admirable thing and filled a political vacuum.”

After the coalition agreement was announced today, DRP Deputy Leader MP Rozaina Adam took to social network service Twitter to accuse both the PPM and the MDP of “desperation” by trying to disparage the party’s decision to enter a coalition with the president.

Political “suicide”

However, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor argued that September’s election would be divided along the lines of those voting against a government deemed to have come to power in a “coup d’etat” last year and those in support of the present administration.

“This an an election based on recovering from a coup government,” he said.  “The election will be along these lines.”

Ghafoor claimed that by opting to stay aligned with the current government of President Waheed, DRP Leader MP Thasmeen had committed political “suicide”.

“We have been travelling all over the country as a party recently, and we have seen lots of concern that this coup administration has ruined the economy and stalled investment projects. We are will be lucky if we can avoid [sovereign] default before the election is held,” he said.

“Our candidate [former President Mohamed Nasheed] has previously summarised it well. You have the MDP making three foot strides, the PPM making half foot strides and the present government going backwards,” he said.

Ghafoor also said  he had met a large number of local councilors from government-aligned parties during his travels who had expressed concern at a perceived focus by the current administration to centralise power as much as possible.

Speaking to Minivan News last month, former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, now standing as running mate to PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, said that the political landscape since the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008 necessitated a willingness to share power more than ever with “major” political parties.

“We have to recognise that the PPM and the MDP are the two major political forces in the country capable of winning elections. Hence, if the governing coalition desires to forge an alliance, it cannot realistically exclude the PPM from any such move. Whether a coalition, inclusive of the PPM can be realised prior to the elections is possible or not, we cannot alienate major political parties in an election,” he said at the time.


JP rules out forming coalition with President Waheed ahead of elections

The Jumhoree Party (JP) has ruled out forming a coalition with fellow government-aligned parties ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September this year, despite its reported involvement in recent power sharing talks with President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

JP Spokesman Moosa Ramiz today told Minivan News that the party was not looking to form a coalition before the elections. He also slammed politicians that did not belong to the JP speaking on its behalf about possible coalition agreements.

Ramiz’s comments were made in response to reports in local media this week claiming Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member Umar Naseer was conducting talks to form a coalition of various parties, including the JP, behind President Waheed.

Naseer told Sun Online that a so-called “broad coalition” was being discussed to help secure a first round election victory against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

Former PPM Deputy Leader Naseer, who last month mounted an unsuccessful bid to become the party’s presidential candidate, was present during discussions held at the official residence of President Waheed on Tuesday (April 16) night – fuelling uncertainty over his own future political allegiance.

Naseer was this week given an ultimatum by the government-aligned PPM to ‘reform and realign’ with the party’s charter or face expulsion after he accused MP Abdulla Yameen – his sole rival in the party’s recent presidential primary – of “rigging” the vote in his favour.

After refusing to defend himself during a PPM disciplinary committee hearing this week into his comments, Naseer has told local media that he would be revealing his future political plans tomorrow (April 19).

PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press today. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Umar Naseer this week said that he would not give any interviews to Minivan News.

Naseer has told local media following the meeting at President Waheed’s residence that discussions had been held with numerous parties over forming a coalition. He added that the PPM was welcome to join any such alliance of parties. Also pictured at the meeting was JP Leader and presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim.

However, JP Spokesperson Ramiz today slammed Naseer for speculating about another party’s plans, while also rejecting any suggestion it would seek to stand during the elections in a coalition.

“My brief answer would be that we are not going to do this [form a coalition ahead of elections],” he said.  “What right has Umar Naseer got to speak about the plans of a party he is not a member of?”

According to the JP website, Gasim Ibrahim said  today that he would not consider becoming the running mate of any other presidential candidate.

Amidst reported talks to form a so-called broad coalition behind the current president, the fellow government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) today said it refused to comment on potential presidential elections campaigns or comments made by other parties in the run up to the election.

Speaking to Minivan News, DRP Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom claimed that unlike other political parties in the country, it was the only party that had not changed its actions or political positions over the last three to five years.

Without mentioning any specific names, Mausoom alleged that senior political figures in the country who had changed their positions and even political allegiances numerous times over the last half decade were a key contributor to a perceived loss of faith among the public in the country’s elected representatives.

Addressing rumours of the efforts to form a coalition behind the current president, opposition MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor meanwhile said he believed that there had been a shift in the country’s political allegiances in recent weeks ahead of September’s elections.

According to Ghafoor, this shift had lead to the formation of two separate factions in the coalition government of President Waheed, which MDP supporters maintain was brought to power in a “coup d’etat” after former President Nasheed resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

“We are seeing strong lines being drawn between those who backed the coup, and those opposing it,” he said. “There is a regrouping into two factions of the current dictatorship, then there is us.”

Ghafoor claimed that in the current political climate, the MDP was itself committed to trying to reach a transitional arrangement where the majority of members in parliament would believe it was in their interest to remove President Waheed from office – thereby facilitating early elections.

Despite the MDP’s aims, the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) (DQP) this month formally entered into a coalition with the President’s own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) ahead of the elections.

Both the DQP and GIP are small political parties currently facing potential dissolution for lacking the minimum requirement of 10,000 members as stipulated in the recently passed Political Parties Act.

DQP Leader and President Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed claimed this week that all political parties, except the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were welcome to join the coalition.

Dr Saeed was not responding to calls from Minivan News today.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also publicly pledged its support to President Waheed, last month announcing plans to form a coalition with the GIP.


Yameen Abdul Gayoom identifies youth and economy as key focus for primary campaign

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Parliamentary Group Leader MP Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said that “youth” and the “economy” will be the key focus of his campaign to stand as presidential candidate for his party in general elections scheduled for next year.

Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, told Minivan News today that as he prepared to launch his campaign for the PPM Presidential Primary – expected to be held early next year – no decision was as yet taken on a potential running mate should he win.

“There is still time for that. All will be done in good time,” he said via SMS, without elaborating further on his presidential aspirations.

Yameen also did not comment on whether he would continue to contest in the primaries in the event former President Gayoom also opted to stand.

The presidential Primary of the PPM is scheduled to take place after its long-delayed national congress, which is presently scheduled between January 17 to January 19, 2013.

Volunteer drive

Yameen’s comments were made as PPM Interim Vice President Umar Naseer was reported in local media as yesterday (December 22) holding his own ceremony to try to recruit 300 volunteers from the party’s 17,900 strong membership to assist with his own primary campaign.

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted Umar as claiming that some 250 volunteers signed up for his campaign last night.

“Last night, I actually didn’t inform my full support base. Last night we only carried out the process of recruiting volunteers, identifying what they can do, signing and filling of cards,” he was quoted as saying.

Local media also reported Umar as opting to use a “palm logo” previously adopted by former President Gayoom – interim PPM President – for his campaigning.

“Even if the palm did not win back then, Insha Allah this time it will,” he was reported to have told Haveeru.

Umar was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Likely candidates

Earlier this month, Umar claimed that he and MP Yameen Abdul Gayoom were seen as the most likely candidates to contest the PPM’s primary elections scheduled for February 2013, following the party’s upcoming congress.

However, other key figures have yet to rule themselves out of the running, most notably former president Gayoom himself, who told Indian newspaper The Hindu on December 11 that he may consider contesting in a presidential election presently expected to be held in August or September next year.

“Things change very frequently. So I am keeping my options open,” Gayoom was quoted as saying. “[If I run] it won’t be out of my choice, if ever, it will be out of compulsion. Because I feel I have served the country for 30 years and I feel it is up to other people [now].”

Speaking to local media at the time, Umar Naseer said that Gayoom had the right to contest for re-election in the next presidential elections – a decision he believed would make the country’s former autocratic ruler the “obvious top candidate” to finish the race.

“I would definitely back Gayoom if he is to contest the elections. He is our ‘ace of spades’. You cannot say that the ace of spades is not the ace of spades,” he said.

Despite his current support, Umar Naseer, in an interview with Al Jazeera in November 2007 alongside (now) former President Mohamed Nasheed and then-Information Minister Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, stated that Gayoom had “failed” in running the country and urged him to step down.

“The best thing for the Maldives at the moment is for Mr Gayoom to step down,” Naseer said. “He has failed in all areas. As far as education is concerned, he has failed. Security he has failed. Corruption, he has failed. All these areas, he has failed. He must step down,” Naseer said, speaking then as President of his own Islamic Democratic Party (IDP).

Beyond Gayoom, local media and senior politicians have previously speculated that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan could also be a potential PPM candidate to stand in next year’s general elections.

However, Gayoom, in his most recent interview with the Hindu newspaper, suggested that such a development could only happen if the president joined his party.

Gayoom has previously welcomed the prospect of President Waheed competing in a primary for the party’s ticket.

“The president, or anyone else, can join PPM if they want, and if they win the [party’s] primary, they will become our presidential candidate,” he said at the time.