President Waheed to back PPM in second round, stepping down as GIP head

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Itthihaad Party (GIP) will support the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) during a run-off vote to decide this year’s presidential election – presently scheduled to be held on September 28.

Minivan News understands that, although Dr Waheed will also be stepping down as head of the party, he will urge supporters to back PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen against Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rival, former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The announcement of the GIP backing the PPM, comes days after the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) announced its support for Nasheed and the MDP during the second round of voting.  The DRP had backed Waheed in the first round vote, with party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali standing as the incumbent’s running mate.

President Waheed took 5.13 percent of the total votes cast on September 7, finishing in last place.

The poll is presently being contested within the courts over allegations of vote rigging by third-place candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim and the Jumhoree Party (JP), who secured 24.07 percent of ballots cast.

According to provisional Elections Commission (EC) results, PPM candidate Yameen narrowly secured his place in the second round with 25.35 percent of the votes cast.

Former President Nasheed led the poll with 45.45 percent of the popular vote – falling short of the 51 percent needed to secure the presidency during the first round.

A senior source within President Waheed’s campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity, today said that the incumbent would be personally lending his support to Yameen’s campaign along with the GIP, despite opting to step down as head of the party.

The same source claimed that should any aspects of the ballot be challenged by the party, including calls for a recount, it would be best to have President Waheed distance himself from such actions.

Minivan News was awaiting an official statement from the GIP at times of press.

“Worryingly serious” allegations

However, President Waheed was today quoted in local media as being concerned over “worryingly serious” allegations over the first round vote that he called to be addressed within the legal framework of the Maldives.

Despite expressing concerns over allegations raised by the JP , the president was also quoted in Sun Online as praising the election for being conducted “smoothly” and peacefully” earlier this month.

Waheed reportedly stated that he had decided to back Abdulla Yameen – half brother of the country’s autocratic former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – based on what he believed was the best interest for the Maldives.

“I do not believe it is not right [sic] to weaken the country’s constitutional framework, trample the law, set fire to property, instigate unrest,” read the statement reportedly attributed to the president.

Meanwhile, PPM vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed earlier this week declared that former President Mohamed Nasheed “will not be allowed to assume power”, even should he emerge as the clear winner in the run-off.

Clarifying his remarks to Minivan News at the time, Dr Jameel stated that his comments during the rally reflected the “criminal charge filed against Nasheed” concerning his role in the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, who stands accused of corruption and halting investigations into his conduct through the courts.

“As there is an impending [criminal] charge on him, he would be facing the outcome of the trial that would stop him from holding [the office of the president]. That is what I meant [at the rally],” Dr Jameel explained.

The JP meanwhile today confirmed that the party’s council and its coalition partners had not yet taken a decision on whether it would support a candidate in the second round of voting.

JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal said that the party remained focused solely on trying to prove via the courts that the first round vote had been “rigged”, adding that – although the party would consider supporting one of the two candidates in the final round – no such talks discussions had been held at present.


MDP willing to discuss interim government with PPM: Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed announced the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) willingness to discuss enacting an interim government with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which the party believes is essential for free and fair elections to occur.

The MDP has desired the establishment of an interim government since the controversial transfer of power of February 7, 2012 and is open to holding discussions with the PPM to establish a transitional government prior to September’s Presidential elections, Nasheed stated during a press conference held at the Mookai Hotel in Male’ today (May 16).

“If PPM wants to bring in an interim government, we are ready to hold discussions. MDP wants an interim government. We at MDP have always wanted an interim government. But we need support from other parties to do that in parliament. If PPM is so inclined, we are ready to hold discussions with PPM to achieve this,” Nasheed said.

“For free and fair elections [to take place], we are encouraged that PPM has pledged to stop Waheed from campaigning on state funds,” he added.

The MDP is continuing its call for the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) recommendations to be implemented, with the supervision of the international community. Nasheed stated he was disappointed CoNI recommendations have yet to be enacted – especially regarding holding to account those who mutinied against the government and committed various brutal acts, including destroying the MDP’s headquarters.

Nasheed said that the MDP did not believe free and fair elections were possible with Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Defence Minister Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim in their current positions, and has asked they be “transferred” from their current posts.

He distinguished between ‘rank and file’ Police Service and Maldives National Defence Force (MDNF) and their leadership. Nasheed said action should be taken against the highest ranking officers for their role on February 7.

MDP Spokesperson Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today that local media reports of Nasheed calling for Riyaz and Nazim to be “forcibly removed” are inaccurate, however the former President has called for their removal and transfer “as far away from their current positions as possible”.

“They are already enacting measures of intimidation under the guise of ‘coordination’ by requesting political parties give the name of a person to work with the police. The Elections Commission should be enacting such a policy, not the police. It’s very strange and highly suspicious,” said Zuhair.

Should PPM be of the same view that an interim government is necessary for credible elections to be held, MDP would work through the parliament to discuss with PPM, Zuhair explained.

“PPM’s President and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said their party would ‘go it alone’ and not form a coalition, because that would not allow policies to be implemented effectively. Then the natural next step [for the PPM] would be to gain parliamentary support from the only player able to give support, MDP,” said Zuhair.

PPM Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Nihan today rejected the likelihood of the government-aligned party working with the opposition MDP to remove President Waheed from office ahead of elections in September.

“I do not believe this is a possibility. If it was possible, we would have done this already I believe,” he said.

Nihan claimed that the PPM’s main concern at present was for free and fair elections to take place. However, he added that with the Commonwealth-backed CoNI concluding that President Waheed’s coalition government – which includes the PPM – had come to power legitimately, it would not back the MDP’s calls for the present administration to be removed.

Nihan added that, while continuing to support the present coalition government, many PPM supporters believed that the party presently represented one of only two political ideologies in the country. These philosophies he said were those of PPM founder former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and former President Nasheed and the MDP.

Nihan claimed that the majority of the country’s smaller parties, including those choosing to side with President Waheed in a pre-election coalition, were all rooted to former President Gayoom and his “political wisdom”.

“Strange bedfellows”

Nasheed also addressed the recent addition of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to the President Mohamed Hassan Manik’s coalition – which includes his Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP) and the Adhaalath Party (AP) – and it’s incompatibility with a democratic presidential system of governance.

Nasheed expressed his happiness about Gayoom’s statement that coalitions do not work because they are not in line with a presidential governing system and are instead more reflective of a parliamentary system.

“I am very happy that President Gayoom – [who is] no doubt is the most experienced political leader [in the nation] – has been very clear about how inefficient for democratic policies the formation of coalitions are in a presidential system,” said Nasheed.

Nasheed noted that the Adhaalath Party and Sheiks’ extremist views will pose difficulties for the GIP-led coalition. Although the DRP are billing themselves as a moderate party, they will not establish the national ‘bastion of tolerance’ they claim to be purporting, Nasheed said.

The former President believes the coalition is a “hodgepodge” mix of ideologies, not politics and these “strange bedfellows” cannot achieve anything.

DRP disintegration

Nasheed stated that the alliance between GIP and DRP is only agreement between the two individual and not reflective of grassroots DRP supporters. He believes that DRP leader Thasmeen Ali and Waheed had no other choice and formed the coalition out of sheer necessity.

He also stated that the recent coalition has not produced a “third ideology” and that only two ideologies exist in the Maldives.

During door to door campaigning, the MDP has noticed that DRP grassroots support is disintegrating. They are either merging with PPM or joining MDP, according to MDP Press Director Mohamed Zuhair.

Additionally, Zuhair discussed the distinction President Nasheed made between other parties and MDP. He highlighted that MDP policies are formulated by consulting every household to asses the Maldivian people’s needs. This is followed by holding consultative seminars, with the feedback passed to the party’s ‘organs’ for discussion, then to policy committees, with the process culminating in an announcement.

“None of the other parties have this method,” said Zuhair.

“So far three policies have been announced, and the fourth – agrobusiness – will be announced tomorrow,” he continued.

“MDP is focusing on policy issues, having to ‘go out on the road’ and stage protests to ensure free and fair elections will change the entire dynamics of the campaign. We are hoping it doesn’t come to that,” said Zuhair.


“We should all party sometime”: young people allege inducements offered to join President’s party

President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) has denied claims the party has been trying to induce people to join through illegitimate means, in a bid to shore up the party’s membership base ahead of a bill that could see smaller parties dissolved.

According to the latest statistics from the Elections Commission (EC), GIP’s current membership base stands at 2,538 members. The draft bill on Political Parties currently in parliament stipulates that parties with membership less than 5000 members after six months of the bill’s passage shall be dissolved by the EC.

A number of young people have come forward and alleged to Minivan News that they were offered government positions, promotions, jobs with salaries of more than MVR 10,000 (US$650) a month, music equipment and even hosted parties to join GIP.

GIP Secretary General Ahmed Mushrif has dismissed the allegations as an “outright lie”, and said that the party from its formation had never attempted to add members illegally.

Allegations of offers

A young Maldivian working in the tourism sector told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that a parliament member and prominent figure in the industry had called him and asked him to sign with GIP “as a favor”.

“He told me that in return for me joining the party, I would be rewarded with a position in the current government that I could never have even imagined. He further tried to convince me that all I needed to do was join the party – I could vote for anybody I wanted,” he said.

Another person who has worked in the civil service for the last 15 years told Minivan News that he was contacted by GIP with a promise that he would “easily be promoted” to a supervisor level job if he joined the party.

“A GIP member called me and told me that I could easily get promoted to supervisor level if I left my current party and joined GIP. Even though I am not an active MDP member I said I would think about it, but later did not respond to his calls,” the civil servant said.

According to the law, it is unlawful for any authority to influence civil servants for political reasons by threatening or offering them employment opportunities.

“We should all party sometime” – Deputy President of GIP

A third person – aged 20 – claimed that he and his group of friends aged around 18 to 22 were approached by GIP through a friend and were invited to the party’s office where they were received by the party’s Deputy Leader  and the Maldives High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki.

“When we arrived we were received by ‘Nazaki’ Zaki and treated with pizza. He said that in return for joining GIP, he would offer each of us a job with a salary not less than MVR 10,000, but asked us not to question where the jobs would be allocated from,” the youngster claimed.

Apart from the job, the source alleged that Zaki had offered him and his friends “music equipment and a place to play for free” to those among them who wished to play music. He added that the group were also promised various entertainment activities such as “hosting shows and parties”.

“They asked us to join the party and work in the party’s youth wing,” the source said.

When they asked what they were supposed to do as members of the party’s youth wing, the source said Zaki had told them that their main task  would be to increase the party’s membership as it was “currently very low”.

At the end of the meeting, the high commissioner reportedly suggested the holding of a party event that would be fully funded by GIP.

“They said we should all party sometime. Maybe they said that because we had long hair and looked stylish,” the source suggested.

Zaki was one of the founding members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). However he resigned from the party in April claiming that the MDP was now focused around former President Mohamed Nasheed and had become a personality-based party.

He later joined GIP and was appointed as its deputy leader.

The opposition MDP had accused Zaki of being involved in corruption in the controversial installation of border control system by Malaysian IT firm Nexbis.

However, Zaki denied the claims, stating that he had only helped facilitate the deal from taking place in his capacity as the High Commissioner to Malaysia.

Minivan News was unable to contact Zaki as he was out of the country at time of press, while President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls.

GIP member Illyas Hussein Ibrahim, the former Immigration Controller and brother-in-law of President Waheed, referred Minivan News to Secretary General Ahmed Mushrif.

Similar remarks

In a leaked audio clip released in August, former CEO of Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) and senior member of GIP Ahmed Faiz was recorded discussing the hiring of individuals to loudly promote President Waheed in local cafes.

Faiz in the audio claimed that he was a “close confidante” of President Waheed, and that he had been given many assignments to help his presidency.

“Not necessarily going out into the streets with huge knives and attacking people, okay? What I want is, for example, when the key people who are involved in this are in a certain place… for example, four or five of these people might be in a coffee-shop.

“You go in there, do you understand? You go and barge in right into the middle, and say, no need to be discreet at all, just say it out loud openly, ‘Hey you (expletive) dogs, this country is being destroyed because of you (expletive). Don’t even think you can do what you please with this country,” he explained in the audio clip.

Similar to Zaki, Faiz also spoke about offering jobs and other benefits at the expense of the state to his audience.

“What I’m saying is, this government is now appointing people to different posts and it’s getting structured in the manner we want. Now there is a lot of things that I can do. Material benefits can be gained, and lots of other things. Credit from STO (State Trading Organisation) worth millions of rufiya, that’s absolutely welcome. Do you get it?

“Then maybe funds are needed for some activity, for example, ‘Please arrange this amount of cash needed for something’. I will get that done. Or perhaps, ‘From this project, give us this amount of money’. Now when it’s put like that, it seems somewhat twisted to me. I tend to see that like cutting a ‘deal’,” Faiz stated.

Following the release of the audio clip, Faiz was sacked from his position in MPL.

Destroying democracy

President of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Hassan Luthfee said he condemned the unlawful acts carried out by political parties to increase membership figures.

“This is a very serious issue. Actions like these will only destroy the democracy in this country. The purpose of democracy is to exercise the free will of the people in making their political decisions. It is not democracy when a party induces an individual to join a specific political party by unlawful means by offering jobs and money. That is not in within the spirit of democracy,” Luthfee told Minivan News.

He reiterated that politicians should realise that the success of a democracy depends on sincerity.  He also highlighted the challenges faced by the ACC in looking into such allegations.

“The biggest difficulty is that as per the laws of the country, finding substantial evidence is very difficult. Even when we summon a suspected person, would they be honest in giving evidence to the commission?” Luthfee asked.

He further stressed that it was important to have more efficient and stricter laws to address such issues, but said that the ACC is working with the Elections Commission to reduce fraudulent action being carried out by political parties in acquiring members.


Majlis committee votes to change party registration and funding requirements

The parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee has voted to change the requirements concerning registration and state funding for political parties, according to the committee’s chair and Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed.

Writing in his personal blog (Dhivehi), MP Nasheed revealed that “a clear majority” of the committee voted in favour of requiring parties to gain 5000 members before it can be officially registered, and 10,000 members before becoming eligible for state funds. The current requirement is 3000 members for both under the current regulations governing political parties.

The requirements were stipulated in the draft legislation on political parties currently being reviewed by the committee.

Nasheed expressed confidence that the committee’s decision would not be overturned on the Majlis floor when the bill is put up for a vote.

“When the law is passed, the current registered parties with less than 5,000 members would be given a six month period to reach the figure. If a party fails to reach that figure by the end of the period, the particular party would be dissolved,” Nasheed explained.

The changes would currently impact upon President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s own Guamee Ittihad Party (GIP) which has only 2,538 members, as well the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) with 2,199 members.