JP council officially declares exit from Progressive Coalition

The Jumhooree Party (JP) has officially left the Progressive Coalition with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and has given leader Gasim Ibrahim the authority to make all decisions regarding actions needed to defend the Constitution.

“Jumhooree Party’s National Council agrees and decides to give all powers and authority to party leader Honourable Gasim Ibrahim in taking any course of action in cooperation of any party to defend the constitution of the Republic of Maldives”, said the unanimous JP Council motion yesterday (January 24).

At a press conference held on Saturday, JP Deputy Leader and former transport minister Ameen Ibrahim stated that the party had left the coalition due to the government’s repeated violations of the Constitution through the narrowing of basic rights and freedoms, and influencing independent state institutions.

Ameen was appointed transport minister following Abdulla Yameen’s election as president in November 2013, secured by the JP council’s decision to back him in the second round.

Following Gasim’s decision to stand against the PPM’s candidate for Majlis speaker last year, the PPM decided to unilaterally expel the JP from the ruling coalition – which also includes the Maldives Development Alliance.

A purge of JP ministers followed, with Ameen dismissed and two of the party’s cabinet members defecting to the former ally. Despite this, the JP maintained that the coalition agreement had not been fully terminated – expressing a willingness to continue discussions.

Ameen yesterday called on all political parties to discuss the steps that need to be taken to defend the Constitution, stating that the JP is willing to work with any party for that cause despite the potential threats and intimidation from the government to the party and its leader.

Minivan News was unable to obtain comment from the PPM at the time of publication.

Additionally, the JP council decided to remove Moosa Anwar from the post of party youth wing president yesterday. Anwar has pledged to contest the decision in the courts, saying it contravenes the JP’s constitution.

Spokesman for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, has welcomed the JP’s decision to officially leave the coalition, saying that the party could not work with the current government.

“The government is unable to work within the framework of the Constitution of which the spirit is democratic and consultative,” said Ghafoor.

Ties between the MDP and the JP have grown closer in recent weeks, with former President Mohamed Nasheed pledging earlier this month to defend Gasim against government attacks.

Last week the MDP held a rally outside Gasim’s home to show solidarity with the leader and to defend the constitution, with JP Spokesman Ahmed Sameer expressing confidence that the MDP and JP could “travel on the same boat”.

The MDP have listed the removal of two Supreme Court judges and the replacement of the auditor general late last year as examples of the government’s unconstitutional actions.

Meanwhile, speaking to journalists on his return from an official trip to Abu Dhabi on Thursday (January 22), Nasheed urged President Yameen to abandon strict and arbitrary policies and actions against other political figures and to conduct official talks with all political parties.

“As soon as possible, even if possible tonight, I urge President Yameen to commence talks with all political parties, especially with the inclusion of President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] in the talks,” he said.

The President’s Office has reported today that Yameen met with former President Gayoom – also his half-brother – to discuss the current political situation as well as the government’s planned initiatives.

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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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