Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has announced it will now contest in every upcoming election, and will be establishing party offices in atolls nation-wide.
Spokesperson for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and member of PPM’s interim counci, Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, told local media that although the party “did not contest in elections in order to draft the party’s charter and strengthen internal factors”, the party would now engage in campaigns “and will definitely win.”
PPM did contest in a December 31 council by-election in Shaviyani Atoll Milandhoo this year, however it lost to ruling Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Abdulla Athif.
In November, PPM member Abdulla Mohamed Didi won the mid-Fuvahmulah atoll council seat by running as an independent, as PPM had not completed the registration process. Didi received 52 percent of the votes while MDP candidate Mohamed Abdulla Didi received 46 percent.
Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) received only eight percent of the votes.
PPM MP Ahmed Mahlouf noted that the Kaashidhoo seat in parliament may be vacated pending a ruling at the Supreme Court. Anticipating a ruling on the matter within a month, he said PPM would contest for the seat.
A win for the Kaashidhoo seat would allow PPM to be officially recognised by Parliament–according to Section 29(d) of the parliamentary rules of procedure, which states that “political parties in parliament shall be parties with a member or members that contested in the name of the party and was elected to parliament.” At the moment, the eight MPs who currently identify with PPM officially operate as independents within the Majlis.
PPM’s statement comes a year and a half in advance of the 2013 presidential elections, the first since President Mohamed Nasheed took office in 2008 in the country’s first multi-party elections that marked the end of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year dictatorship.
While the new government has been primarily challenged by DRP, the opposition appears to be shifting in sizeable strides toward PPM, which is headed by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Since PPM completed its registration process in late October with 3,600 membership forms submitted to the Elections Commission (EC), it has received 11,000 members directly from DRP, Mahlouf claims. He added that 1,800 had switched over from MDP, 1,000 had joined from other parties, and several thousand more who had not previously belonged to a political party had registered.
“Our first target was to get DRP members to join us,” Mahlouf explained. “Now I believe 90 percent of DRP members support Gayoom, so I expect most will join PPM.”
According to the party registry, however, DRP has only lost approximately 6,000 members since November.
Still, DRP’s current membership is lower than it was before an acrimonious split that saw the Z-faction breakaway in 2010 and go on to form PPM under the leadership of DRP ‘honorary leader’ former President Gayoom.
Meanwhile, PPM is currently facing tense relations with the EC.
“Of the 20,000 registration forms we’ve submitted, 6,000 have been rejected,” Mahlouf complained. “The EC is citing small mistakes like use of English instead of Dhivehi, the way fingerprints are done, whether we have two witnesses for the form, and they will only accept valid national ID cards, not passports or licenses.
“When MDP and DRP registered it was very easy,” he recalled.
Gayoom recently accused the EC of unfair procedures. “We know the state of affairs in the country right now – election results do not turn out the way people vote. So what are we going to do?” he said during a party rally. His statement elicited a condemnatory response from EC while the MDP suggested that his remarks were made because vote rigging was involved during his 30 years as president.
Eyeing the annual general assembly at the end of April, however, PPM has announced it will be campaigning in the atolls to “meet the islanders and raise our membership,” Mahlouf said, adding that the party’s target of 40,000–double it’s current alleged membership of 23,000– “is not a difficult target for us.”
As of January 8, the party registry recorded PPM as the nation’s third largest party with nearly 14,000 members, and 245 pending registration forms. DRP remains second largest on record, while MDP ranks first with upwards of 47,000 registered members.
While there are strong signs that DRP will indeed fade into the PPM ticket, Minivan News asked whether PPM anticipated a highly competitive presidential election in 2013.
“Thasmeen will run [for DRP], but I doubt he’ll received many votes given what happened in Fuvahmulah,” Mahlouf said. “I think it will be competitive and fruitful, I certainly hope for a free and fair election.”
DRP has said it will be addressing comments made by PPM’s Hussain ‘Munduh’ Shareef during a press conference tomorrow.
MDP officials could not be reached at time of press.