MDP declares support for mandatory presidential primaries

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will back a proposal to make presidential primaries mandatory in the political parties bill, currently at committee stage.

MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, MDP parliamentary group leader, announced the decision at a press conference yesterday, two days after the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) declared it would not support the General Goods and Service Tax (G-GST) bill up for a final vote tomorrow.

“We believe that as many members as possible should have a say when a presidential candidate of a political party is determined,” Ibu Solih said. “In our party, we have a general vote among members to select the presidential candidate. When a bill on political parties gets passed, we believe that principle should be included in the law.”

Speaking to Minivan News today, MP Ahmed Mahlouf of the DRP’s Z-faction and spokesperson of the ‘joint opposition parliamentary group’ said that the opposition MPs would “welcome” the MDP’s move.

“But the bill should have been passed a long time ago,” Mahlouf said, reiterating a claim the Z-DRP has made in the media over past months that the bill had been parked at committee as part of “a deal between [DRP Leader Ahmed] Thasmeen [Ali] and MDP.”

The political parties bill has been stalled at committee stage since May 19, 2010.

Mahlouf said that Thasmeen was the one who stood to lose from stipulating mandatory presidential primaries.

“Thasmeen has no backbone,” Mahlouf continued. “At first he said he would support the tax bills and now he’s saying he doesn’t support it anymore.”

The opposition parliamentary group would support any amendment to the political parties bill stipulating mandatory primaries, Mahlouf said.

In June, the breakaway Z-faction called for an “emergency congress” to determine the party’s presidential candidate after ‘Honorary Leader’ and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom withdrew his endorsement of Thasmeen.

Thasmeen was selected as the party’s presidential candidate in the DRP national congress in March 2010 after he ran uncontested for the post.

At a press conference today, DRP Deputy Leader Ahmed Mohamed said that he did not believe the MDP’s announcement had any relation to the DRP’s stance on the tax bills.

“Perhaps it might be an effort to shake us up a bit,” he speculated. “We are really not against a primary. We at the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party are not opposed to a primary. What we’re saying is that the DRP charter does not say anything about a primary.”

Ahmed Mohamed noted that proposal to hold a presidential primary did not pass at the party’s last congress. The DRP charter states that the party’s presidential candidate shall be its leader, he said.

“So we can’t go against the DRP charter,” he stressed, adding however that the DRP would not oppose a presidential primary if it was stipulated in a law. “But we can’t do it now no matter how much some people might want it.”