PPM schedules Funadhoo island “mega-rally” for Thursday

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has been campaigning across Shaviyani Atoll this week ahead of attempts to hold a “mega-rally” on the island of Funadhoo on Thursday (June 27).

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan has said that a delegation including party presidential candidate MP Abdullah Yameen and his running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed had so far campaigned on six islands in the atoll as part of the week-long trip expected to conclude Friday (June 28).

He said that MP Yameen has been travelling door-to door to meet voters and discuss his plans for economic development should he be voted president during September’s election.

Nihan added that the PPM had pledged would to put a high priority on economic development in Shaviyani Atoll, which he said lacked a regional airport that had in turn limited the local population’s access to the capital and other population centres.

He said that the party was already seeking to negotiate with the government for new resort developments in the atoll to facilitate jobs and economic growth to aid local development.

Nihan said that Funadhoo has traditionally been seen as a stronghold in terms of support for PPM founder and former Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s former party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – now led by MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

However, he claimed that during the visit, a large number of islanders had expressed support for Gayoom and the PPM, which he founded in 2011 after breaking away from the DRP.


Pressure growing in PPM to quit coalition government: MP Nihan

Pressure is growing in the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) for its council to decide whether to continue backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government ahead of September’s presidential election, a party official told Minivan News.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said the party has grown increasingly concerned at what it believed were “deliberate” attempts by President Waheed to try and discredit the party and its members to boost his own election campaign.

Nihan said that once senior party officials returned from campaigning this week in Shaviyani Atoll, he expected the PPM council would need to hold discussions on whether to remain in the current coalition government.

The ‘forward with the nation’ coalition backing Waheed dismissed the notion of a split within the government before voting begins, claiming that all parties were expected to stick with the present administration until September’s vote.

However, Nihan said despite the dismissal of several high-profile PPM members from Waheed’s government over the last week, the president had not attempted to make a single call to the party’s presidential candidate, MP Abdulla Yameen.

“We are a government stakeholder, yet not a single call has been made [by President Waheed] to Yameen,” he claimed. “This is the level of how the government operates now.”

Nihan alleged that the government was being run as if it was solely operated by the president’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP), rather than a collection of different parties.

PPM concerns

While not being able to speak for the PPM before an internal vote was taken, Nihan said party councillors and general members had continued to raise concerns about President Waheed’s conduct towards the party and its representatives in government.

He added that with PPM founder former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom expected to return from a visit to Malaysia around June 29, the issue of the party’s ongoing support for the current government would need to be discussed.

“I would hope a motion will be discussed concerning leaving the current government in the coming week after the campaign trips are over,” Nihan said.

“A lot of damage has been done, and there is a belief this has been masterminded by GIP loyalists to discredit the party in the outer islands. It has had the opposite effect though,” he added.

Nihan said a many concerns were raised by members of the perceived deliberate attempt to remove PPM representatives in the government “one by one”.

On Thursday (June 20), Sun Online reported that PPM member Abdullah Nashid was dismissed by the government over accusations he had been involved in corruption.

During the same week, the President’s Office announced it had dismissed Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal and Minister of State for Economic Development Abdulla Ameen from the government at the insistence of their former party, the DQP.

Former Deputy Minister Maleeh expressed his belief at the time that he had been fired because of his support for the presidential candidate of PPM, MP Abdulla Yameen.

On the back of the dismissals, the PPM told local media on June 20 that it would consider leaving the government should the party’s deputy leader and current Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb be fired from his post.

On Wednesday (June 19), Adheeb was accused of running his ministry in an “unacceptable” manner by Mariyam Mizna Shareef who announced her resignation as minister of state for tourism, arts and culture in protest.

Contacted by Minivan News after announcing her resignation, Mizna declined to discuss her position further, requesting to stay clear of the country’s political arena and media attention.

“Political games”

Nihan today accused Mizna, who is the daughter of DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef, of playing “political games” in what he said was a bid to launch unproven allegations against Minister Adheeb to discredit him.

“Adheeb is the elected deputy leader of our party and is also a great young politician in the country,” he said, “[Mizna] was given her position as a present from [DRP Leader] Ahmed Thasmeen Ali who campaigned to get her the position.”

Nihan alleged that Mizna’s father, Ibrahim Shareef was seeking to blame any negative coverage of the present administration as being the fault of the PPM, as part of President Waheed’s aim of removing its members from the government.

He also accused Shareef of questioning the need to retain the PPM within the present government ahead of elections.

Despite the PPM previously raising concerns over what it claimed was President Waheed’s use of state fund and resources to give his own party an unfair campaign advantage, party officials have maintained that they would remain in the coalition as part of what it claimed was attempt to run the nation in a stable manner.

Nihan said today that the party would continue to look at whether it was in the best interest of the Maldivian people for the party to remain in the present coalition, before any decisions were taken by party members and senior officials.

Despite the PPM’s decision to stand directly against Dr Waheed in the presidential election, Abdulla Yazeed, a spokesperson on the media team of the president’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition, today dismissed the likelihood of the PPM prematurely leaving the present government.

Yazeed told Minivan News that he did not believe a split in the current administration was imminent, adding that all parties were committed to ensuring the state continued to run effectively ahead of the upcoming vote.

Contacted by Minivan News today, DRP Parliamentary Group Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom refused to speculate on whether the PPM would remain as a member of the current government up to September’s election.

However, Dr Mausoom dismissed the threat to the coalition’s campaign from the PPM standing as an election rival, claiming the MDP was the only “reasonable competitor” that stood a chance of beating President Waheed’s coalition in September.

He claimed that the party was also confident that no single candidate would have sufficient electoral support to secure a first round election victory, that voters disenchanted with the MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed’s three years in government would look to President Waheed as an alternative to previous administrations.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls at time of press.

Presidential candidates

Of the parties presently part of the coalition government, the PPM announced it would be fielding its own presidential candidate to contest the election after MP Yameen was declared the winner of a primary election against rival Umar Naseer in March this year.

Fellow government-aligned parties including the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party have all pledged to back President Waheed and his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) in the election.

The government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) meanwhile said last week that it would not make a decision on whether to join President Waheed’s coalition before its national congress scheduled for later this month, despite anticipating that it will field its own candidate – expected to be party founder and leader Gasim Ibrahim.


Maldives Broadcasting Corporation schedules presidential debate for September 1

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has announced that a debate between rival presidential candidates will be broadcast via state media on September 1 this year.

MBC Managing Director Mohamed Shafeeq Mahmoud told local media that efforts were underway to secure the participation of the four key candidates presently expected to contest the presidential election, which has been scheduled for September 7.

These participants are expected to be President Dr Mohamed Waheed; Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MP Abdullah Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and MP Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhoree Party (JP).

Shafeeq told Sun Online that in the build up to the debate, state television and radio would provide airtime for candidates to broadcast information on their campaigns from July.

Television Maldives (TVM) is expected to broadcast four separate live programmes, each focused on a single candidate that will include the opportunity for the public to ask questions, he said.


Maldives voters will shun PPM, MDP for “national stability” of coalition government: GIP

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) has claimed voters will shun the country’s two largest political parties during September’s elections in favour of the “national stability” offered by a coalition representing the current government.

The comments were made as discussions continued this week between the GIP and the leaders of three other government-aligned parties in order to outline the direction of a recently formed coalition that will back President Waheed in the upcoming elections.  The president’s party has maintained that the coalition backing Waheed was not expected to deviate much from the policies of the current government.

Earlier this week, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) announced it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed’s re-election. The DRP is the largest party in terms of MP numbers to so far back President Waheed, whose own GIP party currently has no political representation in parliament.

However, former Maldives President and founder of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayoom today told local media that Dr Waheed’s coalition presented no threat to the election bid of its own candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

The PPM – the country’s second largest party in terms of number of MPs – back in March elected MP Yameen to stand as its presidential candidate and has continued to reject calls to join a coalition against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party ahead of the elections. Yameen is Gayoom’s half brother.

Stabilisation measures

GIP Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that he believed the country’s voters were “quite happy” with the stabilisation measures taken by President Waheed’s current coalition government. He added therefore that it was his belief the electorate would favour ensuring the stability of the nation by backing the president and his supporters rather than supporting the MDP or PPM.

Asked whether the president’s coalition would be able to win the election against the MDP and PPM, respectively the majority and minority leaders in parliament, Riza claimed national support was dwindling for the two parties.

“Even at its peak, the MDP could not get more than 25 percent of the vote,” he said. “The PPM on the other hand is backed by supporters of [former President] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, not Yameen. The majority of [PPM supporters] favour joining the coalition.

Abbas added that the coalition had yet to choose a candidate to stand as President Waheed’s running mate, although discussions between leaders of the PPM, DQP and the Adhaalath Party were continuing today.

“I’m not aware of what these decisions are about, but all three parties have shown they agree on one thing – their support for President Waheed,” he said.

Abbas added that after agreeing to back the president, it would be “easy” for the coalition to outline a combined manifesto ahead of the elections due to their experience of working together – along with the PPM and MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) – in the current government since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

“These parties are already working in a coalition with this government and have been setting the national agenda for the last two years,” he said. “In terms of policy, I don’t think we will see a significant deviation from the economic policies and development programs we have already seen. People care more about the stability of a nation than any political party.”

Responding to Riza’s comments, the PPM today questioned the political strength of the three party’s currently backing President’s Waheed, while also dismissing the effectiveness of coalitions in the Maldives dating to the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that even if the president continued to extend his coalition to all other political parties in the country, the elections will remain a contest between the rival ideologies of former President Mohamed Nasheed -represnted by the MDP – and former President Gayoom – represented by the PPM.

“Just 48 hours ago we concluded a meeting in Addu Atoll, one of the largest areas in the country outside of Male’. Given the numbers of people we met there, it is clear there are only two parties,” he said.

Nihan added that while the PPM would continue to support President Waheed as part of the present coalition government up to September’s elections, it would not be looking to join any coalition ahead of voting.

“Originally in the first round of the 2008 elections, former President Gayoom failed to obtain enough votes to get re-elected. As we know, Nashed then formed a coalition to win the election in the second round,” he said. “What we saw then was after 20 days, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim resigned without much reason from the government. This has put a big question mark over the strength of coalitions.”

Nihan added that DQP Leader Dr Hassan Saeed, the present Special Advisor to President Waheed, has previously expressed “unconditional support” for the MDP and Nasheed following the 2008 presidential elections.  Yet he noted that the DQP, under Dr Saeed, went on to become one of the most vocal opponents of the Nasheed administration.

Nihan claimed that as a result of the country’s previous experience of coalition government, he believed there would be little appetite among voters for a power sharing government ahead of September’s vote.

MDP candidate former President Nasheed has also declared his party has ruled out forming a coalition during the elections, criticising the effectiveness of power sharing in Maldivian politics.


Civil Court dismisses case to invalidate outcome of PPM primary

The Civil Court has dismissed a case seeking to invalidate the outcome of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) primary vote in March, that saw MP Abdulla Yameen selected as its presidential candidate for September’s elections.

A Civil Court spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that during Thursday’s hearing the presiding judge rejected the case, which was filed last month by a PPM member.

The member who filed the case alleged that thousands of voters were not officially registered with the PPM at the time they cast votes on their preferred party candidate. Further details on the case were not available to the court official at time of press.

Sun Online reported that the case was rejected on the grounds that the PPM member, Rahma Moosa, was not one of the candidates and therefore could not claim infringement of her rights.

Umar Naseer told the online publication that he would file the case in his own name on Sunday (May 5).

Confirmation of the trial’s rejection was announced as local media reported that a rally scheduled to be held Friday (May 3) to announce MP Yameen’s running mate for the presidential elections had been postponed as a result of adverse weather.

MP Yameen, half brother of PPM founder and former Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was not responding to calls at time of press. PPM MP Ahmed Nihan meanwhile had his phone switched off when contacted this afternoon.


Divisions between PPM supporters appeared following March’s primary, when Umar Naseer – the only candidate to stand against Yameen during the contest – accused his opponent had controlled all of the party’s organs, including the council and election committee, and had “rigged” the vote in his favour by ballot stuffing, falsifying the count.

The allegations have been rejected by Yameen and the wider PPM, while Naseer found himself dismissed from the party late last month after he refused to respond – either verbally or in writing – during a seven day period provided by the PPM’s disciplinary hearing to retract the allegations.

Amidst the formation of divisions in the party at the time, PPM member Rahma Moosa lodged a case on April 18 at the Civil Court challenging the results of the party’s presidential primary.

Moosa reportedly filed the case claiming that 8,915 people who were not officially registered as members of PPM had been allowed to vote in the primary.

She contended that the move contravened the Political Party Act and compromised the rights of all general members of the party.

Coalition talks

The PPM, as the country’s second largest party in terms of parliamentary representation, last month said it would not rule out forming a coalition with President Dr Mohamed Waheed or any other fellow government-aligned parties ahead of the presidential elections.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News at the time that the party had already engaged in talks over the possibility of forming a power sharing agreement with other parties in the government of President Waheed, although no final decision had yet been taken.

Nihan said that rival political parties needed to reassess their views on power sharing after thousands of people attended a gathering held by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on April 19 to announce the signing of Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

Nihan’s comments were echoed at the same time by current Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who is speculated in local media to be among the leading candidates to stand as the PPM presidential candidate’s running mate during the elections.

Dr Jameel told Minivan News last month that a changed political landscape since the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008, necessitated a willingness to share power more than ever.

“We have to recognise that the PPM and the [opposition] Maldivian Demoratic Party (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.

“Therefore, the role of smaller parties attempting to win an election of this scale without the inclusion of major political parties is in my opinion, a risky business,” Dr Jameel added.


Police-MNDF special operation underway in Male’

Five people have been taken into custody by the Maldives Police Service and Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) under a joint special operation launched last night to quell violence and unrest in the capital.

A police media official confirmed that five people were arrested in separate incidents in Male’.

Shortly before midnight, police dispersed a crowd of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters demanding the arrest of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim outside his residence, Galolhu Aabin.

Balcony windows of the People’s Alliance MP’s first floor apartment were smashed before riot police moved in.

The MP for Dhiggaru is currently under house arrest accused of bribery and attempting to influence independent institutions as well as cause physical harm to political opponents.

Announcing the joint special operation at a press conference last night, Major Abdul Raheem said MNDF assistance was requested by the Home Minister and appealed for cooperation from the public.

Denying any connection to the ongoing corruption investigation involving opposition MPs, Chief Inspector Hamdhoon Rasheed stressed that the measures were in response to growing public disorder triggered by political unrest and a resurgence of gang violence after the end of the World Cup.

“[…] We began [the operation] because some political parties are trying to create further chaos in the island using these roving gangs,” he said. “What we want is to ensure that this is a safe environment for those who don’t want any involvement in this or just wants to live peacefully.”

He added that gang attacks on rival camps set up to screen World Cup matches had taken place sporadically and was currently on the rise.

Opposition parties have blamed the unrest on angry mobs of MDP supporters gathering outside opposition MPs’ and judges’ residences.

While 18 people were taken into custody on Wednesday night following the disturbance at the MDP rally, Hamdhoon said all have since been released.

Asked whether police had arrested masked assailants that allegedly tried to attack President Mohamed Nasheed, the Chief Inspector answered no.

Hamdhoon further defended police handling of violent clashes outside opposition MP Abdulla Yameen’s residence after police reportedly took 40 minutes to intervene with tear gas.