PPM MPs to vote Muhthaz for PG in defiance of party leader’s appeal

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs have decided to vote for Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin as the new Prosecutor General (PG) despite the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, urging ruling party MPs to vote for his nephew Maumoon Hameed.

Majority Leader MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today that 33 out of 38 MPs present at a parliamentary group meeting this afternoon voted in favour of Muhthaz.

Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the PPM – also confirmed that a three-line whip has been issued for all 43 PPM MPs to vote for Muhthaz’s approval to the vacant PG post.

The decision comes after PPM Leader Gayoom sent a letter yesterday – subsequently leaked on social media – appealing for the party’s MPs to vote for Maumoon Hameed, son of former Atolls Minister Abdulla Hameed.

Gayoom noted that President Abdulla Yameen had declared at a PPM rally that he wished to appoint Maumoon Hameed to the post and that the president had “sent a message through the PPM’s official viber group” requesting the party’s MPs to vote for the lawyer.

Vetting process

Following a vetting process, parliament’s independent institutions oversight committee had rejected both of President Yameen’s nominees last week.

While a minimum score of 75 marks was required for the committee to recommend a nominee for approval, Hameed received 33 percent and Muhthaz received 67 percent.

The committee’s evaluation report has been tabled in the agenda for debate at Monday’s sitting of parliament, after which the nominees will be put to a vote.

Meanwhile, Gayoom sent a letter to MP Nihan – also leaked on social media (page one and two) – last week demanding an explanation of the PPM-majority committee’s decision.

The oversight committee – chaired by PPM MP Ali Saleem – is comprised of five PPM members, one MP from coalition partner Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), three opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and two Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs.

In his letter, Gayoom contended that a committee meeting held on July 10 where the nominees were interviewed – where the chair had “acted arbitrarily” – was conducted in violation of parliamentary rules of procedure.

Gayoom said he had learned that the nominees were summoned without a vote by members and that an assessment criteria had not been passed prior to the interviews.

Moreover, he added, the marks sheets were not tallied in the presence of committee members.

Gayoom also argued that a sitting judge could not stand for the post of PG, citing article 151 of the constitution – which requires judges to “devote his full time to the performance of the responsibilities of a judge” – and a “legal norm” whereby judges who leave the bench must wait two years before practicing law.

While article 26(a) of the Judges Act stipulates that a judge who stands for a political post specified in law or the constitution would no longer be a judge, Gayoom noted that Muhthaz had not done so.

However, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has since said that judges could apply for posts in independent institutions.

Vacant PG post

Meanwhile, following the PPM parliamentary group’s decision today, MDP MP Rozaina Adam tweeted, “Could President Yameen publicly humiliate President Gayoom more than this? Yameen’s choice is very clear.”

She also alleged that Yameen had conspired for the previous parliament to reject Maumoon Hameed in April by ensuring that several PPM MPs would be absent for the vote.

Several pro-government MPs – including PG Leader Nihan who was with President Yameen in Japan and MDA Leader Ahmed Siyam – were conspicuously absent at the sitting, which saw  Hameed fail to garner the required 39 votes after falling just three votes short.

According to article 221 of the constitution, “The President shall appoint as Prosecutor General a person approved by a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis from the names submitted to the People’s Majlis as provided for in law.”

A majority in the 18th Majlis is 43 seats. In addition to its 43 MPs, the PPM’s coalition partner MDA has five MPs. The minority party announced today that its MPs would also vote for Muhthaz.

Following the previous parliament’s rejection of Hameed, President Yameen refused to submit a new nominee and opened up a third call for applicants, announcing his intention to nominate Hameed for a second time to the newly elected 18th People’s Majlis.

The PG’s post has been vacant since November 25 following the resignation of Ahmed Muiz ahead of a scheduled no-confidence motion in parliament.

Meanwhile, Acting PG Hussein Shameem’s resignation in early May brought the criminal justice system to a halt after state prosecutors went on strike, citing concerns of a lack of accountability in the absence of a PG.

However, the Supreme Court ordered prosecutors to resume work “without any further excuse” and ordered the seniormost official at the PG office to assume the PG’s responsibilities.


Public accounts committee approves reintroducing car allowance for ministers

The People’s Majlis’ public accounts committee (PAC) yesterday approved a request by President Abdulla Yameen to reintroduce a discontinued car allowance for cabinet ministers.

A motion by Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) MP Ahmed Amir to grant the request was approved with seven votes in favour and six against after Chair MP Ahmed Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – cast the tie-breaking vote.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs voted against the motion. The PAC is comprised of six PPM MPs along with one MP from coalition partner MDA as well as four MDP MPs and two JP MPs.

The committee’s decision will be put to a vote on the Majlis floor.

Under the previous parliament in December 2012, the PAC had decided to discontinue an MVR6,500 (US$422) monthly salary for drivers of ministers’ cars as well as an MVR1,000 (US$65) allowance for petrol cost. Ministers were instructed to settle the expenses out of their salaries from April 2013 onward.

The PAC decision was later voted through on the Majlis floor on December 31 as part of a revised pay scheme for senior officials in the executive, judiciary, and independent institutions.

The elimination of both the salary for drivers and the fuel allowance was estimated to save 89 percent from the budget item. Cabinet ministers presently earn a monthly salary of MVR57,500 (US$3,729).

The task of determining salaries and allowances is entrusted to the PAC – also referred to as the finance committee – under section 100(a) of the parliamentary rules of procedures.

Article 102 of the constitution states, “The president, vice president, members of the cabinet, members of the People’s Majlis, including the speaker and deputy speaker, members of the judiciary, and members of the independent commissions and independent offices shall be paid such salary and allowances as determined by the People’s Majlis.”

In its meeting yesterday, the PAC also commenced a review of the state’s salary structure or pay scheme.

Executive expenses

During the debate on reintroducing the car allowance yesterday, MDP MPs suggested studying the government’s request further after summoning the finance minister.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih – parliamentary group leader of the MDP – argued that it would be “irresponsible” to approve additional expenditures without scrutiny.

The proposal was however rejected by pro-government MPs after the chair said the issue had been thoroughly considered by the PAC in the previous parliament.

MDP MPs also objected to increasing expenditure on ministers while doctors and teachers were unhappy with their renumeration.

Meanwhile, a paper prepared by the parliament secretariat on expenses by the executive in 2013 was deliberated by the committee.

The paper – subsequently shared with local media – reportedly revealed that MVR913,277 (US$59,227) was spent out of the budget last year to provide the allowance to ministers under former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration between April and November 2013.

The allowance was provided to the health minister, economic development minister, tourism minister, fisheries minister, defence minister, Islamic affairs minister, housing minister, youth minister, education minister, transport minister, finance minister and the attorney general.

While MDP MP Ibrahim Shareef contended that the allowance was provided in violation of public finance laws and should be investigated by parliament, MP Nihan insisted that there was no proof of wrongdoing in the document.


Thulhaadhoo MP Nazim Rashad becomes third MDP MP to join PPM

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Nazim Rashad signed for the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last night, becoming the third opposition MP to cross the floor since the parliamentary polls in March.

The addition of the MP for Baa Atoll Thulhaadhoo brings the PPM’s number of MPs in the 18th People’s Majlis to 42 – one short of a simple majority in the 85-member house. However, along with the five MPs of coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), the ruling coalition now has 47 MPs.

The opposition MDP’s numbers are reduced to 23 while the Jumhooree Party (JP) has 13 MPs. The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has one MP while Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed remains the sole independent.

Following a signing ceremony at Muleeage last night where Rashad handed over his membership form to President Abdulla Yameen, MP Ahmed Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the PPM – took to social media to announce that the ruling party now has 50 percent of parliamentary seats.

Although the PPM won 33 seats in the March 22 parliamentary elections, four out of five independent MPs along with MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa and two JP MPs switched to the ruling party while MDP MP Ali Mohamed signed for the PPM last month.

MP Nazim Rashad, a former Islam teacher, was elected to the 17th People’s Majlis as an independent and joined the MDP in 2010.

Several MPs who have crossed the floor have said that they joined the ruling party to ensure development of islands in their constituencies.

Speaking to Minivan News today, MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy, however, dismissed the justification as “utter nonsense.”

“They are just baseless and unprincipled. Why did they in the first place get elected with MDP tickets and then defect?” he asked.


Parliamentary debate begins on special economic zones bill

Preliminary debate on the government’s flagship special economic zones (SEZs) legislation began today with opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs warning that the envisaged law could turn the Maldives into a haven for “money laundering and washing black money.”

If the bill is passed into law, the government could hand out uninhabited islands or plots of land for periods, prices, and terms of its choosing without either parliamentary oversight or a role for local councils, contended MDP MP Ibrahim Shareef.

“The Maldives could become a machine for money laundering and turning black money white,” he added.

If the country becomes a money laundering destination for international criminal enterprises, Shareef warned that developed nations could impose sanctions on the Maldives.

Shareef also expressed concern with the impact of tax exemptions for investors in the SEZs on the local tourism industry.

Among other MDP MPs who spoke during the debate, MP Ahmed Nashid noted that the bill “supersedes” 14 other laws while MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa insisted that the legislation should be amended with the input of the main opposition party.

Speaking at an MDP gathering last week, former President Mohamed Nasheed had dubbed the SEZ legislation the “Artur Brothers bill,” referring to the infamous Armenians linked with money laundering and drug trafficking who made headlines in Maldivian media last year after they were photographed with cabinet ministers.

Nasheed claimed that the zones are intended for criminal activity, money laundering, gambling, and “other irreligious activities.”

The Maldivian government’s liaison officer in Addu during British occupation of Gan island had more authority and freedom than what the government would have in the SEZs, Nasheed contended.


Introducing the 70-page draft legislation (Dhivehi), MP Ahmed Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – stressed that the bill includes provisions for terminating agreements with investors if an act of corruption specified in the International Convention against Corruption is proved.

The MP for Vilimale’ appealed for “cooperation and assistance” from opposition MPs in reviewing the legislation and addressing shortcomings at the committee stage.

In the ensuing debate, Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Hassan declared support for the legislation but suggested that the power to form a board of investment to oversee the zones should not be vested solely with the president.

JP MP Moosa Nizar Ibrahim suggested that environmental and national security concerns should be addressed, while JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed said the bill contained “serious problems.”

While supporting the “concept” of SEZs, Ilham expressed concern with the bill offering tax exemptions to investors for a 10-year period and allowing uninhabited islands to be leased without advance payments.

The government would not receive any revenue from investors during the 10-year period, he noted, while investors would enjoy subsidised staple foodstuffs.


PPM MP Jameel Usman argued that the bill was intended to assure investor confidence and offer incentives to choose the Maldives over other developing economies in the region.

SEZs in the Dominican Republic and Philippines created thousands of jobs, noted PPM MP Abdulla Rifau, suggesting that new jobs for Maldivian youth would make up for lost tax revenue.

Moreover, the bill requires investors to carry out corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, he added.

Incentives for investors offered in the bill include tax exemptions and relaxed regulations for employing foreign labour.

Investors would be exempted from paying either import duties for capital goods or business profit tax, goods and services tax and withholding tax.

Moreover, regulations on foreign workers would be relaxed while companies with foreign shareholders would be allowed to purchase land without paying privatisation fees or sales tax.

Geographical areas or regions declared an SEZ by the president would also be removed from the jurisdiction of local councils.

The nine SEZs envisioned in the bill includes an industrial estate zone, export processing zone, free trade zone, enterprise zone, free port zone, single factory export processing zone, offshore banking unit zone, offshore financial services centre zone, and a high technology park zone.

President Abdulla Yameen had declared in April that the SEZ bill would become “a landmark law” that would strengthen the country’s foreign investment regime.


Government submits bill on special economic zones

A bill on establishing special economic zones (SEZ) to attract foreign investment has been submitted to parliament on behalf of the government by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan.

The SEZ bill becomes the first piece of legislation to be proposed by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration to the 18th People’s Majlis, the newly-elected PPM parliamentary group leader tweeted on Thursday (June 5).

Speaking to reporters prior to departing to China on Wednesday night (June 4) to attend the Kunming Trade Fair, Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed explained that special economic zones would be established in the north, south and other “strategic locations.”

The SEZ bill is intended to expand the economy and could “bring an end to the dependence on tourism,” he said.

In addition to ports and light industries, Saeed said financial services and bunkering facilities would be made available at the zones.

“So the result of this would be the introduction of different industries to the Maldivian economy in addition to tourism,” he said, adding that the new enterprises could be more lucrative and beneficial than tourism.

Referring to the impact on the Maldives from the 2004 tsunami and the spread of the SARS virus, Saeed stressed the importance of diversification, as the Maldivian economy was vulnerable to external shocks due to the extreme dependence on the tourism industry.

He noted that economic development and job creation was the key focus of President Yameen’s election campaign.

The government conducted “a wide research” in drafting the bill, Saeed continued, and studied the practices of countries such as Dubai, South Korea, Mauritius, Cyprus, China, and Singapore.

The bill would “completely ensure investor protection,” he asserted.

Business-friendly laws were essential for attracting investors for mega-projects planned by the government, Saeed noted, such as the ‘iHavan’ transhipment port project.

The minister also expressed confidence that parliament would pass the bill without delay.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed meanwhile observed that the ruling party had a clear majority in parliament with a team of young MPs committed to the government’s economic agenda.


President Yameen had declared in April that the SEZ bill would become “a landmark law” that would strengthen the country’s foreign investment regime.

“What we would like to confirm for the foreign investors who come to the Maldives is that foreign investors should feel that Maldives is your second home here,” Yameen had said at a function in Hulhumale’.

The special economic zones would be “likened to cities in Dubai or the Emirates” and “the [business] environment we have in Singapore.”

The new law would enable investors to have “freeholds” in the country and allow investors “to engage in really, really long gestative projects,” Yameen said.

“We are embarking on an era of growth,” he said.

Other economic bills in the government’s legislative agenda include bills on foreign investment, insurance, consumer protection, corporate social responsibility and small claims as well as amendments to the Maldives Monetary Authority Act and the Pensions Act.


PPM confirms “talks” with Adhaalath Party over prospective coalition

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has confirmed talks have been held with “senior members” of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) over potentially standing in a coalition for this year’s presidential election.

PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Nihan has told Minivan News that “several meetings” had been held between the party’s vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdullah and Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

Nihan could not provide further details of what conclusion had been reached between the two parties, but claimed that the AP’s potential support would be a “huge boost” for the PPM’s election campaign.

Confirmation of the talks follows the AP’s announcement on Thursday (July 11) that it had quit President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s ‘Forward with the Nation’ coalition due to “mysterious events”.

The decision was taken just 24 hours after the AP publicly criticised President Waheed, accusing him of telling international media that the party had “extremist” elements.

However, AP President Sheikh Imran today rejected local media reports that his party had held any discussions with any other political groups following the termination of its coalition agreement with President Waheed.

Sheik Imran was not responding to calls at time of press.

Coalition uncertainty

PPM MP Nihan said today that with recent reports of “uneasiness” between the AP and President Waheed, talks had been held with senior leadership over a possible collaboration. However, he said it was uncertain if any coalition could be reached between the PPM and AP at present.

Nihan added that any potential agreement would still need to be approved by the PPM’s council before being finalised, though he said that the party’s charter did allow for presidential candidate MP Yameen and his running mate to hold talks with other candidates over key issues.

A meeting of the PPM Council has been scheduled for tonight, according to party officials.

Nihan said that he remained of the view that a coalition government was not a solution to run the Maldives effectively at the current time – an argument he claimed had been proven conclusively by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) coming to power backed by a number of parties in 2008.

Parties including the now government-aligned Jumhoree Party, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and later the AP all eventually left former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government after backing him as their presidential candidate.

Nasheed later controversially resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military on February 7, 2012, with the MDP alleging a “coup d’eat” had toppled the country’s first democratically elected government.

“We believe it is difficult to have a coalition here,” Nihan claimed, adding that multi-party democracy in the country was still a very new concept.

He said that despite any potential boost the AP would provide to the PPM’s support base during the presidential election, concerns remained about how successful a coalition could be in the country.

In May, Nihan claimed that although the PPM would continue to lend its support to the present coalition backing President Waheed, the party was not looking to enter into a collaboration ahead of the election scheduled for September.

“Originally in the first round of the 2008 elections, former President Gayoom failed to obtain enough votes to get re-elected. As we know, [former President] Nasheed 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.”

Speaking at the conclusion of a campaign visit in Raa Atoll yesterday (July 13), MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, President Waheed’s running mate for the upcoming election, was reported in local media as saying that no other candidate had as strong of a team in the upcoming election as the incumbent.

Thasmeen, Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), claimed President Waheed continued to be backed with the “most capable” people that would be able to run a government responsibly, according to Sun Online.

“Considering the ongoing campaigns, it wouldn’t be an untruth if I said that no other candidate has a team as strong as the ‘forward with the nation’ team. You would see who are included in the teams, if you look at the front row during major ceremonies, and if you watch party rallies on TV and the people who speak on stage during these functions,” he was reported as saying.

“I think that the team behind President Waheed consists of capable people who can responsibly run the government, even if they assume this responsibility tomorrow.”

Thasmeen also reportedly praised the president’s patience for being able to run a government with parties who did not always support him on key issues.

Thasmeen and President Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were not responding to calls at time of press.


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.


DRP leader Thasmeen unveiled as President Waheed’s election running mate

Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, has been unveiled as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s running mate for September’s election.

Thasmeen’s appointment was confirmed by DRP Parliamentary Group Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom, who claimed the move would allow the president to provide a viable alternative to the country’s two largest political parties.

The announcement was  welcomed by one electoral rival in the form of the DRP’s government coalition partner, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which labelled Thasmeen as “the weakest link” among all the current candidates standing in September.

The DRP last month announced that it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed and his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) in the upcoming election. The Adhaalath Party was reported in local media today as giving its full support to the partnership of President Waheed and MP Thasmeen.

Dr Mausoom said that this coalition, under the banner, ‘forward with the nation’, still remained open for other parties to join ahead of September’s vote despite today’s decision.

At present, Dr Waheed and Thasmeen will be standing against PPM presidential candidate MP Abdullah Yameen and his running mate, former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who was dismissed from the current government last month after announcing his decision to stand with the party.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed will also be standing for election as candidate for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but has yet to unveil his running mate. Nasheed resigned from office in February 2012 under controversial circumstances following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

Meanwhile, the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) has previously said it was undecided over whether to join President Waheed’s coalition, while expecting to nominate a presidential candidate at its national conference later this month.

The JP is headed by MP and local business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

“Natural reaction”

Considering the rival candidates expected to stand during September’s presidential election, DRP MP Dr Mausoom said the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition has been formed as a “natural reaction” to the previous governments of former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed.

“I think for people who do not see the merit in backing former Maldives Presidents Gayoom and Nasheed there is now an alternative,” he claimed, adding that both candidates would be a return to “square one” for democracy in the Maldives.

Mausoom claimed that President Waheed woukd now unite support behind a third option in Maldivian politics, that was opposed to the MDP and PPM – presently the country’s two largest political parties in terms of MP number.

He said that the coalition’s appeal as an alternative to both the Nasheed and Gayoom administrations would be its main strength.

“This is just the beginning,” Dr Mausoom added. “Thasmeen spoke today of the achievement’s of President Waheed’s government over the last year, in spite of difficult circumstances he faced.”

While both the MDP and PPM has dismissed the viability and effectiveness of coalition government in Maldives politics, Mausoom argued that the DRP had continued to back President Waheed along with several other parties in order to put national development first.

“We are at a point where we all have to climb down from party ideology and put the national interest first,” he said.

Mausoom claimed that the country’s previous coalition governments had been formed on a “circumstantial” basis, both in bringing former President Nasheed to power and then backed President Waheed. However, he claimed that parties within the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition backing President Waheed during the election were “pro-actively” united in their goal for national development.

Positive development

Speaking to Minivan News today, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that Thasmeen’s appointment as Dr Waheed’s running mate was not seen as a concern by the party and would actually serve as a positive development for its own election campaign.

Thasmeen took over as head of the DRP following former President Gayoom’s temporary retirement from political life in 2010.

Nihan argued that the PPM, which was founded in 2011 by a faction of MPs who broke away from the DRP alongside former President Gayoom, were “well aware of the political strength of Mr Thasmeen”.

“We are the only people who can make an informed judgement on [Thasmeen]. He is the weakest link among all the wannabe leaders at present,” he said.

Nihan said that the party would therefore carry on with it plans to begin campaigning in the north of the country ahead of September’s election.

“This is the very least of our concerns as a party,” he said.

Nihan nonetheless said that the party continued to remain concerned at what it alleged was President Waheed’s continued use of state funds and resources to support campaigning for the coalition.

“This is our one crucial concern. President Waheed needs to facilitate a free and fair election, but he has today used government speedboats to transport coalition members. This should not be seen n a democratic society,” he said. “Back in 2008, President Gayoom would have used his own party’s speedboat for campaign purposes.”

Meanwhile, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed contended during an interview with state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on May 16 that President Waheed and the DRP has been forced to form a coalition out of necessity.

Nasheed therefore questioned the president’s coalition’s claims that it presented a “third way” for voters as opposed to the policies of the MDP and PPM. Nasheed reiterated his belief that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with the Maldives’ presidential system of government.

“I do not see a citizen who wants ‘another way.’ What is the path to deliver this way [to development]? We do not hear [political parties] talking about that,” he said. “We are presenting one path to that [development]. We believe MDP’s policies will bring prosperity to the people. I do not see this third way you referred to as ‘a way.’ I see it as two men with no other way. That is not a political philosophy,” he said.


PPM dismisses legal wrangling ahead of tonight’s running mate unveiling

The government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) said it remains undeterred by legal disputes over the outcome of the party’s recent primary as it prepares to unveil the running mate of presidential candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that a “perfect running mate” would be announced tonight at the special event, which will be held from 9:00pm at the Dharubaaruge conference centre in Male’.

“We have selected a political candidate who has the best interests of the country,” Nihan told Minivan News ahead of the ceremony, adding that the PPM was one of the few parties in the country currently in a position to be able to announce a presidential running mate.

Legal wrangling

Divisions have appeared between certain PPM supporters following March’s primary after MP Yameen was accused by Umar Naseer, his only rival in the contest of having controlled all of the party’s organs.  Yameen was alleged to have had full control of the PPM council and election committee, as well as being accused of having “rigged” the vote in his favour by ballot stuffing and falsifying the count.

Naseer, who has since been removed from the party after refusing to retract or apologise over the allegations, has sought to invalidate the outcome of the primary as well as the decision to revoke his membership.

He personally resubmitted the case to invalidate the PPM primary this week, alleging that thousands of voters were not officially registered with the party at the time they cast votes on their preferred candidate.

Naseer has declined to speak or provide information to Minivan News.

“Egotistical stories”

Despite the ongoing legal action, PPM MP Nihan dismissed Naseer’s allegations as “egotistical stories”, accusing the party’s former interim deputy leader of having lost whatever influence in the party he once had – even among his traditional supporters.

“Those aligned with him during the primary are working very closely with the current party leadership now,” he said.

Nihan added his belief that the PPM’s campaign work in the build up to September’s presidential elections was not being adversely impacted by the ongoing legal battles with Naseer, who himself had previously worked to outline the party’s strategy.

“I do not think there will be issues [from Naseer’s legal action]. The election work has already been done. Before he started telling his egotistical stories [Naseer] had called on Yameen to implement these plans,” he said.

Before former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom established the PPM back in 2011, Naseer previously served as a deputy leader in the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) before being dismissed in December 2010.

Naseer’s dismissal at the time led to an escalation of infighting in the DRP – the first political party formed by Gayoom back in 2005 – leading to an eventual split between the former president’s followers and those of current party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Nihan said he remained critical of Naseer’s commitment to individual parties following his dismissal from the DRP and later the PPM.

“After the primary, we began to hear these egostistical stories [from Naseer]. This was why the decision was taken by committee to remove him from the party,” he said. “[Naseer] is playing the the same old game he has always play, I do not believe there is a sports club or party in the country that he could belong to for more than a few months,” he claimed.

Manifesto plans

With the announcement of PPM presidential candidate Yameen’s running mate scheduled for tonight, Nihan added that the party continued to move forward with its elections plans, adding that the publication of its manifesto was expected “shortly”.

He added that the PPM was targeting a broad number of policies including trying to stabilise the national economy and provide opportunities “for the youth”, as well as previously announced focuses on developing a domestic oil industry would also be key stands for the party during elections.

Nihan also praised the party’s work in compiling demographic data based around polling during the previous presidential and parliamentary elections of 2008 and 2009 respectively.

“We have a great study on demographics that will help us identify trends and concerns of voters,” he added.

Nihan claimed that a notable concern already from such data was the anticipation by 2020 of the country having an increasingly ageing population that would put a greater burden on the state to ensure their care.

He also identified concerns over outdated data as another significant concern that MP Yameen and the PPM would hope to address to ensure that voters were being correctly.

Campaign trail

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – the country’s largest party in terms of MPs – has in recent months unveiled a number of detailed policies as part of its own election campaign.

These plans include the development of a mariculture industry in the country it has claimed could generate US$1.05 billion (MVR 16.19 billion) for local organisations, as well as a pledge to support and expand mid-market tourism through the country’s guesthouse sector.

The DRP, which is also in the process of drafting its manifesto ahead of September’s elections, claimed earlier this month that it offered the only “moderate” alternative to the “divisive” policies of the MDP and PPM.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom previously said that between the increasingly “polarised views” of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), his party represented an alternative viewpoint for voters and politicians alike.