DRP “moderate” alternative to divisive views of PPM, MDP: MP Mausoom

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has claimed it can offer the only “moderate” alternative to the country’s two largest political parties ahead of this year’s elections.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom 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.

The comments were made amidst ongoing speculation over whether presidential candidates representing the country’s government-aligned parties will opt to stand alone in September’s elections, or seek to form a “broad” coalition ahead of polling.

Following the conclusion of the DRP’s fourth national congress on April 25, Dr Mausoom claimed that after the 30 year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the previous government of former President Mohamed Nasheed, there was a growing hunger among voters for “something else” in national politics.

He claimed that this growing desire for political alternatives in the Maldives had led to increased interest in supporting the DRP from across the country’s political spectrum.

Yet despite MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed opting to join the DRP from the MDP back in March, the party witnessed a high-profile defection of its own last month with the resignation of Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid.  Shahid resigned from the DRP on April 15, shortly before announcing he would be joining the MDP.

Mausoom this week maintained that a growing number of MPs, voters and rival parties members had already expressed interest in joining the party in the build up to the election.

“We are getting pledges from many people that they will join us and we believe they are analysing the current situation,” he said. “Some [rival party] MPs have expressed support for the direction in which we are moving.”

Mausoom said he believed that a growing number of MPs were showing interest in the party – particularly from the PPM, which was formed by former President Gayoom.

Having formed the DRP back in 2005, former President Gayoom left the party with a number of his supporters back in 2011 to found the PPM. The split followed an acrimonious war of words between Gayoom and the DRP’s current leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

However, on the back of divisions in the PPM following primary elections held back in March, Dr Mausoom said he believed there was disillusionment among the party’s members.  the primary saw MP Abdulla Yameen – Gayoom’s half brother – appointed as its presidential candidate in a two-way contest with Umar Naseer.

Mausoom alleged that MPs and former DRP supporters who joined the PPM on the back of “accusations” started by former President Gayoom, were now rethinking their allegiances.

“They have seen this was just a game by Gayoom to maintain power within his family,” he said. “We will see more people who moved to the PPM [from the DRP]  aware of this.”

Moving forward

Upon the conclusion of the DRP’s latest congress last month, Mausoom added that the party had filled several key posts within its council, as well as other senior roles such as appointing new deputy leaders including female MP Rozaina Adam.

Alongside implementing a new party structure, Mausoom said the other key purpose of what had been a “very productive” national congress was to draft a manifesto document outlining the party’s strategy for the upcoming presidential elections.

He added that discussions had already been held on a early draft of the party’s manifesto that had been well received by DRP members so far.

However, Mausoom said that no further details on the direction for the party would be shared at the present time.

“The plan now is to streamline the manifesto to the needs of islands communities. Once it is finalised, we will be sharing it with the media,” he said.

Having been drafted with input from members across the country, Dr Mausoom said that the manifesto would incorporate the interests of voters from islands in the outer atolls as well as those of municipal voters ahead of the election.

“We are now geared to move forward,” he said.

Coalition agreements

Among the DRP’s coalition partners currently serving within the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed, both the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) have agreed to formally stand in a coalition with the country’s current leader though his Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP).

The DQP and GIP are small political parties currently facing potential dissolution for lacking the minimum requirement of 10,000 members as stipulated in the recently passed Political Parties Act.

However, uncertainty remains whether other parties in the current coalition government would look to officially join with the president ahead of elections to stand against the MDP

Speaking to Minivan News this week, the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) said it would not be looking to form a coalition with any party in the first round of voting.

JP Leader business tycoon and MP Gasim Ibrahim was last month reported in local media as telling supporters at a rally in Male’ that while he would consider forming a coalition with other political parties, but was not wiling to stand as the running mate of another candidate.

However, JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz claimed yesterday (May 1) that the party had decided to stand alone in the first round, adding that Gasim would take advice from the party council beyond that.

On the back of this commitment, Ramiz added that the party was this week working on finalising its own manifesto for the elections and would therefore be able give further details on its campaign strategy over the next week.

The PPM – the country’s second largest party in terms of parliamentary representation – has previously 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 last month 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.

Meanwhile, MDP candidate former President Nasheed has meanwhile claimed his party had already ruled out joining a coalition during the elections, criticising the effectiveness of power sharing in Maldives politics.

Nasheed was brought to power during the second round of the country’s first multi-party democratic elections in 2008 through a coalition of numerous parties united against former President Gayoom. These coalition parties, many of whom now serve in the government of President Waheed, all later left Nasheed’s administration.


PPM has “maturity” to hold competitive internal elections: Ahmed Adheeb Ghafoor

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb Ghafoor has claimed that the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has the “maturity” to hold competitive internal elections without divisive splits among its members.

Internal elections for the PPM’s senior posts are due to take place at its long-delayed national congress scheduled between January 17 to January 19, 2013.  The congress will then be followed by primaries to decide who will stand as the party’s presidential candidate during general elections expected next year.

Adheeb, who is one of three candidates contesting for two vice president roles in the PPM, said that the party – unlike some of its political rivals both within government and opposition – was capable of demonstrating a “strong” and “competitive” internal democracy that also allowed younger people like himself to stand for key positions.

His comments were made as PPM MP and Parliamentary Group Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed alleged that the party has pressured him to stop standing as a third candidate for the two vice presidential roles.  Two other fellow candidates contesting for the position withdrew their names last week.

Ilham has claimed PPM figures were attempting to prevent him from contesting for the party’s vice president seat to ensure only two candidates – Adheeb and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla – remained in contention.

“It’s really sad that the party’s senior members are orchestrating an attempt to get rid of me,” Ilham was quoted as telling local newspaper Haveeru on Saturday (December 29).

Earlier this month, the PPM unveiled the candidates for several of its key senior posts with interim leader and figurehead, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom the only candidate for party president.  However, a number of candidates were announced to be standing for two available deputy leader posts in the party.

These candidates at the time included MP Ahmed Nihan, Hussain Manik, MP Ilham Ahmed, MP Moosa Zameer, MP Ahmed Mahloof, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, Tourism Minister Adheeb and former MP ‘Jausar’ Jaufar Easa Adam.

However, following the decision this week of MPs Mahloof and Nihan to withdraw from the race and lend support to Adheeb and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, only three people are now scheduled to contest for the PPM’s vice president roles.

“I’m getting calls from all over asking me not to withdraw my name. Many are also condemning Mahloof and Nihan for the decision to withdraw their names. I believe that their decision is politically very strange,” Ilham told the Haveeru newspaper. “When the number of candidates is down to three, pledging support for just two is like pointing the finger at me and asking the members not to vote for me. I wouldn’t have had any problems if they decided to back just one candidate.”

PPM MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan were not responding to calls at time of press, whist Minivan News was awaiting a response from fellow MP Ilham.


However, Tourism Minister Adheeb has rejected any accusation that the PPM was attempting to reduce the number of candidates standing for party vice president.  Adheeb claimed that he did not believe “anything was going on” in terms of senior PPM figures trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming primaries.

“I was surprised that the two MPs – [Mahloof and Nihan] – took their names out [of the contest] especially when they endorsed two other candidates in the election,” he said.

“However, my stand remains that I am standing for principals. I am currently in a political position and believe I can bring something to the second largest party [in terms of membership] in the country.”

With three competitors presently standing for the two vice president roles in the PPM, Adheeb said he believed there was room in the party for competition.

Ahead of the vote, Adheeb claimed that his relative youth and experience both as tourism Minister and the former head of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) would allow for different thinking within the party.

“With former President Gayoom’s experience of running the country, I think we would have a good partnership that would give more value to PPM,” he claimed.

Adheeb said that if he was able to win a vice president role within the PPM, he aimed to continue to advocate for what he called centre-right, business friendly positions, explaining his belief that political reforms made over the last decade had taken attention in the country away from “economic freedoms”.

The tourism minister said he would therefore pledge to pursue “neo-classical economic policies” that promoted, among other factors, a reduced role from government in shaping national finance policies.

The previous administration of Mohamed Nasheed had sought to introduce a number of reforms in taxation, notably in the introduction of a General Goods and Services tax and a Tourism Goods and Services Tax (TGST) over the last two years.

With his policies outlined for the upcoming vice presidential election, Adheeb claimed that he intended to see out the three candidate race and rejected the possibility of negative campaigning during the party’s internal elections.

“I would like to wish both Ilham Ahmed and Abdul Raheem Abdulla the best of luck,” he claimed.

“Too partisan”

Speaking to Minivan News last week, Dr Abdulla Mausoom, Deputy Leader of the fellow government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claimed that the Maldives’ young democratic culture was at present too partisan for relying on US-style primary elections to decide on presidential candidates and other senior party roles.

Mausoom contended that there was a pattern of behaviour in the Maldives among candidates defeated in both parliamentary and council elections to contest independently – at times proving detrimental to their one-time party owing to a possible split within the voter base.

“Maldivians are not ready to accept defeats in internal primary elections. Even at presidential level, parliamentary level and council level, we are seeing that if [a person] loses in a primary, they contest the national election as an independent to prove the party members were wrong in deciding party candidate,” he said.

“In the 2008 United States presidential primaries, we saw Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fiercely contesting for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket. At the end, Obama won and Clinton backed him. That spirit of partisanship has not been seen here in Maldives,” Mausoom added.

“Primaries an essential and fundamental aspect of democracy”: MDP

Responding at the time, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor MP and Spokesperson for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dismissed the notion that the Maldivian public were not “prepared” for internal elections.

“We believe that party primaries are an essential and fundamental aspect of democracy. The MDP has shaped up a good model in holding party primaries where all the elected officials generally should face a party primary before seeking re-election. Even I would have to face primaries before I could run for re-election to parliament,” he claimed.

According to Ghafoor, it was the MDP that introduced the mechanism of primaries into local party politics, a decision he believed had forced its rivals to reluctantly follow.

He added that the sentiments expressed by Dr Mausoom reflected the DRP’s founding by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who oversaw thirty years of autocratic rule that ended following the elections in 2008.

Ghafoor claimed that the DRP was still trying to cope with the changes bought about four years ago.

“I believe [Mausoom] and others who talk like that are talking for self-interest. They built their party on shaky grounds, and for them it is very difficult to keep up with us in terms of internal democracy within the party. We can understand that,” Ghafoor added.

Former President Gayoom opted to form the PPM following a public war of words with Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, his successor as head of the DRP.


PPM congress postponed for third time

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has postponed its national congress for a third time, scheduling the party’s first congress for January 2013.

Local daily Haveeru reported today that that the party cited “political turmoil” as the reason for the delay. The newspaper noted that the party’s charter stipulates that a congress should be held in the first six months after official registration.

The party held its inaugural convention in October 2011.

PPM Interim Secretary General Yumna Maumoon – daughter of the party’s figurehead and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – explained that the decision was made by the interim council after the party failed to secure an appropriate venue to host the congress.

Gayoom “sincerity” attacked after criticising DRP appointments

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Spokesperson Ibrahim ‘Mavota’  Shareef has questioned the “sincerity” of his party’s honorary leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, claiming the former president is behind “all the problems” currently facing the divided opposition group.

The comments were made after former President Gayoom yesterday addressed members of the media upon returning from a visit to Bangladesh to criticise the appointments of two new DRP deputy leaders without holding elections at a national congress.

Speaking to Minivan News, Shareef said that claims by Gayoom, who became the party’s honorary head after retiring from active politics in 2010, were intended to “deceive” DRP members and supporters.

Shareef alleged that Gayoom was personally responsible for the addition of a clause within the party’s constitution that allows for the replacement of vacant senior DRP positions outside of an official national conference vote.

Appointments have become one of the main points of contention for the DRP of late after the dismissal of its former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer. This dismissal was linked to the eventual formation of a spin-off movement within the party known as the Z-DRP.

The formation of this spin-off group has led to an increasingly acrimonious relationship between serving party head Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Gayoom himself.

However, Shareef claimed that Gayoom had personally approved amendments to the party’s constitution during the previous national congress that allowed for the DRP’s council to approve deputy leadership roles to replace departing members.

“I don’t think Gayoom has sincerity [in his actions].  He knows [the party’s] constitution and that it allows to temporarily fill positions legitimately until the next congress meeting,” he said.  “Back in the 2010 congress, there were many positions in the party we were unable to fill due to resignations.  Gayoom approved [this appointment process] under the party’s constitution.”

In addressing how Gayoom’s latest criticisms could affect attempts by some councilors to try and reconcile divisions within the DRP, Shareef again questioned the sincerity of Gayoom in trying to find a resolution for the party.

However, upon returning from Bangladesh, Gayoom told members of the press that the solution to the internal rifts within the party was to respect its charter and retract the DRP council’s actions in appointing and dismissing deputy leaders; actions that he contends were in violation of the organisation’s charter.

“There are a number of things that were done against the charter,” he claimed. “I informed the leader of that in a letter.”

Gayoom argued that the recent appointment of MP Mohamed Ramiz and council member Ahmed ‘Anday’ Mohamed as DRP deputy leaders was not legitimate, as article 87 of the charter states that if a deputy leader resigns, a replacement should be elected at a national congress.

However, the DRP insists that article 122 of its charter authorises the council to temporarily replace vacancies in elected posts until the next congress.

Of the four deputy leaders elected during the DRP’s third national congress in 2010, Umar Naseer was contentiously dismissed by the party’s disciplinary committee, while MP Ali Waheed later defected to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Umar Naseer meanwhile contested his dismissal at the Civil Court, which is due to rule on the legality of the decision.

Gayoom also denied that remarks made at a Z-DRP rally last month about regretting “handing the [leadership position] on a platter” was a personal attack on serving DRP Leader Thasmeen.