DRP positioned as “moderate” alternative to PPM and MDP: Dr Mausoom

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has said it will provide a “moderate” alternative to the more “extreme” political policies of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), ahead of presidential elections set for 2013.

Speaking to Minivan News today, DRP Parliamentary Group Leader and MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom said that the party was pushing ahead with a new national strategy over the next 12 months to employ more “moderate policies” in areas like economic development and privatisation.

The comments were made following a DRP rally held on Thursday at the artificial beach area of Male’. During the gathering, speakers including party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali claimed the party had both the following and the polices to defeat the MDP and former President Nasheed at the next elections.

While being ultimately committed to playing a role in coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan until an election race begins, Dr Mausoom also stressed that with “no clear agreement” on the exact policies of the present government during its formation, “differences of opinion” were to be expected among different parties.

According to Parliamentary Group Leader Mausoom, the impact of these differences was potentially already being seen in the rivalry between different parties.

Local media coverage of the rally alleged that around 60 people in the audience at Thursday’s gathering were expatriate workers who were instructed by several Maldivians to stand and applaud during talks from key DRP figures. However, Dr Mausoom responded that any expatriate workers present had likely been supplied by political rivals to tarnish the party’s reputation.

“This sort of thing is done to tarnish the reputation and respect held by the public for the DRP. The public often judge popularity by the number of people at the rally and we noticed some of the media had taken photos of the rally before people had begun arriving,” he said. “It is very irresponsible , but we expect this to happen as rivalry increases between different parties.”

“New drive”

Mausoom said that Thursday’s rally represented the beginning of a “new drive” by the party to hold events across the capital and in the outer atolls to mobilise and involve its members in promoting its policies and attracting new followers.

“We are getting lots of support from members in the islands and things look very promising for the party right now. We are anticipating huge numbers to join us [up to 2013],” he added. “We are attracting many MDP members who have been let down by the party’s failure to uphold democracy and shifting towards us.”

Mausoom contended that the DRP also expected to attract members of other political parties in the country that he said had been “more extreme” in their policies and actions.

“We are a clear alternative to major parties like the PPM and MDP. The MDP for example mismanaged democracy [during the administration of former President Nasheed]. They disrespected the rule of law and independent institutions. The DRP will give due respect to the law.”

Mausoom claimed that this respect for law was reflected in the more “moderate stance” the party hoped to take on issues ahead of the next general election.

“We don’t want privatisation of essential public services. In areas like education and healthcare we are completely against total privatisation,” he said. “At the moment we are committed to more generic policies. But we will be announcing more clear objectives later.”

In trying to play up the party’s more “moderate” political aims, Mausoom raised two key issues were it had already shown a difference of opinion to other government-aligned parties, such as the PPM.

“One issue has been the motion to renounce the Maldives’ commonwealth membership. The DRP has said it would not support this. This is the same for debates on national health funds. We believe that basic healthcare should be provided by the state.”

According to Mausoom, the DRP also holds a vital and unique role in the Majlis for enabling policy that was being passed in parliament, either by voting in line with the government-aligned PPM or the opposition MDP.   The MDP and the PPM are presently are two largest parties in terms of parliamentary representatives.

“Any amendments to laws or policy in the country need to be passed through the Majlis. In order to get the numbers to do this, there should be either a PPM and DRP agreement, or a DRP and MDP agreement,” he said, “However, there may be issues that we do not agree and we would not therefore back these changes. There may be issues that the MDP and PPM agree on passing, but I do not see that happening.”

The party claimed it represented a “middle ground” within Maldivian politics between the MDP and the PPM, established by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The claim was rubbished by MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor however, who claimed that the DRP as a political party had been stifled both internally and externally.

The DRP was originally founded by Gayoom before a war of words with his annointed successor and present party leader Thasmeen saw a breakaway faction of party members establish the PPM.

Ghafoor alleged that following the formation of the PPM, which now holds the second largest number of MPs in the Majlis behind the MDP, the DRP was effectively being replaced as a political entity by Gayoom’s new party.

“I believe that the DRP have failed to identify themselves and what they stand for,” he said.  “Over the weekend, Mr Thasmeen spoke of having outlined policies that can defeat the MDP at elections. But he has failed to articulate any of those policies. I would welcome commitments to establish a grass roots political network on islands like the MDP has done, but the DRP have not managed this. The party is disappearing and the PPM is replacing it.”

Ghafoor claimed that whilst the MDP had identified itself as “a democratic champion” under former President Nasheed, the rest of the country’s political parties had been “left behind” and failed to provide actual alternative polices to the public.

PPM power

Despite the MDP’s claims, PPM Vice President Umar Naseer told Minivan News last month that he believed the MDP realised it faced electoral defeat in the current political environment.

Naseer, who had previously served as deputy leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) before being dismissed, claimed that recent by-election victories for the party over the last two months,  showed clear public support for the wider coalition government.

“If [general] elections were held right now, the MDP would be defeated badly,” he said. “The MDP understands this.”

Ahead of any future presidential elections, Naseer claimed the PPM was focused on bolstering its presence in the Majlis after assuming the minority parliamentary leadership role in April.

Naseer claimed the party would continue pursuing a coalition that might eventually allow it to replace the MDP as majority leader in the majlis.

“Our main focus now will be the elections in 2013,” he said.

Naseer added that when elections were held, the PPM would be working to strengthen the position of its own possible presidential candidate.

“My feeling right now is that [President Waheed] will not stand during the presidential elections,” he claimed.