Gasim calls for public vigilance over political parties trying to buy MPs

Government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim has accused other political parties of attempting to bribe MPs to jump parties, and boost support for their policies.

Speaking at a rally on the island of Gahdhoo in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll on Friday (June 28), MP and local business tycoon Gasim asked the public to be vigilant against what he alleged were efforts by political parties to “buy” the country.

Gasim noted with particular concern that large sums of money were being paid to MPs by unidentified political parties looking to boost their parliamentary representation and support their respective agendas.

“We hear members change parties for US$2 million,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru. “Why are they being paid such vast sums to change parties? Why?”

Gasim’s comments were made on the back of widespread media speculation that Ahmed Mahloof, an MP for the fellow government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was looking to switch to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

JP Spokesperson Moosa Rameez told Minivan News earlier this year that it was “against the values” of the party to offer incentives to encourage MPs to join.

The comments were made after former PPM MP Ilham Ahmed told media that his allegiance was “not for sale”, despite his “love and admiration” for JP Leader Gasim.

MP Ilham later joined the JP in April following the PPM presidential primary vote.

Various political parties have moved to reject claims they offer MPs incentives to back them.  However, NGOs in the country have previously expressed concern at a perceived accountability failure in the Maldives’ democratic system allowing MPs to switch freely between rival parties for personal gain.

Transparency Maldives has claimed the lack of mechanisms for investigating the alleged use of incentives to encourage MPs to transfer to other parties had done very little to “allay fears” among the general public of parliament being a corrupt institution.

Ibrahim Shareef, former Deputy Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), said in January this year that he did not believe MPs were necessarily having their allegiance bought by rival parties.

However, he said there was realistically “always a temptation” for elected officials to transfer to a party expected to come to power.

Shareef claimed such behaviour was a likely factor in growing public disillusionment with democracy.

Earlier this month, Parliamentary Speaker Abullah Shahid, who switched his allegiance from the DRP to the MDP in April 2013, confirmed that five MPs had recently moved to new parties.

This movement of MPs included Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim from the People’s Alliance (PA) going to the PPM, MPs Ahmed Shareef Adam and Ahmed Moosa from PPM to President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP), and MP Ali Azim from the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

DRP MP Ali Saleem meanwhile left the party to become an Independent MP.