President Dr Mohamed Waheed has announced plans to form a coalition between his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), ahead of presidential elections scheduled for later this year.
Writing on his personal Twitter account Thursday (March 28), President Waheed welcomed the support of the AP, while expressing hope other undisclosed parties would be making similar announcements at a later date.
Together we are stronger.#Adhaalathu thank you for taking the first step. Let us hope others will join us shortly.
— Mohamed Waheed (@DrWaheedH) March 28, 2013
The AP tweeted the same day that its council have approved the coalition with the current president ahead of the September this year.
By yesterday (March 29), the AP tweeted that it aimed to “form a large, strong coalition” including other parties in the country to try and provide stability and prosperity in the Maldives following the presidential race.
Our council has decided with a majority of 97 percent to form a coalition with @drwaheedh for the presidential election
— Adhaalath Party (@Adhaalathoffice) March 28, 2013
The AP, one of five parties in the country meeting a recently approved regulation requiring any registered political body to have 10,000 registered members, is part of the coalition government of President Waheed following the controversial transfer of power that brought him into office in February 2012.
Both Adhalaath and GIP do not presently have any elected members in parliament.
The religious conservative party was previously a coalition partner in the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed, later leaving the government citing concerns at what it alleged were the irreligious practices of the administration.
This led the AP in December 2011 to join then fellow opposition parties – now members of Waheed’s unity government – and a number of NGOs to gather in Male’ with thousands of people to “defend Islam”.
During the same day, Nasheed’s MDP held their own rally held at the Artificial Beach area in Male’ claiming his government would continue to practice a “tolerant form” of Islam, reminding listeners that Islam in the Maldives has traditionally been tolerant.
“We can’t achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant,” Nasheed said at the time.
Shortly after coming to power in February 2012, flanked by members of the new government’s coalition, President Waheed gave a speech calling on supporters to “Be courageous; today you are all mujaheddin”.
GIP Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla were not responding to calls regarding the coalition announcement today.
Despite the agreement to cooperate between the two parties, Waheed and the AP differ in their reaction to the recent controversial sentencing of a 15 year old rape victim to 100 lashes for fornication with another man.
President Waheed’s stated on his official Twitter account at the time: “I am saddened by the sentence of flogging handed to a minor. Govt will push for review of this position.”
The Foreign Ministry subsequently expressed “deep concern by the prosecution and the Juvenile Court’s sentence to flog a 15 year-old girl on the charges of pre-marital sex.”
“Though the flogging will be deferred until the girl turns 18, the government believes she is the victim of sexual abuse and should be treated as such by the state and the society and therefore, her rights should be fully protected. The Government is of the view that the case merits appeal. The girl is under state care and the government will facilitate and supervise her appeal of the case, via the girl’s lawyer, to ensure that justice is done and her rights are protected,” the Ministry stated.
The President’s Office also recently announced it was looking at the possibility of bringing about reform to potentially bring an end to the use of punishments like flogging in the country’s justice system.
However the Adhaalath Party has publicly endorsed the sentence, stating that the girl “deserves the punishment”, as outlined under Islamic Sharia.
The party, members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stated that the sentence of flogging had not been passed against the minor for being sexually abused by her stepfather, but rather for the consensual sex to which she had confessed to having to authorities.
“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” read a statement from the party.
“If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,” the Adhaalath Party stated.
Of the parties yet to announce candidates to stand during the upcoming presidential elections, Dr Hassan Saeed, Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and People’s Alliance MP Ahmed Nazim were not responding to calls regarding President Waheed’s announcement today.
Earlier this month, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) ruled out a coalition with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) ahead of elections, despite being open to collaboration with other parties.
Both the PPM and DRP serve within President Waheed’s national unity government.
The DRP has also previously ruled out a collaboration with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).