Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Shifag ‘Histo’ Mufeed yesterday signed for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) during a meeting in his constituency of Fuvamullah.
The meeting was attended by the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Gayoom. Shifag was pictured in local media with the former President, draped with a garland of pink flowers.
Shifag acknowledged that charges of financial gain were likely to be levelled at any MP crossing the parliamentary divide during the political upheaval.
“I’m not a person who worships money. I feel disappointed and embarrassed that such people exist in our party. However, I want to assure you I will do whatever is in my power for you citizens, for your island, for my island, no matter which colour or which party I’ve signed on to,” Shifag said.
Shifag also explained his previous “abusive” criticism of Gayoom as the “words of a young man”who had not had any other president to compare the 30-year autocrat with.
“I was very young and politically naïve. Our history had not been written down very clearly”, he told people at a rally in Fuvahmulah yesterday.
Shifag claimed during the rally that the fall of former President Nasheed had arisen because of the actions of MDP members who had begun to act in a self-serving and dictatorial fashion.
Former Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa said the party had been aware that Shifag had been negotiating with other parties.
“Shifag has always been negotiating with other parties for a better deal for himself. We’ve known that he was was not one of the party faifthful, and that behind the scenes he was negotiating,” she said.
The Fuvahmulah MP had become increasingly critical of the MDP’s leadership in recent times. Last week he chose to go against the party line, attending the Majlis session in which the government’s nominees for the Vice-Presidency and the cabinet were confirmed by the coalition parties.
The official position of the MDP is that the February 7 transfer of power was orchestrated through a coup and, therefore, that the current government is illegitimate.
The MDP’s President and Vice President, Dr Ibrahim Didi and Alhan Fahmy, were removed from their posts last week after the party’s National Congress voted in support of no-confidence motions made against them. The primary reason given was the belief that the pair had been making statements in contradiction of the party’s official resolution of February 8.
Assuaging fears of further divisions within the MDP, Zulfa said that the party was “stronger than ever”.
“It is now that we should be dealing with people who are not loyal to the party philosophy. Even [former party leaders, voted out last week] Dr Ibrahim Didi and Alhan Fahmy – the time to deal with that was now. They were creating divisions at a time we need unity. As leaders they should have been uniting the party rather than questioning the way it was doing things,” said Zulfa.
All three of the parliamentary seats in Shifag’s Fuvahmullah constituency are now held by the PPM which, with the signature of Shifag, now has the largest minority representation in the Majlis with 18 members from a total of 77.
The PPM’s group leader Abdulla Yameen was confident that the party would gain more parliamentary converts, though he admitted that the “dynamic” nature of politics makes predictions difficult.
“The MDP will have to make extra efforts, they have an uphill battle to fight. They will have to arrest the movement of MPs to other parties,” he said.
The PPM’s unofficial numbers in the house became officially recognised after the victory of Ahmed Shareef in the Thimarafushi by-election in April. Prior to this, the Majlis’s PPM supporters were technically classed as independents as the party had not won any seats through the polls.
The party was formed in October 2011 after the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) split. Vice-President of the party Umar Naseer yesterday told Minivan News that he was confident the party could replace the MDP as the majority leader in the Majlis.
Unlike the rules governing the party affiliation of council members, members of the Majlis are not required to stand for re-election after changing political parties.