President Waheed “most patient, just and capable” among candidates: Dr Hassan Saeed

Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader Dr Hassan Saeed has said he believes President Mohamed Waheed is the only presidential candidate who has the required “patience and drive” to work alongside people with differing views.

The recent comments by Saeed – who currently serves as Special Advisor to President Waheed – were made the same month the DQP formally entered into a coalition with the President’s own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) ahead of elections scheduled for September 7 this year.

Both 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.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru on Sunday (April 14), Saeed said that President Waheed was the most “academically qualified” candidate.

“He stands even far taller when you compare his international experience  and experience in government than any of the candidates. So if you look at it in any angle, this man is far more capable than all of the remaining candidates,” he said.

Despite the remarks, in February 2012, in a leaked audio clip, Saeed was heard describing President Waheed as “politically the weakest person in the Maldives” .

In the audio clip, he also went onto mock the size of the GIP’s support base, claiming at the time that the party’s only members were “Dr Waheed and the wife, that Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeg, [Secretary General of the GIP] and Waheed’s secretary at the President’s Office”.

Dr Saeed was not responding to calls at time of press when contacted by Minivan News.

Saeed – who was himself a presidential candidate in 2008 and ended the race at third position with 16 percent of the popular vote – claimed that there was a high possibility that many other government-aligned parties would follow the DQP in joining President Waheed’s coalition.

Saeed said these parties could include the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) of business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), led by tourism magnate MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

Gasim and DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali are both presidential candidates for their respective parties.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also publicly pledged its support to President Waheed, last month announcing plans to form a coalition with the GIP.

Saeed claimed that all political parties, except the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were welcome to join the coalition.

He claimed that should such an alliance find an agreement on a common ideology, then it could possibly “change the face of Maldivian politics”.

Giving his reasons why the door was closed for the MDP – the largest political party in the country – Saeed claimed that party’s presidential candidate, Mohamed Nasheed, was not a person who had the capacity to work in a coalition government since he always had problems in “digesting opposing views”.

“Chasing and slowing down”

Saeed claimed that the former president’s “impatience” would not allow him to work in a coalition government, adding that the “science of making a coalition government work” required patience and tolerance.

“One cannot simply run at the pace he wants to,” he said. “A coalition partner would always chase the president and slow him down, should he take such a pace. There should always be an environment for dialogue. [In a coalition,] one cannot simply take a wrong way and jump into the sea. Likewise, you cannot go in the right direction as fast as you want. But in general, a coalition government would always be heading in the right direction. Nasheed cannot be like that,”

The MDP previously said that it would not look to form a coalition ahead of elections this year.  However, Saeed claimed by contract, that there was no political party interested in forming an alliance with the main opposition party of the country.

“[The MDP] are only getting the opportunity to work in a coalition within the parliament. Therefore, MDP is seen to work in collaboration with other parties in parliament. They don’t have a problem working as a coalition in parliament. But outside the parliament, they keep saying that they do not want a coalition. This is because, they really don’t have anyone to form a coalition with,” he said.

Speaking during a recent party gathering, former President Nasheed stated that leaders of various political parties had learned “bitter lessons” over the difficulties of running a government by sharing cabinet positions among different political parties over the last four years.

“A cabinet in which one minister belongs to this party and another belongs to that party, cannot run a government,” he said. “I want the people of this country to remember that, when there is word of coalition, it means of forming a weak government.”

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the MDP, MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik echoed similar sentiments claiming that the MDP could not work with political parties demanding political positions as a pre-condition of any alliance.

“There is no place in the MDP for those who come to us and demand a package of four cabinet positions, 12 judges, three warehouses and the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). But it doesn’t mean all doors are closed for those parties interested in working under a common political ideology,” Manik said at the rally.

Political weight

Saeed this month also criticised former President Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).  The PPM is fielding Gayoom’s half brother MP Abdulla Yameen as its presidential candidate.  Saeed claimed that even Yameen should be backing President Waheed instead of the other way round.

Dr Saeed alleged that Yameen was a candidate who was too “hard to sell” to the public, claiming there remain a number of unpleasant “characteristics” that came to the minds of voters about him.

“Yameen will face the anger of anyone who hated Gayoom’s 30 years [in power]. Yameen will get the hatred of every person who was tortured during Gayoom’s time. He would not get the support of anyone who wished to leave the past. Even the person who wishes to support Yameen would hate him because Gayoom is right beside him,” he told Haveeru.

“There are a lot of people who hate dynastic rule.  A lot of businessmen also suffered during Yameen’s tenure as the trade minister. So they would have a hard time to back him.”

Saeed’s remarks in local media were met with harsh criticism from PPM MP Shifag Mufeed, who described the DQP leader as someone that lacked any political weight.

“The Maldives has two political ideologies. It is that of former President Gayoom’s ideology and that of former President Nasheed’s. Though he says that no one would join those two ideologies, Dr Hassan Saeed himself must know that he does not even have the weight of a wheat grain in Maldivian politics,” Mufeed said in parliament yesterday (April 15).

Shifag also slammed the government of President Waheed, claiming that a bill proposed to parliament on increasing an existing Airport Service Charge was an attempt by the government to recklessly increase its income so that it could be utilized in “fooling people” to vote for him.

The PPM and DQP are both members of President Waheed’s national unity government.

Saeed’s election history

After facing defeat in the first round of the 2008 presidential elections, Saeed publicly announced unconditional support to the MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed during the subsequent run-off election.

Once Nasheed was elected president, the MDP alleged that Saeed took a U-turn on his own unconditional backing and had demanded several cabinet portfolios for his supporters.

Saeed was later appointed as the special advisor to the president – a cabinet minister level position – in the new government.  Meanwhile, Saeed’s running mate, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, was appointed as the Foreign Minister and current Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was given the cabinet portfolio of Communication and Civil Aviation.

However, following a falling off with Nasheed, Saeed left the government claiming that his “diligent” advice was not considered by the former president.  Later, Jameel was sacked from the government and Shaheed joined forces the MDP.

Leaving the government, Saeed and his fellow party colleague Jameel quickly turned against former President Nasheed and became outspoken critics of his administration.

‘Hate-pamphlet’ scandal

In January 2012, just a few days before the controversial fall of Nasheed, DQP released a 30-page pamphlet accusing Nasheed’s government of working under the influence of “Jews” and “Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

“When the Nasheed administration established diplomatic relations with the biggest enemy of Islam [Israel], the government agreed to change the school curriculum and teach our small children about the goodness of Jews,” read the pamphlet. “The Jew’s plan and way of thinking is to divide Islamic countries.”

The Nasheed administration denied the allegations and claimed that the pamphlet was filled with “extremist, bigoted and hate-filled rhetoric” intended to incite hatred among public towards the government.

Following President Waheed’s controversial ascension to power on February 7, 2012, Saeed was reappointed as the Special Advisor for the President while his colleague Jameel was given the position of Home Minister.