PPM “will definitely win”: Mundhu

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has announced it will now contest in every upcoming election, and will be establishing party offices in atolls nation-wide.

Spokesperson for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and member of PPM’s interim counci, Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, told local media that although the party “did not contest in elections in order to draft the party’s charter and strengthen internal factors”, the party would now engage in campaigns “and will definitely win.”

PPM did contest in a December 31 council by-election in Shaviyani Atoll Milandhoo this year, however it lost to ruling Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Abdulla Athif.

In November, PPM member Abdulla Mohamed Didi won the mid-Fuvahmulah atoll council seat by running as an independent, as PPM had not completed the registration process. Didi received 52 percent of the votes while MDP candidate Mohamed Abdulla Didi received 46 percent.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) received only eight percent of the votes.

PPM MP Ahmed Mahlouf noted that the Kaashidhoo seat in parliament may be vacated pending a ruling at the Supreme Court. Anticipating a ruling on the matter within a month, he said PPM would contest for the seat.

A win for the Kaashidhoo seat would allow PPM to be officially recognised by Parliament–according to Section 29(d) of the parliamentary rules of procedure, which states that “political parties in parliament shall be parties with a member or members that contested in the name of the party and was elected to parliament.” At the moment, the eight MPs who currently identify with PPM officially operate as independents within the Majlis.

PPM’s statement comes a year and a half in advance of the 2013 presidential elections, the first since President Mohamed Nasheed took office in 2008 in the country’s first multi-party elections that marked the end of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year dictatorship.

While the new government has been primarily challenged by DRP, the opposition appears to be shifting in sizeable strides toward PPM, which is headed by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Since PPM completed its registration process in late October with 3,600 membership forms submitted to the Elections Commission (EC), it has received 11,000 members directly from DRP, Mahlouf claims. He added that 1,800 had switched over from MDP, 1,000 had joined from other parties, and several thousand more who had not previously belonged to a political party had registered.

“Our first target was to get DRP members to join us,” Mahlouf explained. “Now I believe 90 percent of DRP members support Gayoom, so I expect most will join PPM.”

According to the party registry, however, DRP has only lost approximately 6,000 members since November.

Still, DRP’s current membership is lower than it was before an acrimonious split that saw the Z-faction breakaway in 2010 and go on to form PPM under the leadership of DRP ‘honorary leader’ former President Gayoom.

Meanwhile, PPM is currently facing tense relations with the EC.

“Of the 20,000 registration forms we’ve submitted, 6,000 have been rejected,” Mahlouf complained. “The EC is citing small mistakes like use of English instead of Dhivehi, the way fingerprints are done, whether we have two witnesses for the form, and they will only accept valid national ID cards, not passports or licenses.

“When MDP and DRP registered it was very easy,” he recalled.

Gayoom recently accused the EC of unfair procedures. “We know the state of affairs in the country right now – election results do not turn out the way people vote. So what are we going to do?” he said during a party rally. His statement elicited a condemnatory response from EC while the MDP suggested that his remarks were made because vote rigging was involved during his 30 years as president.

Eyeing the annual general assembly at the end of April, however, PPM has announced it will be campaigning in the atolls to “meet the islanders and raise our membership,” Mahlouf said, adding that the party’s target of 40,000–double it’s current alleged membership of 23,000– “is not a difficult target for us.”

As of January 8, the party registry recorded PPM as the nation’s third largest party with nearly 14,000 members, and 245 pending registration forms. DRP remains second largest on record, while MDP ranks first with upwards of 47,000 registered members.

While there are strong signs that DRP will indeed fade into the PPM ticket, Minivan News asked whether PPM anticipated a highly competitive presidential election in 2013.

“Thasmeen will run [for DRP], but I doubt he’ll received many votes given what happened in Fuvahmulah,” Mahlouf said. “I think it will be competitive and fruitful, I certainly hope for a free and fair election.”

DRP has said it will be addressing comments made by PPM’s Hussain ‘Munduh’ Shareef during a press conference tomorrow.

MDP officials could not be reached at time of press.


Gayoom, Z-faction MPs quit DRP to form new party

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, founder and ‘Honorary Leader’ (Zaeem) of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), resigned his post and left the party today followed by MPs of the DRP’s breakaway ‘Zaeem’ faction.

DRP Media Coordinator Ali Solih confirmed to Minivan News today that apart from Gayoom’s letter of resignation, the party has so far received letters from MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Nihan Hussein Manik and Ali Arif.

The Z-faction began collecting signatures to register a new party last night with Gayoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen becoming the first person to sign. Yameen has resigned as leader of minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) and declared his intention to contest in the new party’s presidential primary.

Former DRP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed, who quit the party yesterday, was the second signatory after the MP for Mulaku.

After months of factional strife and a litany of grievances aired in the media, Gayoom withdrew his endorsement of DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali in March this year, accusing his successor of “acting dictatorially” and violating the party’s charter in the controversial dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

Of the four deputy leaders elected in its third congress in March 2010, only Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef now remain. Deputy Leader Ali Waheed defected to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in May.

In his letter of resignation submitted today, Gayoom said he was “forced” to leave the party he had formed on July 21, 2005 because the DRP had become “politically toothless.”

“And you [Thasmeen] keep saying clearly in the media that you do not need my counsel,” reads the letter shared with local media. “The consequence of that was the loss of hope citizens had in this party. And DRP getting the bad name of the party that gives way to the government while remaining in name a responsible opposition party.”

Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that he expects the registration forms to be submitted to the Elections Commission (EC) tomorrow.

“We decided to form this party because found out that we cannot work along with DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and we had difficulties in working within the DRP parliamentary group,” Nihan said. “So the only way we can work in accordance of with our principles is to form a new party.’’

While the Z-faction has been functioning independently of the DRP council since April this year, Nihan added that supporters of former President Gayoom had met him on numerous occasions to request that he create a new party.

“We requested him to change his mind and to form this party many times, but then he did not wanted to form a new party, but we are very grateful that he has now changed his mind and decided to form this party,” he said.

Nihan said the main goal of the party was to return to government by defeating the MDP in the next presidential election.

“Many experienced politicians have expressed interest in this party and have singed to this party, and I was surprised that many MDP supporters as well as many citizens that have never joined a party has signed up,” he claimed.

“It is to be noted that we will go for a primary to elect our presidential candidate, and this is a party open for everyone, the ladders to climb up are open for everyone,” he said.

A name for the new party has not yet been finalised, Nihan said.

Z-faction spokesperson and Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf meanwhile reiterated that Thasmeen was “making deals with the government.”

Mahlouf called Thasmeen “incompetent and dictatorial,” adding that it was “not possible for anyone to work with him.”

“Thasmeen always put his interest and that of his family and associates above everything else,” he said.

DRP Media Cordinator Ali Solih said Thasmeen will publicly respond to the points raised in Gayoom’s letter.

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, a member of the DRP council, meanwhile told local media yesterday that the Z-faction’s breakaway activities would see the party “cut up to little pieces.”

Meanwhile President Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said at a press conference today that he doubted whether the former President would attract as much support as he expected.

“Maumoon won’t be able to gather as many members as he expects and I feel that he won’t get the support he expects either,” Zuhair predicted.


DRP Leader Thasmeen “failed as majority leader”: MP Mahlouf

MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Z-faction are in the process of joining forces with minority opposition parties People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to form a new “opposition parliamentary group.”

After months of internal strife within the DRP, coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) broke its agreement with the largest opposition party this week at the behest of the Z-faction, threatening DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s status as the minority leader of parliament.

Formerly the majority leader, Thasmeen became minority leader at the beginning of the current parliament session in June when the ruling party secured 34 seats, making the parliamentary group leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the new majority leader.

Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News that the new parliamentary group will consist of MPs from PA, JP, DQP and a few Independent MPs along with about 11 DRP MPs disaffected with Thasmeen’s leadership.

“We will appoint a leader and deputy leader for the new parliamentary group very soon,” he revealed.

The DRP MP for Galolhu South added that embattled DRP Leader Thasmeen was “welcome to join” the new group.

“But it was Thasmeen’s failure that led us to form this opposition parliamentary group, he failed us as the Majority Leader,” Mahlouf said.

Mahlouf told Minivan News yesterday that 11 of the party’s MPs met with MPs of the minority opposition parties and an independent MP Saturday night “to discuss how to move forward.”

Parliamentary procedure prevented the Z-DRP MPs from forming a new party, Mahlouf claimed, but he speculated that the MPs would potentially leave the main opposition and operate either as independents, or join one or other of the opposition aligned parties.

If that scenario were to happen, the DRP would be reduced to 13-15 MPs and Thasmeen would no longer be minority leader, as the the new opposition PA-JP-DQP alliance would number 21-22 MPs.

Thasmeen has meanwhile hit out at the PA’s decision this week to split with the DRP. The PA had claimed lack of cooperation and “initiative” by the DRP leadership in holding the government accountable as the main reason for the decision.

The DRP leader told local media this week that the PA had to “take responsibility for the weakening of the opposition” due to the dissolution of the coalition.

Appearing on private broadcaster DhiTV last night, PA Leader Abdulla Yameen however contended that the termination of the coalition agreement did not entail “any disadvantage or loss to opposition parties.”

Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and potential presidential candidate for 2013, explained that the party would still vote with the DRP to hold the government accountable.

“PA did not break the coalition to support MDP,” he said. “PA parted ways [with the DRP] because we believe that under our new management we can improve efforts to hold the government accountable.”

The opposition MP for Mulaku noted that six months had passed since the PA announced its decision not to follow the DRP’s whip line.

He added that the PA had voted with the DRP “91 percent of the time.”

Yameen said that “any weakening of the opposition” occurred “when the DRP-PA coalition was at its strongest.”

“The opposition parties were weakened when the [concession agreement to hand over management of the Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant] GMR issue emerged,” he claimed. “I was arrested. [JP Leader] Gasim [Ibrahim] was arrested. Where was DRP then? What hardship did they have to bear? No DRP senior officials were arrested.”