Rival PPM factions vie for grassroots support

Rival PPM factions vie for grassroots support
November 02 12:04 2016

Rival factions of the divided Progressive Party of Maldives led by its deposed leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his half-brother, President Abdulla Yameen, are vying for the support of the party’s grassroots.

Gayoom is preparing to travel across the Maldives to meet supporters whilst the Yameen faction is planning to hold a rally at the carnival area in Malé on Friday night.

Ministers, lawmakers and heads of state-owned enterprises met at the presidential residence Muleeage on Tuesday afternoon to discuss plans. According to online paper VFP, managing directors and political appointees have been asked to provide details of the number of people they can bring to the rally.

Yameen’s supporters are using the slogan ‘Alsu Jalsa’ (real rally) to promote the rally on social media. The president’s faction insists that it represents the “Real PPM” after the civil court stripped Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader and handed control to Yameen.

The court’s intervention split the PPM into fully-fledged factions with Gayoom and Yameen presiding over rival governing councils comprised of supporters. Both have appointed loyalists to key leadership posts.

After a council meeting Monday night, MP Abdulla Khaleel, the secretary-general of the Yameen faction, said the PPM was “in a slumber” before the president took over the reins.

The party has become more active under Yameen’s leadership and several people have expressed interest in joining the party, he said.

On Monday, First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim’s campaign office launched a recruitment drive to increase the PPM’s membership.

After the elections commission struck off nearly half of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s members from its registry last month, the PPM, with 37,633 members, is now the largest political party in the country.

Gayoom’s son Ghassan Maumoon meanwhile attended Yameen faction’s council meeting on Monday night while his father was presiding over a meeting of his council at the same time.

Ghassan, a state minister at the president’s office, is the only council member that has participated in meetings and events held by both factions.

Khaleel went on to say that the council has decided to undertake a series of trips to the atolls both to explain the government’s development agenda and listen to the people’s concerns.

MP Ibrahim Shujau, spokesman of the Gayoom faction, told reporters on Sunday that Gayoom’s aim is “to visit all inhabited islands of the Maldives.”

Talks are ongoing with the Jumhooree Party for its leader Gasim Ibrahim to accompany Gayoom on the tour, he said. The business magnate has thrown his support behind Gayoom.

At its council meeting on Monday night, Shujau said the Gayoom faction made several important decisions concerning the parliament, which he declined to reveal.

Seven PPM MPs loyal to Gayoom have formed a new parliamentary group to work with the opposition. In a new alliance with MPs of the MDP and Gasim’s Jumhooree Party, the Gayoom faction is preparing to mount a challenge to Yameen’s previously unassailable majority in the 85-member house.

But Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan, the PPM’s parliamentary group leader and a Yameen loyalist, told the press last night that the ruling coalition’s comfortable 47-seat majority remains intact.

He expressed confidence that the opposition will not be able to secure the support of enough pro-government MPs to pass a no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed with a simple majority.

Dismissing Gayoom’s criticism of the government and the ruling party’s parliamentary group, Nihan urged PPM members to attend Friday night’s rally in solidarity with President Yameen.

Yameen’s faction is organising the rally to celebrate the PPM’s fifth anniversary. The party was founded in late October 2011.

The Gayoom faction also planned to hold a rally to mark the anniversary last week. After the housing ministry withdrew a permit to use the Dharubaaruge convention centre, the PPM leader organised a gathering at the party’s office in Malé last Thursday night.

However, riot police cordoned off the area and blocked Gayoom’s supporters from entering the office in Henveiru Thema, which has since been cleared out by Yameen’s loyalists.

Following a tense standoff between his supporters and riot police outside the PPM headquarters, Gayoom called a press conference and withdrew support for the government.

The 78-year-old former president called on all political parties to unite “in defence of democracy and the constitution”.