The Maldivian Democratic Party-led coalition appears to be on the verge of collapse after Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim announced he was open to talks with other parties to jointly contest the upcoming parliamentary elections.
After escalating attacks against MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed at campaign events over the past week, Gasim accused the party of breaching a coalition agreement by deciding to field candidates in all 87 constituencies.
“JP, once again, has to beg because MDP has rejected us and thrown us out on the streets when they got power. JP is now prepared to go into talks with all sides to jointly field candidates for the parliamentary polls,” the lawmaker and owner of the Villa business empire tweeted Friday night as votes were being counted in the MDP’s primaries.
MDP candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won September’s presidential election after forming a coalition with Gasim’s JP, the Adhaalath Party, and a breakaway faction of the Progressive Party of Maldives led by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
There was purportedly a coalition agreement – which was not shared with the public – to jointly contest the parliamentary elections and divide seats among the four parties.
But amid opposition from the grassroots and leadership, the MDP national council decided last month to field candidates in all 87 constituencies, insisting there was no binding agreement signed by all four leaders.
In Friday’s primary, former president Nasheed won the MDP ticket for the newly-created Central Machchangaolhi constituency in the capital.
But his candidacy could be scuttled if a bill proposed by JP MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed is passed. The Dhidhdhoo MP submitted an amendment last week to bar former presidents from running for parliament.
The JP’s parliamentary group leader Abdulla Riyaz claimed neither the party nor the joint parliamentary group was consulted before Latheef submitted the legislation.
But Latheef is yet to withdraw the amendment as instructed by Riyaz, prompting speculation that he has the backing of Gasim and other coalition lawmakers.
The JP together with the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives has the numbers to push the bill through without the votes of MDP lawmakers.
Gasim’s tweets on Friday night has fuelled speculation and media reports of a deal between the JP and former president Abdulla Yameen.
“Now we are seeing Gasim and the opposition trying to form a coalition. JP is leaving the MDP coalition. So it is not going to be difficult. There are still some months left till the end of the parliament term. It is very likely that the amendment will pass through the Majlis. Many MPs are in that spirit,” Addu Live quoted an unnamed lawmaker as saying.
Last week, the MDP called on the coalition partner to withdraw the amendment as it targets Nasheed’s candidacy. It was “unconstitutional” as the qualifications for parliamentary candidates are specified in the constitution, which also guarantees the right to run for office.
“We advise JP to consider the impact it will have on the joint parliamentary group and urge all parties to work for stability… It also violates all principles that must be followed by a member of the joint parliamentary group,” the MDP said in a statement.
After voting in Friday’s primary, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also criticised the proposed legal change as “undemocratic and unconstitutional.”
The president echoed Nasheed in stressing the importance of the MDP securing a parliamentary majority to fulfil campaign pledges, a recurring appeal in the former president’s campaign speeches that angered Gasim and the JP.
Despite Gasim’s accusations of the MDP abandoning the coalition partner, the JP’s senior members remain in cabinet and high-level posts, including the leader’s wife as transport minister and JP president Ali Waheed as tourism minister.
The JP parliamentary group leader was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
In the wake of Gasim’s announcement, the other coalition parties meanwhile underscored the importance of securing a parliament majority that supports the Solih administration.
“Maintaining the coalition government and electing a Majlis with majority for the government is a key target of Adhaalath Party. We believe the way forward is by prioritising national interest while referring to the party’s policies,” Adhaalath party said.
“The four parties joined to form a coalition to establish just rule and achieve people’s hopes. So I humbly call on all to put forward the nation’s interest over our parties… It is our responsibility to make sure that the coalition doesn’t break and remains strong. His excellency president Solih and the four leaders have a big role in this,” former Gayoom tweeted.