Gasim Ibrahim has thrown his support behind former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, declaring the 78-year-old to be the rightful leader of the divided ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.
Following a two-hour long meeting on Sunday, the tourism tycoon and head of the Jumhooree Party backed Gayoom’s decision to withdraw support from his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, who has been put in charge of PPM by the civil court.
The JP and the Gayoom faction of the PPM did not announce a formal coalition, but said they had discussed working together at “different levels, in and out of the People’s Majlis for reform.”
The meeting took place at the JP headquarters.
No major decisions were made, both Gayoom and Gasim said.
A senior JP member told the Maldives Independent that the new relations between the two parties “could be called an alliance, but is not formal enough to be a coalition.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that Sunday’s meeting was ”just an ice-breaking session.”
The new alliance marks a reversal in stance for the JP. The country’s third largest party last week said it does not intend to align itself with either the PPM or the opposition coalition, the Maldives United Opposition, because of its “bitter experiences” of the past.
Gayoom sought Gasim’s support after the civil court stripped him of his powers as elected leader of the PPM.
The former president had played a key role in gaining Gasim’s support at the eleventh hour for Yameen during the 2013 presidential elections; Gasim had come third, losing second place to Yameen by some 3000 votes.
The PPM is now embroiled in a civil war, which broke into the open when Gayoom refused to endorse his brother, 57 years, for the 2018 presidential polls.
The former strongman has since accused Yameen of authoritarianism and corruption.
Gasim said Gayoom’s allegations against Yameen were true, and said: “The Jumhooree Party will accept a good proposal by any party, and since President Maumoon has proposed good strong steps, we accept them sincerely.”
Gayoom said: “We have begun something important. This is a very important process. It will achieve victory and progress for the people.”
He added: “I’ve said before that I have withdrawn support for this government and that I would never support it again. Jumhooree Party has also made a similar statement before, so we’re of the same opinion on this issue.”
The JP had united behind Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party to oust Gayoom in country’s first multi-party elections in 2008. Others in the alliance included the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the now-defunct Dhivehi Gaumee Party.
Soon after Nasheed assumed power, the JP, the AP and the DQP allied with Gayoom to topple Nasheed and in 2013, helped bring Yameen to power.
Just a year into Yameen’s rule, in an uncanny repetition of history, the MDP allied with the JP vowing to help Gasim assume the presidency. Gasim had fallen out with the PPM when the ruling party refused to back his bid for the parliament’s speakership.
Soon after the alliance between the JP and the MDP, Nasheed was arrested and jailed on a terrorism charge and the government cracked down on Gasim’s business interests.
In the ensuing political crisis, the AP joined the MDP and organized a historic anti-government protest on May Day, resulting in terrorism charges against key political figures including AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla.
A fractured JP returned to the PPM coalition late last year.