Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s withdrawal of support for his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen’s administration after a four-month-long battle for control of the ruling party signalled a seismic shift in the Maldives’ political landscape.
Eight MPs of the ruling coalition have declared loyalty to the former president, forming an anti-Yameen bloc that could pose a threat to the previously unassailable pro-government majority in parliament.
Here is a round up of reactions to Gayoom’s announcement on Thursday night.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party – which was formed a decade ago to end Gayoom’s 30-year rule – promptly welcomed the move and expressed eagerness to work with its longtime foe.
Yameen’s three-year administration has “lost all moral legitimacy to govern,” the party said in a statement.
“The MDP reaffirms its commitment to political dialogue to ensure an end to the current political crisis, and therefore looks forward to working with President Maumoon and the MPs to bring about much needed reforms to the country. With this, the MDP will coordinate efforts to implement urgent reforms including legislative changes, and reform independent institutions in order to ensure free and fair elections.
At this juncture, while President Yameen brings the country to financial bankruptcy through mismanagement, with clear proof that the President himself is at the head of mass corruption within the Government, while he ostracises the Maldives from the international community, and operates with increasing disregard for the will of the Maldivian people, the MDP calls on the independent commissions and the security forces to distance themselves from President Yameen, and to observe full professional impartiality and integrity. The MDP also calls on the Courts and the Judges to bring an immediate end to their rubber- stamping of President Yameen’s authoritarianism, and to uphold the fundamental right of the Maldivian people to a justice system, free of political manipulation.”
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, the party’s spokesman, said: “President Yameen does not have any legitimacy to govern. We urge the international community and friends of the Maldivian people to exert pressure on this government and President Yameen to bring about immediate reforms or step aside, and to stop sabotaging the will of the Maldivian people for a credible democracy.”
The Maldives United Opposition, an MDP-led coalition comprised of the Adhaalath Party and former top officials of Yameen’s government, said it has “resolved to work with President Maumoon and PPM MPs to rectify injustices and reversals in democracy.”
The MUO also contended in a statement that Yameen has lost “the moral authority and mandate” to remain in office.
The MUO shall work with President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, PPM MPs and supporters to resolve injustices and address matters of urgent interest to the nation. The MUO shall move forward in initiating legislative amendments and reform independent institutions to establish an interim arrangement acceptable to all parties to ensure free fair, transparent, credible and inclusive elections in 2018.
Atul Keshap, US ambassador to the Maldives, shared tweets about Gayoom’s announcement and expressed solidarity with Maldivians who value democracy.
— Atul Keshap (@USAmbKeshap) October 28, 2016
Gayoom meanwhile came under fire from Yameen loyalists, including his niece Hala Hameed, the permanent representative of the Maldives to the UN office in Geneva.
In a Facebook post, she contended that the elder statesman is obliged to respect Yameen’s leadership as the incumbent president and accused Gayoom of seeking power – “power for himself and more for his children.”
“I find this appalling especially after all four children were given high posts in President YAG’s [Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s] government. Throwing opportunities away is something else. That is mostly a privilege for people who have the affluence and luxury of time.
Anyway, I was compelled to write after the disappointing manner in which PPM who played the vital role in electing YAG as President has crumbled for the cause of a single family who comprise a quarter of the [PPM’s governing] council.
Just as I stood by MAG under his appointment, today I stand by President Yameen through thorns and roses.”
Her brother, lawyer Maumoon Hameed, however, disagreed. “That’s not true,” he said of Hala’s accusation that Gayoom’s aim is securing power for his children.
“As my late father did, I stand with [President] Maumoon,” he tweeted, referring to Gayoom’s brother Abdulla Hameed, who served as speaker of parliament and atolls minister.
Gayoom tweeted in appreciation of his nephew’s support.
Thank you @maanhameed for your support & for putting things right. Like father like son!
— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) October 29, 2016
Hameed, however, was unhappy with the media’s coverage of the family spat. A headline on newspaper Mihaaru read: “Hameed family divided in sibling quarrel.”
— Maumoon Hameed (@maanhameed) October 29, 2016
Yameen’s loyalists meanwhile insisted that the government will not falter without Gayoom’s backing.
“President Yameen will not resign because a particular person withdrew support. God willing, his resolve is stronger than that,” tweeted MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, who was sacked by Gayoom as the Progressive Party of Maldives’ vice president.
Raheem urged Gayoom to respect the decision of the supreme court, which refused to hear his appeal of the controversial civil court ruling that stripped him of all of his powers as the PPM’s elected leader.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee echoed the lawmakers’ criticism.
30yr ruler who vowed to uphold the law n who claims the ownership of new constitution hve totally disregarded the 3 levels of the court.
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) October 27, 2016
Isn’t president @maumoonagayoom doing exactly what president Nasheed did: BREAKING THE LAW.
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) October 27, 2016
Yameen’s spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali also launched thinly-veiled attacks against Gayoom in a series of tweets. Development projects underway across the country will continue regardless of an individual’s support, he said.
Gayoom’s decision was prompted by his failure to rule by proxy, Muaz claimed,
“The government’s appeal to former presidents and the opposition is to give space to the government’s development efforts for the sake of all citizens. [And] to not anger the youth and to allow stability to prevail,” he tweeted.