Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has set out a five-point plan to reform the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, prompting fierce criticism from party members loyal to the incumbent president, his half-brother Abdulla Yameen.
The plan unveiled Sunday aims “to free the party from corruption” and “hold elected representatives accountable.”
“My PPM reform agenda is just that. No political motives are behind it. I want to ensure our party rules and democratic values are respected,” Gayoom said in a tweet.
My PPM reform agenda is just that. No political motives are behind it. I want to ensure our party rules & democratic values are respected.
— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) July 2, 2016
The 78-year-old strongman who ruled the Maldives for 30 years seized control of the PPM on Thursday, accusing its MPs, who hold a majority in the parliament, of breaching the party charter by voting to let the government award islands for tourism without bidding.
Yameen had introduced the measure to generate additional revenue for the state budget.
The PPM council, a majority of which appears to be loyal to Yameen, petitioned Gayoom on Sunday to call a council meeting within three days to discuss his reasons launching a reform agenda without consulting the council. Council members are also angry over Gayoom’s suspension of internal committees.
Some 26 of the 33-member council signed a letter seeking a meeting, local media report.
Gayoom had previously rejected a petition by the council to award Yameen the party ticket for the 2018 presidential election, a trigger for the split within the PPM.
The party’s secretary general Mohamed Tholal resigned soon after the unveiling of the reform agenda, citing obstructions to his duties. He declined to reveal the nature of the challenges, but told newspaper Mihaaru: “I resigned because I no longer have the space to carry out the duties of the party’s secretary general.”
The reform agenda outlines five main priorities, and will end with a party congress in November 2017 that will decide whether to award Yameen the party ticket or call a presidential primary.
A key point is vetting elected representatives and assessing the extent to which MPs have “achieved their national duties and responsibilities.” The review will find out if MPs have consulted with and voted according to the wishes of their constituents and if they have addressed complaints raised by constituents.
The PPM holds 44 seats in the 85-member house.
According to the reform plan, the party aims to “increase the say of party members, ensure elected representatives listen to their constituents in decision-making, and increase integrity of elected representatives.”
Gayoom has since asked Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan to share details of parliamentary group meetings within ten days.
Tasks for this year include finding out which party branches are functioning and examining the status of internal committees and finding out the challenges they face.
A third task, also to be implemented this year, is reviewing the extent to which the Yameen administration has achieved the PPM’s election manifesto and assessing the performance of government offices.
Next year, the party aims to form issue-based groups in the party called “voice of the supporters,” which will formulate papers on eight policy areas; religion and nationhood, healthcare, education, justice, gender equality, social justice, basic services and corruption.
The PPM will contest the 2017 local council elections.
The congress to be held in November will also amend party charter to eliminate the democracy deficit in the PPM, the agenda said.
The agenda was set by an advisory committee of Gayoom loyalists, including former Speaker Ahmed ‘Seena’ Zahir, former MPs and ministers Hamdhoon Hameed, Aneesa Ahmed and Rashidha Yoosuf. Other members of the committee include Aminath Nadira and Athifa Shakoor, both of whom had served in the Yameen administration.
PPM deputy leader and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla has accused Gayoom of hijacking the party and said the committee is unlawful. He was stripped of the authority to administer the party on Thursday.
“Speaking of contravening the party’s charter, Article 39 (b) states that advisory committees appointed by the party president must have the party’s approval. But this was never raised at the party council and was never approved,” he said Friday.