Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim on Saturday night endorsed 32 opposition candidates for the April 6 parliamentary elections, confirming an agreement between the ruling coalition party and the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives-People’s National Congress.
The announcement came after PPM-PNC leaders declared support for 27 JP candidates.
Briefing the press at the JP’s headquarters in Malé, Gasim said the JP is fielding 51 candidates, of whom 37 would have the support of the opposition PPM-PNC coalition.
In return, the JP will support opposition candidates in 32 constituencies where it has not fielded a candidate, he added.
But in 14 constituencies, JP candidates will compete against PPM or PNC candidates, he noted.
“We have not formed a coalition with PPM,” the speaker of parliament said, insisting that JP remains part of the four-party coalition that brought President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to power in September.
Talks started between JP and PPM-PNC members and an agreement was finalised between the leaders before former president Abdulla Yameen was detained last month, he revealed.
“There is no written and signed agreement,” he said.
The talks started because President Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party reneged on an agreement on dividing seats among the coalition parties, he repeated.
Despite appeals during consultations among the coalition leaders, the MDP refused to reconsider its decision to field candidates in all 87 constituencies, Gasim said.
President Solih eventually backed the move and “knelt down” before the MDP national council’s decision, he said.
Gasim previously told the press that both Solih and former president Mohamed Nasheed had told him they could not convince the council to give up any seats. The MDP later held nationwide primaries to elect its candidates.
The JP was “thrown out” and forced to “beg” for new alliances, Gasim contended.
As its plea was answered by the PPM, the business tycoon said the parties decided to work together to win as many seats as possible.
But after the parliamentary elections, JP lawmakers could work with the ruling coalition, he suggested.
Gasim’s stance was at odds with remarks by opposition lawmaker Abdul Raheem Abdulla, who declared at a press conference on Saturday that the JP’s decision to endorse opposition candidates spelled the end of the ruling coalition.
Along with Vice President Faisal Naseem, the JP’s nominees remain in political posts and the cabinet, including Gasim’s wife Aishath Nahula as transport minister, JP president Ali Waheed as transport minister and JP deputy leader Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan as environment minister.
Following Gasim’s announcement, Ali Waheed and Dr Hussain declared support for President Solih.
Contrary to PNC leader Abdul Raheem’s claim, the ruling coalition remains intact, the environment minister tweeted, vowing to defend the government.
“Real JP people” would not vote for PPM-PNC candidates, he suggested.
The tourism minister also declared he would not betray coalition party members who “sacrificed for the reform efforts.”
“I will defend the government,” he tweeted.
Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, one of the four coalition leaders, has since thanked Ali Waheed.
Candidates from the former president’s ‘Maumoon Reform Movement’ group launched their campaign last week.
The Adhaalath Party, the fourth coalition partner, is also fielding candidates in 13 constituencies.
Photo of JP press conference from Vnews