The Maldives United Opposition has invited former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to join it after he sought meetings with leaders of the Maldives’ smaller parties within the coalition amid a bitter row within the ruling party.
The Gayoom faction of the Progressive Party of the Maldives had sent letters to the Jumhooree Party, the Adhaalath Party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and the Maldives Development Alliance, seeking alliances ahead of the upcoming local council elections, scheduled for January.
The PPM has descended into civil war after a court stripped Gayoom of his powers as elected leader and installed his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, to head the party.
The MUO is a broad coalition between the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, the AP, some members of the JP and former senior government officials, including two of Yameen’s former vice presidents and a former defence minister. It has vowed to remove Yameen over allegations of corruption and human rights abuses.
Gayoom did not seek a meeting with the MDP, the PPM’s rival and the largest party in the country.
Mohamed Shifaz, the MDP vice president, said the MUO is ready to work with Gayoom and called for unity against Yameen.
“We are ready to work with everyone in the national interest,” he told reporters on Thursday, and added: “We believe we, including PPM and other parties, can all work together, instead of working separately. That space is there.”
Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, a former minister in Yameen’s cabinet, said: “Disunity is President Yameen’s path. We cannot win if we take that path. We can only win through unity. Any politician or individual who wants to work with us, the MUO, and against this government is a friend of ours.”
Maleeh had met with Gayoom along with former cabinet ministers on Wednesday.
Adam Azim, brother of jailed former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, described Gayoom, as a victim of a “politicised judiciary,” too, while Shidatha Shareef of the Adhaalath Party appealed the 78-year-old to team up with them to strengthen forces against Yameen.
The MDA, the only party remaining in the ruling coalition, meanwhile threw their support behind Yameen on Thursday.
MP Ahmed Amir said: “We held a council meeting with our leader on Wednesday, where we discussed the current political situation and matters pertaining to the local council election. Our leader’s stand is to work sincerely with the government until 2018 as per the agreement we had made.”
The party is headed by MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam.
The MDA recognises the Yameen faction to be the legitimate PPM, MP Ali Mauroof said, noting that the elections commission, too, is following the civil court ruling that handed control of the PPM to the president.
The JP was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
The PPM split was triggered in June by Gayoom’s refusal to endorse his half-brother for the 2018 presidential election and intensified when MP Faris Maumoon was expelled for voting against a government-sponsored bill at his father’s behest.
Gayoom then suspended the party’s governing council and launched an agenda to reform the PPM.
Shortly after the civil court judgment was delivered, Gayoom convened an emergency meeting of the council with his supporters and announced that he would appeal the civil court’s “unacceptable” judgment.
Hours later, Yameen also called a meeting of the PPM council, which decided to put the president in charge of the PPM until the party’s next national congress. The Yameen faction’s council reinstated MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla as the party’s vice president and appointed MP Abdulla Khaleel as secretary-general.
The Gayoom-faction has since appointed MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim and a former deputy minister, Aminath Nadira as the party’s vice-presidents. MP Ibrahim Shujau who joined Gayoom last week was appointed spokesman.
Shujau told the Maldives Independent that Gayoom had sought meetings with the smaller parties “to discuss the local council elections.”
“I cannot say whether there will be an alliance within the PPM and other parties. We will only know any of that after the meetings with the parties and whatever decisions made in these meetings will also have to be approved by the party council,” he went on.
The MP declined to comment on whether the Gayoom faction would consider joining the MUO. “Its too early to say. For now, our focus is on the local council elections.”
Both the Gayoom and Yameen factions have made alternative preparations for the elections.
Ali Niyaz, the MDP deputy chairperson, meanwhile said the MUO is planning to hold primaries for the elections from October 28 – 30.
“The seats were divided between the AP and the MDP based on membership and popularity. If either party holds existing seats from the last election, those sears were given to that party. At present, MDP has 73percent of the seats and AP has 27percent.”
Niyaz said the MUO was confident of a win. “The MDP won the most number of seats in the 2014 local council elections. Together with the AP, we can get a bigger win,” he said.