Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim should take over the presidency, opposition lawmaker Abdul Raheem Abdulla declared Tuesday, as loyalists of former president Abdulla Yameen continued to seek an alliance with the ruling coalition partner.
“I hope Gasim won’t just stand by watching what is happening now. The time has come for him to come out in defence of this nation. I call on Gasim to leave the government, join us and out the country back on the right path,” Abdul Raheem said at a press conference after Yameen was detained for a money laundering trial.
On Tuesday, Abdul Raheem backed Gasim to lead a national unity government and demanded the resignation of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who won September’s polls by a record margin with the backing of a four-party coalition.
“This government came promising they are against tyranny. We must ask today, what are they doing?” he asked.
Vice President Faisal Naseem from Gasim’s Jumhooree Party could succeed Solih and step aside for Gasim, who would be next in line for succession as the speaker of parliament, MP Ahmed Nihan suggested.
Cracks appeared in the ruling coalition after President Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party decided to field candidates in all 87 parliamentary constituencies in the upcoming election, drawing accusations from the JP of reneging on an agreement to divide seats among the parties.
Gasim has since kept up attacks against the MDP and former president Mohamed Nasheed, declaring his willingness to work with other parties to jointly contest the April 6 polls.
Prior to his arrest, former president Yameen withdrew tickets awarded to several candidates by the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives and People’s National Congress. The ‘Progressive Coalition’ decided to back JP candidates in several constituencies.
“If JP and us run for the same seat, and if candidates of president Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] also runs for the same seat, there is too big a chance of losing it to MDP. That is why we decided to give up some constituencies. I knew it would cause unhappiness,” Yameen told supporters via phone at campaign event in Laamu Maavah.
But JP spokesman Ali Solih has denied talks with the opposition parties. The JP has not asked its candidates to withdraw and endorse PPM-PNC candidates, he insisted.
“JP and especially Gasim Ibrahim has not held talks or made any secret deals. We nominated 44 names and submitted applications of 39, so how have we given up anything?” Solih told Vnews on Tuesday.
Only one candidate has withdrawn his candidacy and the rest would submit applications before the deadline of February 21, he added.
But Ahmed Sunil, who was previously awarded the JP ticket for the Alif Dhaalu Mahibadhoo constituency, has filed papers to contest as an independent.
The JP also decided not to field a candidate for the Lhaviyani Kurendhoo constituency, where a former lawmaker affiliated with the party is contesting as an independent.
Some former ruling party lawmakers who joined the JP after Yameen’s heavy defeat in September’s election have also decided to contest as independents, including Saud Hussain for the Villigili constituency and Abdul Latheef Mohamed for the Dhidhdhoo constituency.
After he was told to relinquish the ticket, PPM secretary-general Abdul Matheen meanwhile resigned from his post and decided to contest as an independent.
But some lawmakers, including former speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and Jameel Usman, have dropped out upon Yameen’s request.
Members and candidates from both parties have reportedly expressed misgivings about working together due to its history of animosity. Gasim and his son were among several political opponents who were jailed during Yameen’s five-year term.
The JP was part of short-lived coalitions that won all three multi-party presidential elections in the Maldives. The previous coalitions collapsed in a few months with Gasim falling out with both former presidents Nasheed and Yameen.