An opposition MP has proposed setting an age limit of 65 years for leaders of political parties, a move that would strip former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) leadership.
Ali Azim of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposed amending the Political Parties Act to stipulate that elected or appointed leaders must be below 65 years of age. The amendment bill was introduced at today’s sitting of parliament and will be up for debate when parliament returns from recess in October.
Gayoom is 77 years old, according to his Facebook profile. Azim’s bill states that individuals over the age limit will lose their posts once the law comes into effect.
The relationship between Gayoom and his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen is rumoured to be under strain with the former president opposed to controversial constitutional amendments authorising foreign freeholds in the Maldives.
PPM deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla said today that he could not speak on behalf of the ruling party as the PPM council is yet to discuss the proposal.
“But as PPM’s vice president and the MP representing Fonadhoo constituency, I can tell you that I do not support the bill, it is utter nonsense,” Abdulla said.
PPM MP Abdulla Rifau has also said on social media that the amendments will not be allowed to pass.
The PPM together with coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) controls a comfortable majority of 48 seats in the 85-member house.
Speaking during today’s sitting, Azim said he proposed the changes to bring the political party law in line with the first amendment to the constitution passed in June that set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency.
The amendments were proposed by the ruling party to allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his former deputy, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, with the then-tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who was 33 and ineligible for the post.
The amendments were passed with overwhelming multi-party consensus amid negotiations between the government and opposition parties for an end to a prolonged political crisis.
The amendments were passed against Gayoom’s wishes, who had urged ruling party lawmakers to seek approval from the PPM executive council before supporting the amendment.
“I reject the proposal to set age limits for the presidency. It will only bring President Yameen into disrepute. Setting a cap on the age of a presidential candidate is not done anywhere in the world,” Gayoom said in a text message sent to PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan.
Shortly after the message was sent, some 44 MPs voted to consider the amendment and sent it to committee for review.
After the vote, Gayoom said in a second text message to Nihan: “I am deeply saddened. There is no point to a man whose opinions are not considered staying on as PPM president.”
Meanwhile, first lady Fathmath Ibrahim’s plans to hold a symposium next month to train leaders for Yameen’s re-election campaign in 2017 with representatives from the PPM’s island branches have reportedly caused friction within the party between Gayoom loyalists and Yameen supporters.
The first lady’s campaign office had stressed that the PPM has no official involvement in the campaign planning.