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Opposition parties shuffle leadership after electoral defeats

Former president Gayoom’s son is among the PPM’s three new deputy leaders.



The Progressive Party of Maldives has elected new deputy leaders as the opposition coalition led by former president Abdulla Yameen seeks a leadership change in the wake of heavy defeats in the presidential and parliamentary elections.  

MPs-elect Ghassan Maumoon and Ahmed Shiyam along with former housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu were appointed deputy leaders or vice presidents at a meeting of the PPM’s top council chaired by Yameen on Saturday night. 

They join former legal affairs minister Azima Shukoor as deputies to PPM president Yameen.

Former tourism minister Moosa Zameer, who was elected as the PPM’s third deputy leader during an extraordinary congress last year, has resigned, MP Ahmed Shiyam told the Maldives Independent.

Council members were informed at Saturday night’s meeting, he said.

MP Ahmed Nihan, who recently resigned as the PPM’s parliamentary group leader after failing to win re-election, told the Maldives Independent that the three new deputies were appointed after Yameen “brought three names written on a paper and called for a vote.”

A lack of prior notice prevented anyone else from contesting, he added.

“I’m not sure what kind of a mandate there is to do that, but [Yameen] can obviously do it because he is the party president,” he said. 

“I’m not sure if the nominees themselves knew beforehand. Shiyam and Muizzu were present so they must not have any reservations, but Ghassan was not present so i’m not even sure Ghassan knew. I think it is best practice to give some prior notice before calling for such a vote at an extraordinary council meeting, so that there’s at least some contest.”

Ghassan is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. When the PPM was split over a power struggle between Gayoom and his half-brother Yameen, Ghassan took his uncle’s side and remained a state minister during his administration. He contested for parliament on a PPM ticket against a candidate endorsed by his father, whose Maldives Reform Movement is part of the four-party ruling coalition.

Contrary to media reports, Nihan backed Ghassan as “a very capable person” to serve in the leadership. A tweet suggesting otherwise was “just fun banter on Twitter but it got misrepresented in the media,” he said.

Later on Sunday, Nihan announced that he has left the PPM and signed for the PNC.

Last week, Nihan blamed the “failed” leadership of the PPM for the electoral defeats and called for en masse resignations.

Citing messages on the PPM’s social media groups, local media reported that former president Yameen was mulling stepping aside from the PPM presidency. His family has been pleading with him to retire from politics, he told council members.

Former home minister Umar Naseer and former vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who lost his bid for the Vilimalé seat after finishing a distant third – are reportedly among politicians who have been invited back into the fold to assume leadership positions.

The PPM together with coalition partner People’s National Congress won just eight seats in the April 6 parliamentary polls that saw the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party sweep to a historic landslide victory with 65 seats.

The PPM-PNC coalition blamed the pre-trial detention of Yameen and the freezing of his bank accounts for the failure to conduct a strong campaign. Despite Yameen’s release a week before the polls and the lifting of the freeze, he did not appear in public and there were no major rallies.

The PNC – a new party formed by Yameen loyalists in anticipation of an unfavourable ruling over the PPM’s leadership dispute – is meanwhile preparing to hold a congress on Friday to elect leaders as required by the political party law.

A president, two deputies and 20 council members would be elected by delegates, founding member Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundu’ told reporters Sunday.

The 20 council members would include at least five women and five members below 35 years of age, he noted.

The PNC is presently led by outgoing MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla as interim president and former economic minister Mohamed Saeed as interim vice president. The pair resigned as PPM deputy leaders to register the PNC. 

Both men also contested in the parliamentary elections. Abdul Raheem failed to win re-election but Saeed won the Maavah constituency’s seat.