The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has appealed for unity amid rumours of a deepening rift between the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen.
After Gayoom declined an invitation to inaugurate a symposium to launch Yameen’s re-election campaign on Thursday night, a pro-government media outlet leaked conversations with PPM MPs on a Viber group, in which PPM MP Ibrahim Shujau said Gayoom’s decision can be interpreted as a refusal to back Yameen for a second term in office.
In a statement on Thursday, the PPM said it regretted “false statements” made in the press and social media that brings Gayoom and the PPM leadership into disrepute.
“If the people making such statements are party members and those active in the front lines of the party, it is likely that it would result in anxiety within the party, cause divisions, and weaken the party,” the statement read.
The statement added that it would also “encourage the opposition’s efforts to split and weaken the party”.
Following Gayoom’s snub, Vice President Ahmed Adeeb inaugurated the symposium as its chief guest. The three-day symposium was organised by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim’s campaign office without the PPM’s official involvement, but is taking place at the Thajuddeen School in Malé with more than 300 delegates from various PPM branches.
The symposium aims to train “campaign leaders” ahead of the 2018 presidential polls.
Meanwhile, in a tweet on Thursday, Gayoom expressed gratitude to the PPM branches and members for declaring their support for him.
Eight PPM branches had issued separate statements expressing support for Gayoom and urging PPM MPs to vote against an amendment proposed to the political parties law that would strip Gayoom of the party’s leadership.
Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Ali Azim proposed setting an age limit of 65 years for leaders of political parties. Gayoom is 77 and would lose his leadership post if the amendment is passed into law.
The PPM parliamentary group reportedly held two meetings to discuss its stance on the bill, but did not reach a decision. A proposal by Gayoom’s son and MP for Dhiggaru, Faris Maumoon, to issue a three-line whip to reject the amendment was not put to a vote.
The legislation will be up for debate when parliament returns from recess in October. As the PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance controls a comfortable majority of 48 seats in the 85-member house, the ruling coalition’s backing will be necessary to pass Azim’s bill.