The Machchangoalhi south branch of the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) has declared support for amendments proposed to the political party law that would strip former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the ruling party’s leadership.
In a statement yesterday, the Machchangoalhi south branch in Malé urged the PPM council to make President Abdulla Yameen the party’s new leader and suggested that the proposed change to the Political Parties Act is “crucial”.
MP Ali Azim of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had proposed setting an age limit of 65 years for leaders of political parties. Gayoom is 77 and would lose his leadership post if the change is approved.
“As it is apparent that an individual leading a political party will have to carry out great responsibilities, and hard work, with a full schedule, we do not believe that an individual older than 65 years of age will be able to attend to the matter in the most efficient manner,” reads the statement signed by the president of the branch, Ahmed Shamoon.
President Yameen should have the cooperation of all of the PPM’s organs “to the fullest extent” in order to effectively implement his policies, it added.
The statement comes amid speculation of a split within the PPM between Gayoom loyalists and Yameen supporters.
The former president last week snubbed an invitation to launch a symposium organised by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim’s campaign office to train campaign leaders for Yameen’s 2018 re-election bid.
A pro-government media outlet subsequently leaked conversations between PPM MPs on a Viber group, in which PPM MP Ibrahim Shujau said Gayoom’s decision can be interpreted as a refusal to back his half-brother Yameen for a second term in office.
The Machchangoalhi south statement also follows 13 PPM branches expressing support for Gayoom and urging the party’s MPs to vote against the amendment.
Asked about a possible backlash within the party, Shamoon said the statement represents the opinion of “a vast majority of the branch members” and PPM supporters.
“Our intention is to facilitate changes within the party that we genuinely think must be brought,” Shamoon said.
He added: “We do not wish to create a conflict within the party.”
Shamoon is also a coordinator at the tourism ministry.
The secretariat of the former president was not responding to calls at the time of publication.
The PPM’s deputy leader and MP for Fonadhoo, Abdul Raheem Abdulla, told The Maldives Independent last week that the party’s council has yet to decide a stance on the proposed changes.
“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,” he said.
PPM MP Abdulla Rifau has also said on social media that the amendments will not be allowed to pass.
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.