Members of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ council are petitioning former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to award the party ticket to his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, without a primary.
But Gayoom, the president of the PPM, has refused to endorse Yameen, local media report
Yameen launched a re-election bid for the 2018 polls last year, barely two years into his five-year term.
The petition had the support of the majority of the 33-member council, including two of Gayoom’s four children, party officials have confirmed to The Maldives Independent.
Newspaper Mihaaru published a screenshot of a message Gayoom purportedly sent to council mebers. “Please don’t ask me to do anything that is against the democratic values on which our party is founded,” he said.
In another message, also published by Mihaaru, he said: “Greetings. I believe we can only unify the party, strengthen its vision and promote its interests, and enhance the support for this party by acting on the strong principles outlined in the party’s constitution.”
The Maldives Independent was not able to reach Gayoom at the time of going to press.
Gayoom’s children, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and State Minister at the President’s Office Ghassan Maumoon, signed the petition. But Faris Maumoon, an MP, and Yumna Maumoon, who recently quit the government, did not sign the petition.
Rumours of a rift between the two brothers began swirling when Yameen turned down Gayoom’s preferred candidate for the post of chief prosecutor in 2014.
The PPM has repeatedly denounced media reports of the alleged rift. The re-election campaign, however, appears to be organized by a separate office led by First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim and not the PPM. Gayoom has not been seen at any of its events.
MPs and members have now taken to social media expressing their support for Yameen.
“There is no debate on this matter. The majority of the party council wants Yameen to be awarded the party ticket. The president of the party must complete the formalities outlined in the party constitution, and hand over that endorsement without delay,” said Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan.
MP Abdulla ‘Bochey’ Rifau Bochey said in a Twitter post: “It is in the best interest of the nation to award the PPM ticket to President Yameen.” MP Jaufar Dawood said there was no one else but Yameen to “steer the country to safer shores.
The PPM constitution does allow incumbent presidents to have the party ticket without a primary, if there are no contenders. The party must hold a congress if another wants the ticket.
Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer said Yameen must be granted the party ticket to strengthen and unite the PPM. This was the lesson learned from the last primary, he said.
At the time, Yameen’s sole contender, Umar Naseer, accused Yameen of vote rigging and links to the drug trade and criminal gangs. Naseer was then expelled from the party and joined the Jumhooree Party. He was appointed as home minister as a reward for the JP’s backing for Yameen in the second round.
Naseer has called for a congress to decide on awarding the party ticket to Yameen, according to local media.
Yameen’s two years in office have been tumultuous.
A former president, a vice-president, two defence ministers, an MP, the leader of a minor opposition party, a judge, and the former chief prosecutor have been jailed, and many others have been forced into exile.