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PPM signs up two JP MPs in show of strength

In an apparent show of strength ahead of a mass opposition protest, the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives signed up today two MPs and three island councilors from the Jumhooree Party.



In an apparent show of strength ahead of a mass opposition protest, the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives signed up today two MPs and three island councilors from a minor party.

President Abdulla Yameen and his half-brother former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom welcomed two Jumhooree Party MPs and three councilors from Alif Dhaal Fenfushi Island at a grand ceremony attended by all cabinet ministers and the PPM parliamentary group.

With Ahmed Mubeen and Abdulla Ahmed, the PPM now has 46 MPs, a majority of the 85-member house. The JP, a minor party that helped Yameen assume power, now has nine MPs.

Gayoom, who appears to have taken a more active role in PPM and government affairs of late, commended Yameen on “two successful years, despite turmoil.”

In a thinly veiled reference to detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, Gayoom said: “Human beings will want goods, money and fame. This is not wrong. But the problem is when it becomes a priority above everything else… We are seeing some destroying themselves in this pursuit. Some have been destroyed.”

Adeeb, who had been at loggerheads with Gayoom, was arrested on suspicion of links to an explosion on Yameen’s speedboat on September 28. He is also accused of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from resort leases.

His arrest plunged the Maldives into fresh political crisis and weakened Yameen’s hold on power, at a time the opposition was protesting over the imprisonment of several high profile politicians, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The defence minister and police chief were sacked in a subsequent shakeup of the security forces.

Adeeb’s supporters have now pledged to join the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s November 27 protest to pressure Yameen into releasing political prisoners.

Gayoom called on the new PPM MPs to prioritize serving the public and called for the elimination of corruption from the party and the government.

Mubeen and Abdulla both said they were signing up for PPM to guarantee development for their constituencies. The three Fenfushi councilors, too, cited the government’s promise of a new harbor for the island in joining the PPM.

“Fenfushi has been waiting for a harbor for the past 18 years. But there is no one to advocate on our behalf, to help advocate for its inclusion in the state budget. All of our hopes is for a modern harbor,” said the council president Shahid Abdul Raheem.

Yameen, meanwhile, promised a new mid-term budget in 2016 with more development projects for the atolls if the government is able to realize projected revenue.

The promise comes after several ruling coalition MPs last week complained over the government’s failure to launch projects pledged for this year and the omission of several projects from next year’s budget.

Yameen said the government was prioritizing the development of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and a bridge between the capital Malé and the airport. The government “wants transformative change instead of incremental change,” he said.

He went on to criticize foreign criticism of the Maldives, saying “we will do what needs to be done,” and berated the MDP for “irresponsibility,” by rejecting the state budget. He also thanked JP leader Gasim Ibrahim for his support in recent weeks.

Gasim, who had split with the PPM and allied with the MDP in an anti-government campaign earlier this year, is now back with the PPM. The government at the time had frozen the bank accounts of his Villa Group over an alleged unpaid US$100million in rents and fines.

In February and May, several JP MPs and island councilors joined the PPM ahead of mass protests.