A second ruling party branch has backed a controversial amendment to the Political Party Act that would strip former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the party’s leadership.
The Galolhu North branch of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) urged its governing council to hand over the party’s reins to incumbent President Abdulla Yameen, who is also Gayoom’s half-brother.
The statement, issued on Wednesday, comes days the PPM said it would penalise the president of its Machangoalhi South branch, Ahmed Shamoon, for issuing a similar statement earlier this week.
The statements by the two Malé branches point to a rift between the Gayoom brothers over the party leadership. The Galolhu North statement also follows 13 PPM branches expressing support for Gayoom and urging the party’s MPs to vote against the amendment.
The amendment to the Political Party Act was proposed by MP Ali Azim of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and proposes 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, Ihusaan Hussain.
Yameen must have the cooperation of all of the PPM’s organs “to the fullest extent” in order to effectively implement his policies, it said, adding that the statement was the reflection of a unanimous decision by all members of the Galolhu North branch.
Ihusaan was not responding to calls by The Maldives Independent.
PPM vice president and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said: “I have nothing to say about this.”
Earlier in the week, Abdulla called the bill “utter nonsense.”
The Galolhu North statement also called for Yameen to be granted PPM’s presidential ticket for a second term, and thanked “the youthful vice president Ahmed Adeeb and Madam Fathimath Ibrahim” for taking initiative to launch Yameen’s re-election campaign last week.
Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years, snubbed an invitation last week to launch the symposium organised by First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim’s campaign office to train campaign leaders for Yameen’s 2018 re-election bid.
The campaign office has requested the Gayoom to join the inauguration of the second symposium scheduled for this weekend. Local media reports say Gayoom has declined the second invitation as he is on a personal trip to Malaysia.
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 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.