The Maldivian Democratic Party’s national council has voted to ally with former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed in a move the party hopes would “establish a constitutional government that represents the Maldivian public.”
Jameel, who was impeached in July with the MDP’s backing, is a controversial figure for opposition supporters because of his role in the religious nationalist campaign that ousted the MDP administration in 2012.
National council members, however, struck a conciliatory tone on Monday night, with the party’s Vice President Mohamed Shifaz hosting a resolution that stressed the need to set aside political differences to end President Abdulla Yameen’s “tyrannical rule.”
All 52 members present voted in favour. The council consists of 103 members.
During the debate, many referred to Jameel as “our elected vice president,” and said that the MDP was once again being forced to take a hard stand “in the interest of the Maldivian public.”
The move marks yet another bizarre development in the shifting alliances and personal clashes that have roiled the Maldives over the past decade.
In the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008, Jameel’s Dhivehi Gaumee Party united behind MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed to oust former president of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Others in the alliance included tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.
Soon after Nasheed assumed power, the JP, the AP and the DQP allied with Gayoom to topple Nasheed and in 2013, helped bring Gayoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen to power.
Just a year into Yameen’s rule, in an uncanny repetition of history, the MDP allied with the JP vowing to help Gasim assume the presidency. Subsequently, Nasheed was arrested and jailed on a terrorism charge and the government cracked down on Gasim’s business interests.
In the ensuing political crisis, the AP joined the MDP and organized a historic anti-government protest on May Day, resulting in terrorism charges against key political figures including AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla.
A fractured JP returned to the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ coalition late last year.
During last night’s debate, Hassan Latheef, a lawyer who represents Nasheed, said that the MDP had always “taken difficult political decisions in the interest of the Maldivian people.”
MP Fayyaz Ismail said: “I would welcome any individual who wants to join us, even if it is someone I dislike very much… I would even welcome President Yameen if he willing to join us and end his rule.”
Ibrahim Waheed, who previously headed the National Social Protection Agency, said the MDP must be willing to work with all political parties and actors who are committed to political reform. “We should not run after something a politician said sometime in the past.”
MDP members did not specify how the alliance with Jameel would further its plans.
Jameel is currently residing in the UK. He had fled the Maldives just days before the parliament was set to vote on his removal.
Yameen’s administration is meanwhile mired in a massive corruption scandal that only came to light after Jameel’s successor, Ahmed Adeeb, was jailed and impeached on suspicion of links to a blast that took place on Yameen’s speedboat in September.
Nasheed is also in the UK on a brief reprieve from jail.
He was granted 30 days of medical leave in an internationally brokered deal.
Commenting on MDP’s alliance with Jameel, MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, another presidential hopeful who was expelled from the MDP, accused MDP of “tying tails with traitors.”
“My hopes of being the MDP’s presidential candidate in 2018 has been renewed, traitors cannot destroy the MDP,” he said in a tweet.
Jameel and his associates, former ministers Mohamed Maleeh Jamal and Abdulla Ameen, are expected to formally join the MDP on February 4.
The MDP is also planning a walk against corruption on February 5.
Additional writing by Zaheena Rasheed