The Jumhooree Party, led by tourism tycoon and MP Gasim Ibrahim, has refused to align itself with the opposition coalition or take sides in the acrimonious power struggle roiling its former ally, the Progressive Party of the Maldives.
Hussein Rasheed Hassan, the JP’s deputy leader, told the Maldives Independent the party considers itself part of the political opposition, but its bitter experiences with coalitions in the past prevents it from making a new alliance.
“We are an independent party with our own set of principles. We have worked with both the opposition and the ruling parties, but our policies cannot be implemented by working with them,” Rasheed said, in response to an apparent request for an alliance from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for the upcoming local council elections.
Gayoom is battling a court-ordered usurpation of his authority as president of the divided ruling party. The court had installed his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, to head the PPM, splitting the party into fully-fledged rival factions.
The 78-year-old has also sought meetings with the the Adhaalath Party, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and Maldives Development Alliance, seeking alliances after a court ruling stripped him of his powers as the elected leader of PPM, and installed Yameen as the head of the party.
The MDA has backed Yameen, while the Maldives United Opposition, which includes the AP and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, has appealed to Gayoom to join it, instead.
Rasheed said that the JP had accepted Gayoom’s request for a meeting.
“We believe that President Maumoon is still the party’s president. But if President Yameen approaches us, we will meet with him too,” he said.
Rasheed was unwilling to comment on the strife within the PPM, but said he was concerned that an internal party matter was being taken to court.
The PPM split was triggered in June after Gayoom’s refusal to endorse his half-brother for the 2018 presidential election, and intensified when his son, MP Faris Maumoon, was expelled for voting against a government-sponsored bill.
Gayoom then suspended the party’s governing council and launched an agenda to reform the PPM.
After the civil court ruling entrusted the party affairs to Yameen on Sunday, Gayoom led a breakaway faction with MPs loyal to him and convened an emergency meeting of the PPM council. Hours later, Yameen too called a meeting of the council. The body appointed Yameen in charge of the party until the next congress in November 2017.
Explaining the party’s reluctance to take sides, Rasheed said forming alliances has only resulted in unpleasant consequences for JP.
“We have worked in the government coalition, our agreement was cancelled and we are out and not part of the parties allied with the government, we have tried to work with opposition parties to achieve some things also. So we can hold dialogue with every party about the issues of the country, to solve these issues.”
He added: “We don’t say yes to everything the government does. We have criticized many of the government’s moves; the changes brought to the constitution, and economic issues like cutting staple food subsidies. The JP supports JP, we support our policies, even if we are a small party we don’t need to be in the shadow of another party.”
The JP was part of the MDP-led coalition that won the country’s first multi-party election in 2008. The alliance lasted only for three months.
The party then partnered with the PPM shortly before the party won the second round of elections in 2013. In July 2014, then-Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb called off the alliance, rebuffing Gasim’s attempts to contest as the parliamentary speaker.
In January 2015, the JP formed an agreement with the MDP to oust Yameen, who responded by arresting and jailing former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.
The JP abandoned the alliance when the government cracked down on the historic May Day rally and froze the bank accounts of Gasim’s Villa Group.
“We are willing to work with anyone as long as it benefits the country,” Rasheed said.