The civil court has stripped former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of authority over the ruling party, and installed his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, as leader.
The verdict is the latest in the battle for influence at the Progressive Party of the Maldives’ top leadership, triggered by the 78-year-old former president’s refusal to endorse Yameen for the 2018 polls.
Judge Mohamed Haleem – ruling in favour of two MPs who had petitioned the court to order Gayoom to reconvene the party’s governing council – found Gayoom “incapable of attending to the duties of his job.”
Haleem said that the authority to administer the PPM now lies with the 33-member governing council, adding that the party’s advisor, Yameen, was to lead it.
Gayoom’s “failure to follow civil court rulings and obstruction of PPM’s functioning as a political party were against the interests of the party’s members and that of the general public at large,” the verdict added, referring to a previous order to reconvene the party’s suspended governing council.
Gayoom had suspended the council and the PPM’s internal committees in June, after the disciplinary committee expelled his son, MP Faris Maumoon, for voting against a government-sponsored bill. Earlier this month, he said the council would remain suspended until Yameen loyalists apologise for walking out of its last meeting on July 19.
The same MPs, who had sought court action to force Gayoom to reconvene the council, had also asked the court to remove Gayoom from the party’s leadership. But the second case has been withdrawn in the wake of this morning’s court order, said MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the party’s vice-president.
Soon after the ruling was issued, Gayoom headed to the PPM headquarters and held an emergency meeting of the council with his supporters. Speaking to the press later, Gayoom criticised the court order and said it will be appealed at the high court.
The judgment should not be enforced until the high court rules, he said, contending that the court does not have jurisdiction to remove the party’s president. A two-third majority vote by delegates at a PPM congress is needed for impeachment, according to the PPM’s charter.
Gayoom said the charter also states that the party’s chief advisor does not have “any active role” in managing the party’s daily affairs. An incumbent president managing a political party “defeats the purpose of forming a party,” he said.
Gayoom revealed that he has not met with Yameen for more than a year.
The council presided over by Gayoom meanwhile endorsed his recent decisions to remove MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla and Zahid Rameez from the body. Both were appointed by Gayoom to slots reserved for the party’s president.
The council also approved former Home Minister Umar Naseer and Gayoom’s personal assistant Ahmed Sofwan as their replacements. Abdul Aleem Adam was appointed as the party’s new secretary general.
Shortly after the verdict was issued, Yameen loyalists and lawmakers announced that a council presided by Yameen would take place at 9pm tonight.
They accused Gayoom of repeatedly violating the party’s charter and severely criticised his decision to remove Abdul Raheem and Zahid, contending that the move required the council’s approval.
Gayoom also informed the head of the party’s youth wing, Ibrahim Yousuf, that he was automatically stripped of the post as he was above the age limit set in the party’s charter.
But MP Ahmed Nihan and Mohamed Hussain Shareef, a former minister who was involved in drafting the charter, argued that the youth wing leader will stay in office until the next national congress.
Following the court order this morning, Gayoom said Abdul Raheem called him on behalf of Yameen and said he was coming to take over the PPM office. “I said that’s not going to happen. The court judgment didn’t say the office should be handed over,” he said.
He also suggested that the PPM council members who walked out of a meeting called in July did so under duress. Several members called afterwards to apologise and said they “did not have any other choice,” Gayoom said.
Yameen loyalists walked out after objecting to the presence of Gayoom’s son MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon, who they insist was expelled by the party’s disciplinary committee after voting against a government-sponsored bill at his father’s behest.
Gayoom had refused to accept the PPM disciplinary committee’s expulsion of Faris citing due process violations. Shortly thereafter, he launched an agenda to reform the PPM.
MP Ibrahim Shujau, a council member who apologised for the incident, was present at Gayoom’s press conference today along with MPs Abdulla Yameen and Mohamed Musthafa.
Umar Naseer told reporters that other ruling party MPs will join the “Maumoon faction” in the coming days.
Hassan Moosa, Shafaa Hameed and Mohamed Junaid contributed reporting