The Progressive Party of the Maldives has descended into open warfare with MPs loyal to incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, seeking court action to remove his half-brother from the ruling party’s leadership.
Two MPs are seeking a ruling removing Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 78 years, from the party’s presidency and an order requiring its council to “handover leadership to a person who can protect public interest,” according to a petition lodged at the civil court on Thursday.
Court officials posted a summons printed on red paper at the entrance to the PPM offices on Saturday when staff there refused to accept the notice.
It said that a party representative endorsed by the party’s council must present himself or herself to court at 3:30pm on Sunday, or the case would be heard in absentia.
The summons follows days of high drama, where Gayoom’s son was struck off the political party registry by the elections commission and three Yameen loyalists were sacked from the PPM council.
The long-rumoured rift between the Gayoom brothers broke into the open in June when Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years, refused to endorse Yameen for the 2018 polls. Days later, the party’s disciplinary committee expelled his son, MP Faris Maumoon, for voting against a government-sponsored bill.
Gayoom subsequently suspended the party’s 33-member governing council, in which Yameen supporters hold a majority, and launched a reform agenda, accusing MPs of facilitating corruption and reversing democratic reforms.
The elections commission said it had struck off Faris’ name from the PPM’s registry on Thursday following an investigation into a petition filed by 20 members of the PPM council.
Faris told Mihaaru, a local newspaper, that the commission’s decision was unlawful. He maintained that his expulsion was invalid claiming the disciplinary committee had failed to follow due process. He added: “It is very dangerous for other political party members if the elections commission continues to take matters into its own hands. Who knows who the elections commission may remove tomorrow?”
The party is being plunged into disarray just months to go before polls for local council elections.
Council members loyal to Yameen had called a press conference on Thursday, calling on candidates interested in running on the party ticket to submit application forms to the Yameen-faction instead of the Gayoom faction.
They also urged Gayoom to re-convene the council, but said they would win elections without his support.
“Everyone who wants to compete on the council elections on behalf of PPM from across the country, from Thuraakunu all the way to Addu, please adjust your direction and come to us,” said Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan.
MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the vice president of the party, said: “We are certain that President Yameen will win the 2018 presidential elections. Those who don’t want to support him should stay home. Our parliamentary group and the party’s council will take him there.”
Abdulla would head the preparations for the elections, the Yameen faction announced.
On Saturday, Gayoom sacked Abdulla and two others loyal to Yameen from the council.
“Instead of supporting me, you have continued to act against the part’s charter and ideology, without my knowledge. You have been making council members sign various petitions without my knowledge, and spreading lies about me in the media,” Gayoom wrote in a letter to Abdulla.
The lawmaker declined to comment immediately.
The two others who were sacked were Zahid Rameez, who was appointed to the council by Gayoom, and Ibrahim Yoosuf, who heads the party’s youth wing.
Zahid was accused of posting “rude and disrespectful” comments on social media, and Yoosuf was told he was no longer eligible for the position as he was 31 years old – the party charter requires that the head of the youth wing be below 31 years of age.
Abdulla and Zahid were replaced with former Home Minister Umar Naseer and Gayoom’s personal assistant, Ahmed Sofwan.
Additional reporting by Shafaa Hameed and Hassan Moosa