Ruling coalition party sides with pres Yameen in PPM row

MDA council members pictured during a press conference on Thursday. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

MDA council members pictured during a press conference on Thursday. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), the only party remaining in the ruling coalition Thursday unsurprisingly sided with incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in the bitter power struggle for ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) control.

MDA’s support would be a relief for president Yameen as his half brother and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has intensified efforts to rally support to his side in a bid to re-ascertain his control over the now divided party.

Before MDA had declared support for president Yameen, Gayoom had sent out invitations to government aligned Jumhoory Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the now opposition religiously conservative Adhaalath Party for a series of meetings designed to convince fellow political leaders to join his side.

Gayoom has largely ignored a court ruling to hand over control to his half brother and instead has looked to prevent party loyalists from switching to his brother president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’ faction.

The civil lawsuit filed by two lawmakers loyal to president Yameen accused the elder Gayoom of violating the party charter and impeding its effective functioning.

The court had ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, finding Gayoom guilty of violating the constitution, party charter and political party law.

The party control had been handed over to Yameen in the capacity of chief advisor which is a default position afforded to the party’s successful presidential candidate by the party’s charter.

The court has also ordered president Yameen to hold a party council sit-down within 24 hours.

Gayoom had moved quickly to rally council members loyal to him and held a meeting where members had backed his decision to ax three members from the party including deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla.

The council had also filled the vacant secretary general’s post and signed off on Gayoom’s reform program.

An eerily calm and smiling Gayoom later told reporters that the court order completely violated the party’s charter.

He had urged the court to hold off on enforcing the order until an appellate court ruling.

Hours later president Yameen chaired a council meeting of his own with his council also appointing a new secretary general.

Both factions since had forwarded documents related to the respective council sit-downs, while Gayoom had asked the Elections Commission to declare the opposing sit-down as invalid.

Gayoom had argued that according to the party charter, the authority to call council meetings is vested in the party leader and not the chief advisor.

Elections Commission refusing to be dragged into the row, has insisted that it would abide by the court ruling.

MDA after a council sit-down earlier Thursday said it would only recognize president Yameen’s faction as the “legitimate” PPM.

Gayoom had assumed full control of the party amid a fallout from his failed attempt to get his party lawmakers to vote down a government proposed amendment to the Tourism Act which sought to bypass the bidding process in island lease for tourism.

The resistance from Gayoom quite glaringly irked his brother especially after he began to publicly criticize and oppose recently passed controversial laws.

Gayoom however, has described the laws to restrict protests, media and free speech as clear violations of the party’s value and charter.

The rift between the brothers deepened after Gayoom’s lawmaker son voted against recent government proposed laws prompting his uncle to oust him from the party.

The party’s disciplinary committee had ignored a ban on all party sit-downs imposed by Gayoom to oust his lawmaker son Faaris Maumoon who had voted against the tourism Act amendment from the party.

Gayoom quickly rejected the disciplinary committee’s ruling and announced a reform program in a desperate bid to wrestle back control of his party.

Soon after, the elder Gayoom called a council sit-down in an attempt to resolve the rift, only to witness a faction loyal to Yameen walk out of the meeting.

Any hope for the two brothers to mend ties soon evaporated after two PPM lawmakers loyal to president Yameen filed a lawsuit claiming that Gayoom had hijacked the party by suspending its internal committees and announcing a reform agenda.

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