The expulsion of Maumoon Gayoom shows there is no room for a ceasefire between the former and current presidents of the Maldives. The political realignment on the island portends tough times ahead for the current President.
Fighting siblings cause a power vaccuum in the Maldives.
In what seems to be an anticipated move following the year-long contention between former and current presidents of the Maldives, the ethics committee of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has expelled the party founder, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The expulsion came after a noconfidence motion against the Speaker was quelled brutally in the Majlis (parliament) by President Yameen. The ruling PPM believes the expulsion was in line with the party constitution and will not aggravate the political crisis. However it appears the authoritative politics of President Yameen have compelled the party to take such a
drastic measure. Apprehensions are rife in the country that the expulsion will have implications on the overall political scenario.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom remained an uncontested president of the Maldives for 30 years from 1978 to 2008. In 2008 he lost the presidential election against Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party ( MDP). Later in 2011 after his resignation from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party he founded the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM). The PPM became the ruling party in 2013 when its presidential candidate Abdullah Yameen bagged a victory in the runoff against Nasheed. Analysts say that the victory was an outcome of the alliance the PPM made with the Jamhooree Party of Qasim Ibrahim just days before the election.
The relationship between Abdul Gayoom and his half-brother Yameen remained convivial in the beginning. But once Gayoom refused to endorse President Yameen as the uncontested presidential candidate of the PPM for the next election their relations turned sour. According to the rules, if President Yameen had completed his five-year tenure, he would become eligible to contest the election. But the godfather of the party thought otherwise. Gayoom even snubbed an invitation from the party campaign office to attend a meeting regarding the training of campaign leaders for Yameen’s 2018 re-election bid. This escalated frictions within the party. Consequently, the party was split into two groups. Although the court has handed over party control from Gayoom to Yameen, both factions claim they represent the real PPM.
Since the PPM has been divided into two, “expulsion” politics have become contemporary politics. First, the ethics committee of the party expelled a few loyalists of Gayoom. In a knee-jerk reaction, Gayoom dismissed the ethics committee. Then his son Faris Gayoom was expelled by the disciplinary committee in July 2016 for voting against the “Tourism Bill” which allowed the government to award islands for sale without the required bidding process. This expulsion was followed by the expulsions of Dhunya Maumoon and Yumna Maumoon (daughters of Gayoom), Mahamed Nadeem (sonin-law of Gayoom) and the former president’s loyalist Aminath Athifa. Just before ousting Gayoom from the party, the disciplinary committee also expelled Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim – another loyalist of the former president. He was among the ruling party lawmakers who stood firm with Gayoom in the PPM leadership dispute.
The rift in the party encouraged Gayoom to join hands with his former rivals, including the MDP and the Jamhooree Party (JP). In October 2016 he met with the president of the JP, Qasim Ibrahim. Then in September 2016 Gayoom met with the exiled leader and former president Nasheed in Sri Lanka to discuss national politics. Some years ago it would have been impossible to think Nasheed making an alliance with Gayoom who sent him to jail many times but things has changed now. After the meeting, Nasheed said, “Yameen’s days are numbered, regime change is imminent.” This political realignment triggered a strong disapproval from Yameen’s faction and Maumoon Gayoom was dislodged from the party subsequently.
In a historic move on March 24, 2017 an unlikely combination of leaders came together and forged an opposition alliance called the Maldives United Opposition (MUO). The coalition includes Maumoon Gayoom, the largest opposition party in the House – the MDP, the Jamhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party. The coalition partners vowed to work together to safeguard civil and political rights abrogated from citizens and find a resolution to the political discord afflicting the country.
The MUO moved a motion of no-confidence against the Speaker Abdulla Maseeh, which was taken up for voting on March 27, 2017 in a mercurial atmosphere in the House. The motion was defeated forcefully as 13 MPs from the opposition benches were dragged out of the parliament by men in plain clothes allegedly brought from the Army. Apart from a scuffle, the House also witnessed that the support to Yameen, who routinely enjoyed loyalty of 60 MPs out of 85 members, shrank to 48. This shows Yameen is clinging to the throne by the skin of his teeth as he is losing his coalition partners.
The Maldives has been embroiled in a political crisis since Yameen assumed the presidency in 2013. His authoritative rule and despotic nature have corroded the situation so much so that all political parties, including his former allies, now stand united against him. He put Nasheed behind bars on concocted charges of terrorism in 2015 before latter was allowed to travel to London in early 2016 on medical grounds. His crackdown on political opponents was further intensified when he sent his Deputy President Ahmed Adeeb to jail on a charge of treason. To thwart a no-confidence motion he used the state machinery to intimidate his political opponents. Qasim Ibrahim and Abdulla Riyaz, leader and deputy leader of the JP, were summoned to the Police Headquarters many times on a charge of ‘ spreading false rumours.’ Colonel Nazim, who was a former defence minister and a vocal critic of President Yameen, was arrested by the police. Yameen even tried to muzzle the press when it started investigating the heist that involved embezzlement of $205 million. Allegedly, Yameen and his family members were involved in the embezzlement. Faris Maumoon, an opposition MP, reproved the crackdown and said, “Maldivians must see this renewed crackdown for what it is: a test for democracy.”
The expulsion of Maumoon Gayoom has receded hopes for reconciliation in the political arena. The ruling party has now officially distanced itself from a bellicose Gayoom who has embarked on dismantling President Yameen’s rule. After he was expelled Gayoom tweeted: “Yameen’s faction has no legal standing and cannot dismiss members from PPM. With the Grace of Allah, I continue to be a member of PPM and its sole elected leader.” This indicates he is adamant and will continue to destabilize Yameen’s regime.
The writer is a member of the staff.
The Maldives has been embroiled in a political crisis since Yameen assumed the presidency in 2013.