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#Maldives Presidency 2013: PPM and Adhaalath Party under pressure to declare candidates?

Male', Maldives.
As the constitutional crisis continues in the Maldives, arbitrary detention and arrests by police and military continue, the Judiciary is in suspension and political parties fight on street corners and public places. President Nasheed and opposition parties entrench their positions and show little sign of moving towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis. All sides continue going through the motions in their scripts while awaiting the much anticipated UN mission on 9th February.

On the sides of the conflict, opposition parties are reportedly considering a proposal by Jumhooree Party to build a National Unity Alliance. The key condition in this proposal is that the NUA should field a single candidate for 2013, selected by a primary held among the joint membership of the NUA member parties. JP has also announced that its candidate contesting the primary will be JP Leader, popular philanthropist Gasim Ibrahim.

The proposal however appears to be doomed for an early death as its very basis is not very democratic. The proposal's proponent, JP, selected its candidate in a Council meeting, without even informing its grassroots membership. A fair democratic process would be for JP too to hold an internal primary to nominate its presidential candidate.

A review of the opposition partners proposed for the NUA show a similar picture. Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) nominated its presidential candidate in 2008 without holding primaries, and is likely to do so this time. DQP Leader Dr. Hassan Saeed contested as an Independent, with DQP support. Additionally, DQP is already in coalition with DRP and may not be in a position to even field a candidate.

The Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) has an automatic selection process whereby its Leader (currently MP Ahamed Thasmeen Ali) automatically becomes the party's presidential candidate.

The Maldives Reform Movement (MRM), in hibernation after its agony filled birth, is pretty much in hibernation and in a coalition with DRP.

The People's Alliance (PA) is rudderless after its Leader Abdulla Yameen crossed over to Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), in search of a PPM nomination as presidential candidate. It is also unlikely that PPM's "friendly" parties such as PA, Reeko Ibrahim Manik's Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Redwave Saleem's Labour Party will field presidential candidates.

This leaves PPM and Adhaalath Party (AP) having not declared their candidates. PPM has repeatedly announced that it will hold internal primaries to nominate a candidate. At present, three of its council members have declared their intention to contest the primary: Interim Deputy Leader Umar Naseer (a highly popular activist leader credited with jointly forming PPM with Gayoom), Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yaameen (Gayoom's half brother), and Council Member Dr. Mohamed Saud (a little known academic from the South who is said to be Gayoom's children's nominee).

Adhaalath, perhaps the only party in the country whose membership is based on social and political philosophy rather than on a single individual, has never contested the presidency yet. The third political party to be registered in the Maldives, Adhaalath boasts a very committed group of educated individuals who have managed to quietly build a very strong support base in Male' and the islands.

Adhaalath Party joined MDP in a National Unity Alliance in 2008 and puts its weight behind Nasheed in the presidential elections, in return for a separate Islamic Ministry and the right to determine religious policy. However, as with other coalition partners, Adhaalath got ripped off by Nasheed and MDP and exited the NUA Government in 2011.

While it is easy for political opponents to mis-label Adhaalath Party as an "extremist" party, such opponents would find it difficult to show concrete evidence to support this stereotypical charge. Perhaps one reason for this name tag, is a a fear that, should Adhaalath step out with a presidential candidate, it may even win the elections.

The historic Civic Protest on December 23, 2011 which gathered over 20,000 protestors against President Nasheed, is testament to the large public support that Adhaalath can generate should it step to the forefront of domestic politics.

While JP's nomination of Gasim Ibrahim and the launching of his presidential campaign puts pressure on both PPM and AP to nominate their candidates, it may be a very bad mistake of either were to do so at the present time. Indeed, it would be mistake for either party to support the JP's attempt to conjoin the current constitutional crisis and that of the 2013 presidential elections as one issue with one solution. Any resolution of the current crisis must be democratic and within the bounds of the constitution. An early presidential election ahead o constitutionally mandated schedules would be as unconstitutional as President Nasheed remaining in office now.

Both PPM and AP would be better advised to follow such due process and consolidate their ranks prior to even an internal primary. Internal primaries are highly divisive, witness the MDP internal primaries and the split off of the MRM under failed candidate Dr. Munawwar, something which PPM and AP do not need at present. AP, possibly may also gain much more if it were to follow the same strategy as in 2008, and align itself at a much later stage to another political party rather than fielding its own candidate.

Any rush for candidate nomination by PPM would be bound to weaken the opposition protests and even weaken its membership drive. It remains to be seen if the party council is strong enough to withstand internal and external pressures for an early primary.

Both PPM and Adhaalath would perhaps gain greater public support if they were to support a democratic resolution of the constitutional crisis as discrete and separate from any party bid for the presidential seat. The Constitution provides for democratic processes, such a Public Referendum or parliamentary impeachment of the President, which need to be followed. It provides for a transitional government under the Vice President up to the next elections.

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