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#Maldives: Dr. Waheed, Gasim, Thasmeen or Yaameen? Who can best lead a uniity Govt for next 5 years?

#Maldives: As PPM's Abdulla Yaameen steps up his attempts to destabilize President Dr. Waheed and his Unity Government, questions arise as to Yaameen's eligibility to lead a coalition government. The past month has seen repeated public criticisms by Yaameen of President Waheed, his government's performance and policies. In addition, Yaameen has claimed each success of Dr. Waheed as a success by PPM. Both the Government and coalition partners have criticized Yaameen's attacks and provided facts to disprove his accusations.

President Dr. Waheed yesterday responded to Yaameen's accusations by mildly pointing out that his Unity government was composed of a coalition of parties in which the larger parties such as PPM had larger shares. In addition, he gave factual evidence that Yaameen's accusations of being sold out to foreign states was blatantly untrue. He also called upon coalition partners for unity, saying that "now is not the time for accusations and cause division".

At the forefront of defending the Government has been coalition partner, Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP), followed by Adhaalath Party (AP). Gasim Ibrahim's Jumhooree Party (JP) has remained a silent bystander. Most importantly, PPM itself has not made any official party statements in support of Yaameen, highlighting the fact this could just be a personal strategy instead of a party strategy. Yaameen is presently campaigning to become the PPM's presidential candidate, a race which many predict that his opponent Umar Naseer will win. Umar Naseer has a strong grassroots support in Male' and in the islands, whereas Yaameen has to build it up, capitalizing on his position as former president and PPM Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's younger brother. However, media broadcasts of the campaign rallies of both show that Yaameen has far less support, while Umar Naseer's rallies are packed.

As President Waheed has pointed out, given the constitutional structure of the presidential elections, it is a practical impossibility for any single candidate to win in the first round, unless at the head of a coalition of interested parties. Similarly, even if it goes to a run-off between the top candidates as happened in 2008, a coalition is required to clinch the election. Thus, there is no doubt that if opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is to be beated, regardless of which candidate they field, there is a critical requirement for a coalition. Now that DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen categorically ruled out any chance of DRP joining with MDP for the election, it is abundantly evidence that MDP will be alone except for insignificant smaller semi-parties.

This leaves the issue of which party to lead any coalition which may form. Given the bitter rivalry between DRP and PPM, it can be concluded that neither of these will stay in a coalition led by the other. This is especially so in the light of the potential candidates from each party, namely, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali from DRP, and either Gayoom, Yaameen, Umar Naseer or Ilyas Ibrahim from PPM. PPM has a deep rooted angst against Thasmeen, while Thasmeen and his followers would never accept Gayoom or any of the others given the wide rift and abusive slanging matches still raging between the two parties.

In addition, Yaameen's current campaign clearly shows that, should he become the Presidential candidate for PPM, there is no chance of a coalition with any other party. Close sources report that Gayoom's massive crash in the second round of the elections was solely due to Yaameen. Yaameen apparently refused a coalition with Gasim Ibrahim and Hassan Saeed, leading to these two putting their weight behind MDP.

A further issue is that Adhaalath Party is also unlikely to support PPM, having as they do deep rooted religious issues with Gayoom's religious policies.

With DRP and Adhaalath Party, both strong parties in themselves, out of any coalition lead by PPM, PPM is clearly ruled out as a coalition leader for the Presidential Elections 2013. This leaves behind candidates from JP and Gaumee Itthihaad (GIP), Gasim Ibrahim and President Dr. Waheed. Gasim Ibrahim commands a strong grassroots following himself, and as magnate and philanthropist, is bound to garner a substantial percentage of votes. However, his credentials as presidential material are doubted by many, leading to a distinct aversion to fall in line behind his candidacy. Parties with educated membership such as DRP and Dr. Hasssan Saeed's Gaumee Party (GP) are unlikely to join a coalition led by Gasim Ibrahim. Given Dr. Waheed's democratic credentials, and their practical experience in the past 12 months in Dr. Waheed's Unity Government, it is more probable that both DRP and GP will work with Dr. Waheed instead of Gasim Ibrahim.

Adhaalath Party has forged strong links with President Waheed although he has kept them in line without giving them their head as Nasheed did in his presidency. The Adhaalath Party led Civic Coalition (Madhanee Itthihaad) has also expressed and shown strong support for Dr. Waheed, highlighting the probability of their support for his candidacy at the head of a coalition of parties.

At the same time, Gasim Ibrahim is also more likely to work with Dr. Waheed, albeit in a second round, than with any other candidate. This may not be as clear cut, given that, in the same vein as Yaameen, Gasim is clearly set to contest the first round on his own.

In conclusion, Dr. Waheed's track record for leading a coalition is the strongest, and the experience of the past 12 months will play a large role in trust building between coalition partners. Hence, a likely scenario for the first round is a contest between Dr. Waheed at the head of a coalition of DRP, AP, GP and GIP; Gasim Ibrahim (JP), a candidate from PPM and one from MDP. It would be very unfortunate if Yaameen's empire building dreams endanger the national interest by isolating PPM from the rest of its coalition partners, as this would certainly compromise the chances of defeating MDP in the second round.

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