Former Home Minister Umar Naseer on Friday announced his intention to run in the 2018 presidential elections in a move to counter his former boss incumbent president Abdula Yameen Abdul Gayoom's own hopes for re-election.
Umar who suddenly resigned from the cabinet last week told Mihaaru that he would vie for the presidential ticket of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) if the party holds a primary to choose a presidential candidate.
"If not I will contest the elections as an independent candidate," Umar said.
He also said his slogan for the presidential campaign would be
Umar lost out on the presidential primary to Yameen who eventually went on to win the 2013 elections.
He was subsequently suspended from PPM after publicly criticizing Yameen.
Umar had supported Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim in the presidential elections and secured a cabinet post on a JP slot.
Umar's announcement comes in the wake of a showdown between president Yameen and his half brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who have been locked in a power struggle for the ruling party's control.
The rift between the two brothers widened over a government proposed controversial amendment to the Tourism Act.
Gayoom on Wednesday had assumed full control of the party amid a fallout from his failed attempt to get his party lawmakers to vote down the amendment which sought to bypass the bidding process in island lease for tourism.
However, the government controlled parliament on Wednesday passed the amendment with all the ruling party lawmakers except two, voting to defy Gayoom .
In response, Gayoom had immediately relieved his deputy and Fonadhoo MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla of his authority to call council meetings and the overall administrative running of PPM.
The move is believed to have been taken after the party council proposed to penalise the two MPs who had not voted for the amendment.
Gayoom’s son, Faris Maumoon was the only PPM MP present in Wednesday to vote against. MP Ibrahim ‘Waddey’ Waheed reportedly left the parliament house minutes before the vote.
Gayoom after announcing a reform program in a bid to wrestle back control of his party told reporters late Thursday Thursday that the amendment to the Tourism Act was a clear violation of the party’s charter.
He also said the PPM parliamentary group which controls the parliament had ignored and defied several requests to follow the party’s democratic values.
“The PPM parliamentary group has acted in violation of the party council’s decisions which includes amendments to the constitution and laws governing this country,” Gayoom said.
“Recent decisions of the government have clouded the vision of this party. Several recent incidents have also cast doubts over the justice system in the country.”
Gayoom’s reference to the possible injustices comes in the wake of several of his half brother’s opponents being jailed under controversial circumstances or forced into exile including his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed, two former vice presidents and his first defence minister.
He also admitted that the move to launch a reform program came after many futile attempts to resolve the divisions within the party.
It is unclear whether Umar's announcement had been back by Gayoom.
Hours before the press conference, PPM lawmakers loyal to president Yameen decided to amend the law putting an age cap of 65 years for political party leaders in a bid to oust Gayoom.
The amendment would effectively put an end to Gayoom’s rein as the PPM leader.
The PPM parliamentary group’s decision to oust Gayoom who is now 80 came shortly after a sit-down with president Yameen.
Gayoom had also recently rejected a petition by the party council to gift the party’s presidential ticket to president Yameen for his re-election in 2018 without a primary.
Shortly before the PG group’s decision, Gayoom had rallied key members of the party including Umar to his side and constituted an advisory council to find a solution to the deep divisions within the party he founded.
During the press conference Gayoom said the petition to gift the presidential ticket to Yameen had reportedly been coerced.
“Several members who signed the petition had told me that they had no choice but to sign it,” Gayoom said.