The internal senate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) got into a heated argument on Thursday after some members raised concerns about the delays in presenting an alternative candidate for the presidential election in case former President Abdulla Yameen is unable to participate.
Yameen is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for accepting a bribe of USD 1 million in the lease of Vaavu atoll Aarah and engaging in money laundering with the illicit funds.
Mihaaru News reported that four senate members that questioned the validity of Yameen's candidacy were summoned to the Special Committee on Thursday night. This committee was headed by the leadership of PPM and People's National Congress (PNC).
According to Mihaaru News, a source confirmed that their major line of questioning was regarding the discussion of Yameen's candidacy. The leadership considers such discussions counter-productive to an already determined matter, and that such actions supports their opposition's political activities.
This discussion became heated when PPM's former Secretary General Mohamed Shakeel raised concerns on Twitter in a now deleted tweet.
"Should we just watch as the the government continue to play charades through the courts, believing that a deceitful tyrant like President Solih will abandon his tyranny and release President Yameen or allow him to run in the presidential race?" Shakeel tweeted.
Following the tweet, members of the party's Senate WhatsApp group started speaking out against the matter while some defended the leaderships actions. The underlying issue revolves around the party's failure to present an alternative candidate in the event that Yameen is unable to participate in the election.
In the Senate WhatsApp group, Shakeel said that the party's main focus was not on winning the presidential election. He said that discussing the obstacles posed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih regarding Yameen's candidacy should not be interpreted as criticism against Yameen himself.
"However, there is no way to free President Yameen from atrocities unless the PPM is prepared for such a situation," Shakeel said.
One of the most vocal voices on Yameen's inability to run for president was Senate member Muaz Haleem.
Shakeel said that the party's longstanding values should not be compromised and that they should not adopt the ideologies or principles of other political parties. He added that his remarks in the Senate Group were intended to address and resolve these issues within the party.
"The party now looks like a drifting raft with no direction," Muaz, who is currently abroad said.
Muaz said that PPM, is the largest political party in the Maldives and with less than two months remaining to file their candidacy, the reality is that the party's presidential campaign has not yet begun.
According to the Elections Commission, the deadline for filing nominations for this year's elections is set from July 23 to August 3. The names of the candidates will be finalised and announced on August 9.
Other issues Muaz raised concern with include PPM and PNC's leadership withholding their plans from the party sensate, in addition the party's stand on the Chagos issue, and the appointment of Mohamed Ameen and Abdulla Nazim as Yameen's campaign manager.
Abdul Raheem, the current leader of the PPM/PNC Coalition, said that he does not oppose the criticism directed towards them. However, he pointed out that the senate had reached a unanimous agreement to nominate Yameen as their presidential candidate, even after his imprisonment in December 2022.
"The party has not done anything so far without his [Yameen's] instructions. I don't think we should go this far when President Yameen is in prison," Abdul Raheem said.