The day before former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom was convicted on money laundering charges, he met with his supporters and said, "Do not let hungry vultures take over our party [Progressive Party of Maldives, PPM] just because I am not here. We must not allow them the opportunity!"
The next day, he was found guilty of money laundering by the Criminal Court. While yesterday marks one month since the verdict was delivered, the biggest challenge being faced by the opposition is exactly what their leader warned them about in his parting speech: the hungry vultures.
While the 'vultures' are already circling around PPM nonchalantly speak of the presidential ticket and taking over party leadership, they seem to be patiently waiting for the right moment to play the right chess piece to get to the 'king'. One may ask, who are these 'vultures' that president Yameen spoke of? While their leader sits behind bars, and the party's activities seem to be dwindling, is there a chance that the party may be 'backed into a corner'? Is PPM truly at a loss?
According to experts analyzing Maldivian politics, it is most likely that former Home Minister Umar Naseer and former Vice President of Maldives, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed are the 'predators' waiting to prey on PPM. If given the opportunity, Ghassan Maumoon, President Yameen's nephew and son of former Maldives strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom is just as likely to turn back on his uncle.
It has also been rumoured that former Defence Minister and current Dhangethi MP Mohamed Nazim is watchful for an opportunity to be elected to vacant leadership positions in the party. However, this remains uncertain with rumours of the MP working to establish his own political party alongside Thimarafushi MP Abdulla Riyaz.
"All these names that are possibly working to weasel their way into PPM are ultimately linked to Jumhooree Party's leader Gasim Ibahim. Seizing an opportunity to take over PPM is the game they are playing," said an analyst.
Vice President of PPM and Naifaru MP Ahmed Shiyam claims PPM is an 'open and welcoming' party. Anyone can join the party and advocate for the party's ideologies. If one wishes to be elected to the party's leadership, they have the opportunity to contest in the party's congress.
However, those who attempted to ruin the party in the past will not approach the party now with the best of intentions, acknowledged Shiyam.
Referring to Umar Naseer, MP Shiyam said PPM members agree with Umar only because he speaks words beneficial to the party. PPM members take part in his rallies only to increase pressure on the government. However, no members of the party wish to allow such 'preying vultures' into the party.
"I am not saying there are no presidential material members currently in PPM. But the Vice Presidents of the party as well as everybody else agree that the presidential candidate representing PPM in the 2023 elections should be President Yameen, and that he should remain the party's leader. We are moving forward according to the instructions being given by President Yameen from behind bars" said Shiyam.
Let us now speak about the former president's lawyer and his campaign supporter, Dr. Jameel.
Former Hulhuhenveiru MP 'Reeko' Moosa Manik wisely said, even if people throw verbal attacks at each other during moments of disagreement, they will still 'feed off the moss from the same rock'. The statement was tweeted along with a picture of Jameel with former president and current parliament speaker Mohamed Nasheed together in London.
While Moosa made such a statement, there are some who believe Jameel is an 'agent' sent by Nasheed to infiltrate and ruin PPM. However, the front lines of the party speaks differently.
"Jameel is not included among the people mingling in the party with bad intentions. Jameel is clearly an advocate of the party's ideologies, and firmly believes President Yameen must be given another term as president. It is not likely that Jameel wishes to take over President's Yameen's position in the party, and he has never spoken along those lines or expressed such an interest. We fully trust Jameel and believe in him," said a senior member of PPM.
PPM's stand is to keep the seat of the party's leadership vacant and reserved for President Yameen until he is freed from his imprisonment. However, the pressing question dawning upon the party is, just how long will PPM remain safe from the hungry clutches of the 'vultures'? While a few years still remain until the 2023 elections, it is clear that those who wish ill for President Yameen and does not wish for his return will become evident as the election looms closer. There is no doubt that the parties currently in power will play a large role in guiding these deceitful 'supporters' within the party. After all, the vultures can keep their thirst at bay only for so long.