PPM backs anti-defection ruling from Supreme Court

PPM backs anti-defection ruling from Supreme Court
July 11 20:48 2017

The joint parliamentary group of the ruling coalition declared support today for a Supreme Court ruling that would tie lawmakers to political parties and strip defectors of their seats. 

Several MPs left the Progressive Party of Maldives on Monday after the Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling, dramatically shifting the balance of power in the 85-member house ahead of a no-confidence vote against the speaker.

At a press conference Tuesday morning with 28 MPs from the PPM and ally Maldives Development Alliance – including four who were elected on other political party tickets – senior lawmakers contended that a legal remedy for party switching is long overdue.

“We were in dire need of a law to overcome this problem when the constitutional case was submitted as a public interest litigation,” said MP Ahmed Nihan, the PPM’s parliamentary group leader.

“If it’s something the Majlis cannot do, the other powers will work to resolve it.”

Citing a survey by Transparency Maldives, Nihan said 80 percent of the public viewed floor crossing as corrupt. The NGO responded on Twitter by suggesting that criminalising illicit enrichment coupled with a robust asset declaration regime would be more effective than anti-defection laws.

Nihan also echoed arguments made by AG Mohamed Anil at the apex court yesterday about lawmakers “breaching their social contract by switching sides”.

“We believe they should face restrictions in crossing the floor,” he added. 

MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the PPM deputy leader, called the restrictions “essential for the peace and national security of the country”. 

MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam, a resort tycoon and the MDA’s leader, alleged to have seen lawmakers “accepting bribes of about one, two or even three million for each budget vote” and declared that his party “fully supports this change to wipe out corruption”.

MP Ibrahim Falah claimed that he was offered MVR32 million (US$2 million) to sign the no-confidence motion. He also called on lawmakers who left the PPM to rejoin if they wish to secure their seats.

Despite the collapse of the pro-government majority, Nihan and other leadership figures continued to express confidence of protecting Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.

Pressed for details about the touted “game plan” to defeat the opposition’s third bid to unseat Maseeh, MP Abdul Raheem asked reporters if coaches share tactics with opponents ahead of a match.

Nihan also insisted that the expected Supreme Court ruling would not affect the outcome of the no-confidence vote.

Senior lawmakers meanwhile accused the opposition of plotting to overthrow the government after a two-hour meeting between PPM MPs and Yameen Monday night. 

The opposition alliance previously sought to remove Maseeh in late March but fell short after counting on defections from the PPM, which was split into rival factions last year after the civil court stripped former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of his powers as its elected leader and handed control to Yameen.

Most MPs who recently left the PPM were among 48 MPs who voted against Maseeh’s previous no-confidence motion in late March, which was defeated in a controversial roll call vote after 13 opposition MPs were forcibly expelled from the chamber.

The opposition submitted the no-confidence motion for the second time with 45 signatures.

In late May, the supreme court meanwhile declared itself the final authority to determine the validity of the parliament’s removal of the president, vice president, ministers, judges, auditor general, prosecutor general and members of independent institutions.

The parliament’s removal of the senior officials will only stand after the court rules on the legitimacy of the no-confidence vote or the impeachment process. The controversial judgment came after the AG office asked the apex court to establish that the parliament can only dismiss cabinet ministers for committing an impeachable offence.