Bolstered by a breakaway faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ parliamentary group, opposition MPs are preparing to submit a motion of no-confidence against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.
The vote will be the first challenge to President Abdulla Yameen’s majority in parliament since the split within the PPM saw eight MPs loyal to the party’s deposed leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, form a rival bloc to work with the opposition.
Briefing the press on behalf of the PPM’s Gayoom faction Sunday afternoon, MP Mohamed Musthafa said the bid to remove Maseeh is backed by MPs of all parties who oppose his alleged flouting of parliamentary rules to rubber stamp government-sponsored bills.
“Considering the support and spirit of MPs at present, Maseeh will be removed as speaker of the Majlis,” he said.
“He is working to silence the voice of the people. He is depriving us of the opportunity to speak on behalf of the people and to study the bills proposed to the Majlis. [Maseeh] is behind all of this.”
He added that a no-confidence motion will also be submitted to remove PPM MP Ibrahim Riza from the judicial watchdog.
Riza’s legal practice and advocacy in courts while representing the parliament in the oversight body for the judiciary is a conflict of interest, Musthafa said.
Earlier this month, Riza represented two PPM MPs when the high court heard an appeal of the controversial civil court judgment that stripped Gayoom of his powers as the PPM’s elected leader.
The PPM parliamentary group has meanwhile dismissed the attempt to remove Maseeh and Riza – both of whom are part of the Yameen faction – as “a waste of time”.
“God willing, that will not happen,” reads a tweet by the group’s official Twitter account.
MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla told Avas, a pro-government news website, that the opposition would lose the vote. “They are doing everything they can to oust the government. Their motive is not the nation’s interest, but ousting the government with the opposition.”
A simple majority of the 85-member house will be needed to remove the speaker. Along with five MPs of coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, the Yameen faction of the PPM ostensibly controls 47 seats.
The new opposition alliance – comprised of the Gayoom faction’s seven PPM MPs (one of the initial eight switched sides immediately after declaring support for Gayoom), the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s 21 MPs, the Jumhooree Party’s seven MPs, the Adhaalath Party’s one MP, and jailed Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof – has a combined 37 seats, six short of a simple majority.
The Gayoom faction, which took the initiative to remove Maseeh, has reportedly secured the 15 signatures needed to submit the no-confidence motion.
According to the Majlis’ standing orders, three days after the motion is submitted, the speaker must be given a 10-day notice before the vote is tabled in the agenda.
JP leader Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile threw his weight behind Gayoom on Sunday.
MP Ibrahim Shujau, the Gayoom faction’s spokesman, told reporters yesterday that Gasim pledged the JP’s support in parliament for efforts to “restore the independence of state institutions.”
Like Gayoom, the business magnate also no longer supports the Yameen administration, he added.
Appearing on Gasim’s Villa TV last night, JP MP Abdulla Riyaz meanwhile expressed confidence in passing the no-confidence motion against Maseeh if lawmakers are not arrested before the vote.
The former police chief said the no-confidence motion is “long overdue” as Maseeh has been disregarding parliamentary rules of procedure in his haste to do the government’s bidding.
He referred to the passage of controversial constitutional amendments within 24 hours in July last year as well as the approval of the 2016 budget without any changes.
Opposition MPs are not allowed to hold the government accountable through parliament or question ministers, he said.
Riyaz also claimed that MPs from Yameen’s faction of the PPM would vote to remove the speaker.
PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem from the Gayoom faction told Mihaaru today that several MPs are “scared” to publicly declare loyalty to the former president and come out against the government.
Some fear arrest and others do not want their family members and associates to lose government posts, he said.
An unnamed PPM MP in Yameen’s faction told the newspaper that ruling party lawmakers are in a lose-lose situation.
“Development projects underway in constituencies can only be continued by staying with President Yameen. But we have to consider that despite carrying out projects the love of the people is with President Maumoon and it won’t be easy to win the Majlis seat by staying with President Yameen,” the PPM MP was quoted as saying.