Both President Abdulla Yameen and a new alliance formed between ruling party lawmakers loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and opposition parties are confident of victory in the upcoming no-confidence vote against the parliament’s speaker.
At an event held on Wednesday to welcome new members to the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, Yameen and senior PPM MPs declared that the no-confidence motion will be easily defeated.
Shortly thereafter, the opposition alliance called a joint press conference in a show of unity, reiterated that enough votes have been secured to pass the motion, and revealed plans to repeal amendments brought to the constitution.
The opposition alliance has also submitted a no-confidence motion to remove Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, a former chairman of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party who now votes with the government.
The speaker’s impeachment vote on March 27 will be the first challenge to the previously unassailable pro-government majority in the 85-member house. Yameen’s faction of the PPM ostensibly controls 45 seats along with five seats held by coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance.
Senior PPM MPs have insisted that none of the ruling coalition’s lawmakers will vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.
But MP Faris Maumoon, who is leading the push to remove Maseeh as head of a breakaway bloc of the PPM loyal to his father, has maintained that several PPM MPs will abandon Yameen to form a new majority.
The MDP has 21 MPs, the Jumhooree Party has seven, and MP Anara Naeem is the sole Adhaalath Party MP.
At yesterday’s event, MP Ilham Ahmed, deputy leader of the PPM’s parliamentary group, warned ruling party lawmakers that they would land “in hot water” if they vote for Maseeh’s dismissal.
The opposition’s “calculations” to overthrow the government will fail because Yameen’s political ability is unmatched in recent Maldivian history, he said.
In his speech, Yameen described Maseeh as “a sacrificial lamb” and dismissed the grounds for his removal as baseless.
“If the Majlis was run in breach of the rules, the motion should have been tabled long before this,” he said.
The vote is tied to the political ambitions of former presidents and driven by personal animosity and “jealousy” of the government’s achievements and popularity among a majority of the public, he contended.
Yameen also launched a veiled attack on his half-brother, former President Gayoom. The PPM’s founding philosophy or “true ideology” would never accept working together with the MDP, he said.
An hour later, Yameen’s nephew MP Faris told the press that efforts to raise concerns and push reforms through internal discussions within the ruling party were unsuccessful.
He claimed that 90 percent of the PPM’s supporters and a majority of PPM MPs as well as the leaders and grassroots of other partis have “reached the point where there is other way to reform the affairs of the country”.
“We’ve had to come to this step for the national interest. We have differences of opinion politically and will continue to do so going forward. But we have reached a consensus on this,” he said.
MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the MDP’s parliamentary group leader, accused Maseeh of refusing to allow lawmakers to hold the government accountable. The speaker refuses to table questions posed to ministers and puts government-sponsored legislation to a vote without affording sufficient time for review, he added.
The source of serious problems facing the Maldives is the People’s Majlis, the minority leader said.
Flanked by MPs Faris, Abdulla Riyaz and Anara Naeem, Solih suggested that the no-confidence vote should be considered a done deal with no doubt of success.
Once Maseeh is removed, Solih said the opposition alliance would move to repeal amendments brought to the constitution that set an upper age limit for the presidency and authorised foreign ownership of Maldivian land.
The new majority would also seek to reverse controversial legal changes that removed the former chief justice and restricted freedom of assembly and expression. He also warned that the members of politically manipulated oversight bodies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, and Civil Service Commission would be replaced.
MP Abdulla Riyaz, the JP’s deputy leader and former police chief, accused Yameen of ruling dictatorially, blocking attempts to hold the government accountable through the parliament, and targeting politicians by using the courts and independent institutions.
“There’s nothing we can’t achieve if we all work together,” said MP Anara Naeem, pledging the Adhaalath Party’s support for reform.