Opposition lawmakers have submitted a no-confidence motion to remove Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, posing the first challenge to President Abdulla Yameen’s previously unassailable majority in parliament.
After submitting the motion Wednesday morning with 26 signatures, Minority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and MP Faris Maumoon from a breakaway faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives along with MP Ali Hussain from the Jumhooree Party and MP Hussain Areef from the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance briefed the press outside the People’s Majlis building.
“As you can see, MPs from all parties are with us on this,” MP Faris told reporters, expressing confidence of securing the support of a simple majority from the 85-member house.
“We believe that all of the serious problems facing the Maldives today began through the People’s Majlis, because of decisions made with disregard to democratic principles and the constitution,” said Solih, the MDP’s parliamentary group leader.
With 84 MPs present and voting, 43 votes will be needed to pass the motion. Maseeh cannot participate in the vote or preside over the debate.
The Yameen faction of the PPM ostensibly controls 45 seats along with coalition partner MDA’s five seats. The MDP has 21 MPs and the JP has seven. MP Anara Naeem is the sole Adhaalath Party lawmaker.
Jailed MP Ahmed Mahloof and Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who votes with the government, are the only independent lawmakers.
According to the MDP, the grounds for Maseeh’s removal include his alleged unfair conduct, disregard of the rule of law and parliamentary procedures as well as his role in eroding checks and balances and “subverting Maldivian democracy”.
The MDP also accused Maseeh of denying ministers, judges, and heads of independent institutions the right to reply before they were removed, and of “deliberately ignoring requests from opposition MPs to summon government officials for questioning on matters of public importance and national development.”
“The speaker has unilaterally cancelled sessions of parliament citing ‘no work’, while numerous crucial legislation and issues remain to be debated. The speaker’s actions have eroded public trust in the parliament,” the party said in a statement today.
“While it is the speaker’s duty to ensure fair and substantial debate on legislation and issues, parliamentarians are not afforded sufficient time or opportunity to review important bills. The speaker routinely tables bills, committee reports and other issues of national interest without due notice, in a deliberate attempt to obstruct parliamentarians’ work.”
The constitution requires a 14-day notice before voting on the motion. According to the parliament’s standing orders, the speaker and MPs must be informed of the motion within three working days of submission, after which Maseeh must be given 10 working days to prepare his defence.
The motion must then be tabled in the agenda of the next sitting. Maseeh will have the right to take part and defend himself in the debate.
But four lawmakers have since returned to Yameen’s faction amid allegations of government pressure on their business interests. The remaining four are MPs Faris, Mohamed Musthafa, Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim from the PPM and Hussain Areef from the MDA.
Parliament sittings have not been held this week. An unnamed PPM MP told newspaper Mihaaru on Tuesday that there are no items to table in the agenda. Two bills are presently under review by a committee, but the MP said committee meetings have not been held either.
Gayoom has meanwhile declared his support for removing Maseeh.
As President of PPM I strongly support the cross-party resolution submitted to Majlis today. A vital move for reform pic.twitter.com/3Q7ucQ0SNT
— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) March 8, 2017