MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party did not attend today’s inaugural session of the People’s Majlis in protest over a controversial change of venue.
The state opening is currently underway at the Dharubaaruge multi-purpose hall, with just 57 MPs of the 85-member house in attendance.
The secretariat of the parliament blamed the change of venue on a minor fire at the People’s Majlis chamber last week that had reportedly damaged its air-conditioning system.
The MDP, which holds 21 seats in the parliament, said the party does not believe “there is a reasonable justification” for the venue change.
MPs having to follow Yameen to listen to the presidential address is “a pollution of the system of governance,” and indicates the erosion of separation of powers, the MDP said.
Opposition MPs had disrupted Yameen’s address last year in protest over the jailing of opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Since a blast on Yameen’s boat last September, security measures have been tightened at the president’s events – soldiers carrying rifles guard the premises while those who attend the events are subject to enhanced security checks.