The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives says it is confident of impeaching Vice President Ahmed Adeeb even without the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) backing.
“The ruling coalition holds 60 seats. We will win the vote with an overwhelming majority, but I believe MDP is morally obliged to unconditionally back Adeeb’s impeachment,” said Ahmed Nihan, the majority leader.
A two-third majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to impeach Adeeb, who has been detained on suspicion of links to an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat. The government says the blast was a targeted assassination attempt.
The PPM holds 44 seats, its ally Maldives Development Alliance has 5 seats and the Jumhooree Party holds 11 seats.
The PPM has collected 52 signatures on the impeachment motion, just five votes short of the required number.
Five of the 44 ruling party MPs and four JP MPs did not sign the motion.
The PPM MPs who did not sign the motion are Yameen Rasheed, Ahmed Thariq, Mohamed Musthafa, Muaz Mohamed Rasheed and Mohamed Abdulla.
“That’s because they were out of the country at the time,” Nihan explained.
The JP MPs who did not sign the motion are Faisal Naseem, Ali Hussein, Abdulla Riyaz and Hussain Mohamed. Independent MP Hussain Areef backed the motion. The 21 MDP MPs were told not to sign it.
The impeachment vote is likely to take place next week.
MDP spokesman and MP Imthiaz Fahmy said: “We have not had a meeting on the matter yet. So we have not yet taken a position on the matter.”
The party is preoccupied with the campaign to free imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed. It plans to hold a mass protest on November 6.
Nihan said the PPM has not yet reached out to the opposition formally.
“This issue must not become a political deal. The country is in a very dangerous situation. The MDP needs to participate unconditionally,” Nihan said when asked if the government might consider Nasheed’s release to get the MDP’s backing.
The MDP in July backed two constitutional amendments and the impeachment of Adeeb’s predecessor Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed to secure Nasheed’s release. Instead of issuing a presidential pardon, the government returned Nasheed, who was under house arrest, to jail.
Nasheed’s re-imprisonment in August led to a collapse in talks. Now, a UN human rights panel has ruled his detention illegal.
The blast on Yameen’s speedboat on September 28 has plunged the Maldives into fresh political crisis. The defence minister, police chief and top government officials loyal to Adeeb have been sacked. More than a dozen homes have been raided and a large cache of weapons was found submerged in a reef.
The military on Monday defused a bomb found near the presidential palace at Muleeaage. Yameen does not live there, but uses it for meetings.
The vice president’s lawyer has said that Adeeb maintains his innocence and “is ready to speak at the parliament.”
A parliamentary committee has set just 30 minutes for the vice president to speak in his defence before the vote.
The general affairs committee decided yesterday that Adeeb would have 10 minutes for an opening statement, 10 minutes in the middle of the debate, and 10 minutes at the end to respond to the impeachment motion.
Yameen met with MPs of the PPM and coalition partners Maldives Development Alliance and Jumhooree Party at Muleeage for about two hours on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, the “joint parliamentary group” of the parties issued a statement declaring “full cooperation and assistance” to the president and security forces.
According to local media, Yameen briefed the MPs on the ongoing investigation into the alleged assassination attempt as well as the weapons cache discovered on Friday.
The meeting was called after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had found no evidence of a bomb on Yameen’s speedboat. But the government, citing expert opinion from Sri Lanka, forensic analysis by Saudi Arabians, and evidence gathered by Maldives police, says the blast was a targeted assassination attempt on the president.
Yameen had briefed MPs about two weeks after the blast on the “Finifenma” speedboat.
Adeeb is the second vice president to face impeachment in the Maldives. His predecessor, Dr Jameel, was voted out in July on charges of disloyalty and incompetence.
At the time, the PPM amended the parliament’s standing orders to abandon an inquiry by a select committee and shortened the time period afforded to the vice president to answer charges.
The amended standing orders also state that the vice president has to be present in person to answer charges.
Jameel, who left the Maldives abruptly before the vote, did not attend the parliament session, but issued a written statement to the media denying the charges against him.
The PPM has issued a three-line whip in favour of the motion.