MP Saud Hussain of the Progressive Party of Maldives has joined former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the divided ruling party, pledging support to his “reform efforts” in alliance with opposition parties.
“Maumoon is PPM and PPM is Maumoon. His service cannot be erased from the nation,” the MP for the Villigili constituency in Gaaf Alif atoll tweeted Sunday night.
Saud also posted a photo of a meeting with Gayoom’s son Faris Maumoon and the other ruling party lawmakers who have openly sided with the 79-year-old former president.
Gayoom, the PPM’s founder and elected leader, was expelled from the party last week by its ethics committee. But Gayoom’s supporters disputes the legal standing of the committee and insists that only a two-third majority of delegates at a PPM national congress can remove a sitting president.
After Gayoom’s expulsion, Saud had called for respect towards former presidents, lauding them as “the country’s biggest political asset.”
On March 24, Gayoom signed a historic pact with former President Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders to work together to restore democracy and constitutional rights in the Maldives.
“Maumoon is the true president of PPM. He was elected by the public. I will support and be with Maumoon for his reform work,” Saud told the opposition-aligned Raajje TV after the meeting with Faris and other MPs.
Saud is the second PPM MP to abandon President Abdulla Yameen’s faction since the united opposition sought unsuccessfully to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and dismantle the previously secure pro-government parliamentary majority.
The opposition alliance expected to secure a simple majority from the 85-member house with defections from the PPM, but the no-confidence motion was defeated with 48 votes from ruling coalition lawmakers in a contentious roll call vote.
MP Faris, who led the push to remove Maseeh, has since said that more PPM MPs would join the reform cause, suggesting that several lawmakers were coerced or under duress when they voted against the motion.
Saud was meanwhile removed from the PPM MPs’ Viber group on Monday night, shortly after he pledged allegiance to Gayoom.
“Hereafter I will prioritise the feelings of the public in future votes,” he told newspaper Mihaaru.
Of the four other PPM MPs in Gayoom’s faction, MPs Mohamed Ameeth and Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim were expelled from the party last week.
Gayoom’s son MP Faris was expelled in June last year but MP Mohamed Musthafa has yet to face disciplinary action despite publicly criticising the government and defying the party’s whip line.
The opposition alliance has meanwhile welcomed Saud’s decision.
The alliance contended in a joint statement Monday morning that the government won last week’s no-confidence vote “by tampering with the electronic voting system, and using the military to forcibly remove opposition members from the parliamentary chamber.”
It observed that Yameen’s support has collapsed from more than 60 votes earlier this year.
“Welcoming MP Saud to the opposition camp, opposition leaders also called on other government-aligned MPs to side with the Maldivian people and to cease rubber-stamping President Yameen’s repressive measures,” the statement added.
“The opposition leaders also reiterated their call on all state institutions, including the police and the courts, to uphold the constitution and protect the fundamental rights of citizens rather than buttress the now politically isolated President Yameen’s increasingly authoritarian rule.”
On Sunday evening, the government dismissed the opposition’s allegations of intimidation and harassment of politicians, insisting that the police and judiciary are independent.
Meanwhile, shortly after Saud’s move, Ibrahim Mamnoon, a Malé city councillor and a member of the PPM’s council, also switched from to Gayoom’s faction.
“I will not attend council meetings of the Dharubaaru faction anymore. They have been going against the party’s regulations this whole time,” he told the press outside Gayoom’s office.
Yameen’s faction was derisively dubbed the “Dharubaaru faction” after the state-owned Dharubaaruge convention centre was leased to set up a campaign office in October.
Gayoom’s expulsion meanwhile came after a resolution to the effect was approved at an emergency council meeting chaired by Yameen last week.
Mamnoon was among the 27 members who voted for the resolution. Gayoom’s younger son, Ghassan Maumoon, reportedly abstained from the vote.
Ghassan is the minister of state for social affairs at the president’s office and Gayoom’s daughter Dunya Maumoon is state minister for health. She rejoined the government in January after resigning as foreign minister last year.
The PPM was split into rival factions when Gayoom was stripped of his leadership role by the civil court, which ordered Yameen, the party’s chief advisor, to resume council meetings under his leadership in October.
The executive council, a majority of which is controlled by Yameen’s loyalists, promptly put the president in charge of the party.
On Thursday, the civil court ordered the police to shut down the “office of the PPM president” set up by Gayoom and to stop any activity being carried out under the party’s name.
The police subsequently removed the PPM nameplate and flag from Gayoom’s office in Malé.
@SaudVillingili varah bodah shukuriyya. Emme furathama qawmu!
— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) April 2, 2017
“Thank you very much. Nation first!”
President Yameen's parliamentary and political support at the edge of collapsing. Welcome @SaudVillingili's decision to side with Maldivians
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) April 2, 2017
— Saud Hussain MP (@SaudVillingili) April 2, 2017