President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has declared his support for MP-elect Hassan Afeef to become the new speaker of parliament.
Former home minister Afeef and veteran lawmaker Mohamed Aslam are the leading contenders from the Maldivian Democratic Party after the ruling party’s landslide victory in the April 6 polls.
Asked about his preferred choice after a dinner with incoming and outgoing lawmakers Wednesday night, Solih said it would be inappropriate for him to publicly endorse any of the candidates but went on to heap praise on Afeef.
“I have seen Afeef’s work in the past. I have also worked with Aslam. I believe Afeef is the most suited for this,” he told reporters.
The 19th People’s Majlis would become the best in the country’s history if it follows the guidance of experienced parliamentarians such as Afeef and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, he added.
The remarks have stirred discontent among the grassroots and fueled speculation of a rift between President Solih and former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is likely to become the next majority leader after winning the Central Machchangoalhi seat.
Shortly after the MDP’s historic haul of 65 seats from the 87-member house, Nasheed ruled himself out as a candidate and backed Aslam for the speaker’s post.
Re-elected MDP MPs Ibrahim Shareef, Ali Azim and Rozaina Adam have also expressed interest in contesting.
The speaker will be elected by secret ballot at the first sitting of parliament after a swearing-in ceremony on May 28.
“MP Aslam and MP-elect Afeef are two MDP MPs. Regardless of whoever is elected he will be from MDP. So what’s the problem?” Rozaina tweeted Thursday in response to arguments among supporters on social media.
The 65-member MDP parliamentary group will reportedly meet on May 27 to vote for the party’s candidate.
On Wednesday night, the People’s National Congress and Progressive Party of Maldives also declared their support for Afeef. The opposition coalition has eight lawmakers.
Aslam meanwhile told newspaper Mihaaru on Thursday that the president’s remarks about Afeef’s capability were misconstrued.
“I met the president last night. We consulted for about an hour. The president said he does not support a particular individual,” the MP for Hithadhoo North was quoted as saying.