President Abdulla Yameen has discussed action against ruling party MPs who voted against several government-sponsored bills in recent weeks, and vowed to resolve a bitter feud with his half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The embattled president, in a three-hour meeting Sunday with MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, said lawmakers are obliged to vote in favour of all bills proposed by the government, said people briefed on the discussions.
A three whip line is not necessary for government-sponsored legislation, he reportedly said.
The dissent from the 53-member parliamentary group, which forms Yameen’s political backbone, has left the president worried, informed sources said on the condition of anonymity.
At least eight MPs had either voted No, abstained, or did not participate in votes to pass a widely condemned bill re-criminalising defamation and a bill restricting protests.
Gayoom, the president of PPM, praised dissenting MPs on Thursday, saying: “My hope is that other PPM MPs will follow the example of these MPs and work genuinely with courage for the sake of the nation and the people.”
The 78-year-old who ruled the Maldives for 30 years is engaged in an acrimonious struggle with Yameen for the control of the ruling party. He is currently out of the country.
The split has left Yameen with few allies at a time of renewed tension in Malé, where a broad opposition coalition is attempting to rally supporters to oust him.
The president also asked MPs for their advice on the PPM split, and said he would resolve the crisis as soon as possible, several informed sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. MPs meanwhile asked Yameen to facilitate meetings with his ministers.
The president later said he had ordered ministers to respond to requests for meetings from MPs within a three-day timeframe.
Ahmed Nihan, the majority leader, confirmed to reporters that Yameen spoke of action against dissenting MPs.
Some of them including Gayoom’s son, Faris Maumoon, have since been expelled from the parliamentary group’s instant messaging group on Viber.
Faris, Ahmed ‘Red Wave’ Saleem and Mohamed Musthafa were not invited to the meeting. Four others – Abdulla Khaleel, Hussain Manik Dhon Manik, Mohamed Ameeth and Mohamed Nasheed – were demoted from influential parliamentary committees and transferred to the privileges and ethics committees.
Hussein Areef of the Maldives Development Alliance, a ruling coalition partner, had also voted against the bills.
The Gayoom faction is meanwhile seeking disciplinary action against five MPs loyal to Yameen on charges of belittling the former president, failing to consult the party’s executive council on parliamentary votes and filing a lawsuit against Gayoom.
The disciplinary committee had previously expelled Faris from the party, but the PPM secretariat has refused to enforce the decision.
Gayoom has accused MPs of “facilitating corruption” and launched a reform plan to restore democracy within the PPM.