President Abdulla Yameen met with leaders of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives Saturday night amid growing signs of dissent and disunity within the PPM’s parliamentary group.
The meeting followed multiple leaks from an official PPM Viber group showing arguments among lawmakers after Yameen appealed against backing the opposition’s bid to remove Speaker Abdulla Maseeh. The president urged MPs not to weaken the government over personal grievances.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan dismissed rumours of internal strife and conflict as “mild differences of opinion”.
“There will always be differences of opinion between people and that is how it is also in our parliamentary group and people will continue to express their opinions,” he said.
“Differences in opinion does not mean conflict. We are united and we will show our united front in the opposition planned vote to remove Speaker Maseeh.”
He insisted that the opposition will “fail miserably” despite claiming to have the backing of a simple majority. After a no-confidence motion against Maseeh was defeated in late March, the parliament’s rules were changed to require a minimum of 42 signatures from the 85-member house to submit a no-confidence motion against the speaker or the deputy speaker.
“How many times have they tried this? They won’t get anywhere near the removal of the speaker,” he said.
Along with Nihan, Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, both deputy leaders of the PPM, and MP Abdulla Khaleel, the PPM’s secretary-general, attended last night’s meeting with the president.
MP Ibrahim Falah, deputy leader of the PPM parliamentary group, also told the Maldives Independent that the party’s lawmakers remain united.
Falah said the media was “misreporting” alleged remarks from some PPM MPs calling for the release of jailed former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
“Everything will be clear to the public soon,” he assured.
Falah also insisted that Saturday night’s meeting with Yameen was focused on his re-election campaign.
“We discussed the nationwide campaign to re-elect President Yameen for 2018. It was the only topic we talked about,” he said.
Opposition figures have meanwhile been expressing confidence of securing a parliamentary majority with defections from the divided ruling party, which was split into rival factions last year after former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom lost an acrimonious leadership dispute with his half-brother Yameen.
But more PPM MPs have since signalled that they might switch allegiances. In the leaked Viber group conversations, MPs Abdul Latheef and Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem criticised the continued detention of former Defence Minister Nazim despite Adeeb offering to testify at court about framing the retired colonel.
“My vote is guaranteed for Maseeh when I get a green signal for Nazim’s release or for the improvement of his current condition. But if I do not get a green signal, I will be forced to have second thoughts over the vote. There are other MPs with the same opinion,” MP Latheef told newspaper Mihaaru.
Last week, in an unprecedented move by a ruling party lawmaker, PPM MP Ahmed Thoriq ‘Tom’ meanwhile called on Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee to resign over the failure to resolve difficulties faced by fishermen.
The MP for the Alif Dhaal Mahibadhoo constituency listed Shainee’s alleged failures in a Facebook post on Tuesday, including the lack of success with fulfilling the PPM manifesto pledge to provide MVR10,000 (US$649) a month to fishermen during lean periods.
Many fishermen believe that the minister also has “improper ties” to bigeye tuna exporters, he alleged.
Shainee declined to respond when contacted by local media.
Following Thoriq’s post, MP Mohamed Ameeth, who switched to Gayoom’s faction ahead of the speaker’s no-confidence vote, called Shainee “the most unpopular minister” among PPM MPs.
Lawmakers did not speak out before because Shainee has Yameen’s blessing, he suggested.
But MP Khaleel, the PPM’s secretary-general, came to Shainee’s defence and insisted that he has the backing of the party’s parliamentary group.
Tonight's meeting with HEP to strategize our future course. Public will know in a near future that the opposition is just bluffing. pic.twitter.com/Q3RM0ETXHK
— Dr. Abdulla Khaleel 🌐 (@abkhaleel) July 1, 2017