Parliament’s General Purpose Committee has rejected procedural amendments to allow secret voting for no confidence motions, such as one presently scheduled against President Dr Mohamed Waheed.
Committee Chair MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem said the decision, which will now be forwarded to the parliament floor for approval, meant that the existing regulations outlining procedures for no confidence votes approved back in March 2010 would remain in place.
The issue had been sent to the committee by Speaker Abdulla Shahid to settle a “way forward” for no confidence motions after the Supreme Court last month struck down amendments allowing secret voting in parliament, Raheem said today.
The General Purpose Committee Committee voted four to three against the amendment proposed by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Nazim Rashaad to specify instances whereby parliament could use secret voting and hold sittings behind closed doors, Sun Online reported today.
MPs representing several coalition parties in the unity government of President Waheed, which make up the majority of the committee’s members, all voted against the amendments, with the deciding vote cast by Chairperson Raheem.
Raheem told Minivan News that amendments for secret voting had been rejected over concerns that voting behind closed doors was unconstitutional and may lead to further conflict with the Supreme Court.
Secret voting was the subject of one of two Supreme Court rulings this year to be previously criticised by opposition, government-aligned and independent MPs as an unconstitutional “challenge to the separation of powers.”
In its judgement (Dhivehi) on the constitutionality of secret ballots for no-confidence votes, the Supreme Court majority opinion contended that the rule contravened article 85 of the constitution as well as parliamentary principles and norms of free and democratic societies.
Raheem added that in line with this ruling, the committee had instead chosen to retain existing regulations on no confidence motions that had been in use since March 2010. He claimed these measures had been previously approved by bodies like the International-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Addressing today’s vote, government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Mausoom claimed that the rejection of the procedural issue of secret voting had not been a major concern for the party.
“We do not see this is a priority issue at the moment. We are brave enough as a party to vote transparently on these matters,” he said.
Meanwhile, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that the opposition party would not back away from trying to vote out senior government figures include President Waheed, despite failing to secure a secret ballot.
“[President] Waheed’s no confidence motion still stands, whether the vote is secret or not is irrelevant,” he claimed.
Ghafoor alleged that the party had originally sought to have a no confidence motion behind closed doors over fears MPs would be too scared to vote in the current climate following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.
The MDP has maintained that the transfer of power that saw former President Nasheed resign from office following a mutiny by sections of the military and police was a “coup d’etat”.
“This is not a normal situation at present, the Supreme Court itself is part of this coup government,” Ghafoor claimed.
He said that while that the MDP had withdrawn no-confidence votes against Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on April 8 this year due to a lack of confidence in the vote, the party did not rule out rescheduling at a later date.
MDP MPs claimed upon withdrawing the no confidence motions earlier this month that the government-aligned DRP had agreed to vote in favour of the motions before reversing the decision at the eleventh hour.
MPs of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and DRP had voted in favour of a secret ballot for no-confidence votes in December 2012.
Ghafoor claimed that with the recent defection of Speaker Shahid to the MDP and ongoing changes to the composition of parliament, the intention remained to try and remove the defence and home minsters as well as President Waheed.
“The [no confidence] strategy is not failed yet. Though the vote is not in our favour at the moment, things are always changing.”