The council of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) is set to decide on entering into a formal coalition with the Jumhooree Party (JP) at an impromptu meeting tonight, following unsuccessful talks with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to resolve a protracted dispute over control of parliamentary committees.
DRP Media Coordinator Ali Solih confirmed to Minivan News that “discussion regarding a coalition agreement with the Jumhoree Party” was on the agenda for tonight’s meeting. Solih added that a decision would be reached and announced by the end of the day.
As the parties have failed to reach a compromise over the new composition of committees for over a month, the issue is likely to be decided by a vote when parliament resumes tomorrow.
Meanwhile the committees, where legislation is reviewed and finalised, have been stalled since the beginning of this year’s second session in June.
Following the defection of two opposition MPs to the ruling party during the May recess, the MDP’s representation has increased from 39 to 45 percent, entitling the party to five out of 11 seats in each of the 12 committees.
However if the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) coalition is strengthened with the addition of the three JP MPs, the allied opposition parties would also command five seats, leaving just one slot to be filled by one of the remaining eight Independents.
With the ruling and opposition parties tied with five seats each, the support of the Independent MP would effectively decide which side controls a majority.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, parliamentary group (PG) leader of the MDP, said that as the talks has not officially failed the parties had until tomorrow morning to resolve the dispute.
“All we are saying is that we should get the number of seats we deserve according to the rules of procedure,” he said. “But the DRP has even said in the talks that they want a majority of all the committees. That is not going to happen.”
Ibu Solih explained that the MDP would object to voting on a matter that was clearly specified in the rules of procedures.
“It shouldn’t be on the agenda in the name of solving the dispute over committees,” he said. “The rules clearly state that MDP should get five seats, and if DRP forms a coalition with the Jumhooree Party, they should get five seats, too. There is no need to take a vote on something that is determined in the rules.”
The MDP MP for Hinnavaru added that the rules of procedure granted Speaker Abdulla Shahid the discretion to decide which of the eight Independents would sit on which committee. He suggested that it was therefore up to the Speaker to resolve the issue.
The newly-elected MDP parliamentary group leader also welcomed the potential coalition between the DRP and JP.
“We want to see a strong opposition coalition,” he said. “We hope it will lead to a better working environment inside parliament.”
While the PG leader did not anticipate obstruction to the government’s economic reform package should the opposition retain control of influential committees, “there is no disagreement over the principle of taxation but differences over the timing [for introducing new taxes].”
“We will work to pass the bills in its current form,” he said.
DRP Deputy Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef meanwhile told Minivan News last week that a formal coalition agreement with the Jumhoree Party would strengthen the party regardless of the factional battle waging between Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘Z-DRP’.
“There are many positions on which we agree. Gasim was once deputy leader of the DRP and his political and ideology remain similar,” Shareef said.
DRP MP Ahmed Nihan from the Z-DRP concurred that “there are certain circumstances it which committees concerned with public accountability, finance and national security should [be held] by the opposition.”