The decision by the People’s Alliance (PA) to split from the opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) could redraw the political boundaries in parliament.
The PA decided on July 13 to break the longstanding coalition agreement, with the backing of DRP MPs loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom collectively known as the party’s Z-faction.
“I believe it is a good move. Since Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s leadership there has been no cooperation with the PA,” said Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf. “Nothing has been done with the PA for the past two years – they were just told how to vote.”
Mahlouf told Minivan News that 11 of the party’s MPs last night met with the opposition-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and an independent MP “to discuss how to move forward.”
Parliamentary procedure prevented the disaffected MPs from forming a new party, Mahlouf claimed, but he speculated that the MPs would potentially leave the main opposition and operate either as independents, or join one or other of the opposition aligned parties, and had discussed the appointment of a parliamentary group leader.
If that scenario were to happen, the DRP would be reduced to 13-15 MPs and Thasmeen would no longer be minority opposition leader, as the the new opposition PA-JP-DQP alliance would number 21-22 MPs.
Asked whether this move would leave Thasmeen open to cooperation with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mahlouf alleged that “Thasmeen and [Speaker] Abdulla Shahid have already been helping President Mohamed Nasheed for two years. The separation won’t change that.”
“I don’t think he will join them though – Thasmeen will want to run in the Presidential elections,” Mahlouf predicted.
The MPs affiliated with the Z-DRP include Ilham Ahmed, Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Nihan, Ali Arif, Abdul Muhsin Hameed, Dr Afrashim Ali, Hamdhoon Hameed, Yousuf Naeem and Mohamed Rafeeq Hassan.
Mahlouf noted that joining another party would also involving discussing potential Presidential candidates once the party lines were redrawn.
Addressing concerns raised yesterday by DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom – that the representation of constituents in strong DRP areas such as Laamu Atoll who elected opposition coalition MPs would effectively become PA electorates – Mahlouf said that such islands “voted for the PA because President Gayoom asked them to do it. Even now Zaeem is with the PA, they are working together. Voters in Laamu didn’t vote for Thasmeen – they voted for Gayoom.”
The redrawing of party lines will likely affect the controversial compromise on the composition of committees, which led to fistfights in parliament last week.
Article 101(b) of the parliamentary rules of procedure states the number of MPs each party has “should be taken as the basis” for determining the composition of committees.
The DRP-PA coalition, with 39 percent of seats in parliament, were therefore entitled to four seats in each of the 11-member standing committees.
The rules also states that Independent MPs should be given equal opportunity to select a committee of their preference.
The PA council accused the DRP leadership of not putting “a substantial effort into maintaining the DRP-PA coalition” and failing to adhere to “the spirit of the [coalition] agreement.”
Moreover, the DRP leadership did not “take initiative for the many efforts needed to hold the government accountable” while also not supporting or backing “the efforts of other opposition parties.”
It adds that DRP Leader Thasmeen did not adequately shoulder responsibility and take initiative as befits the majority leader of parliament when the opposition coalition controlled a narrow majority.
“PA council members also took note of the serious divisions within DRP and the failure to resolve the disputes as well as splits between DRP members in parliament and the failure to appropriately enforce the party’s whip line,” the party said.
The PA observed that “as a result of matters deteriorating to the point where DRP MPs cannot communicate with the leadership,” the party doubted that it could “perform the hard and noble work” of holding the government accountable.
The PA council members further noted that “senior figures of the Z-DRP faction that works closely with the PA” had urged the minority opposition to split with the DRP.
Following a compromise reached over the revised constitution of standing committees, DRP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed, affiliated with the Z-faction, publicly called on the PA to sever ties with the main opposition party.
DRP Leader Thasmeen acknowledged to Haveeru today that the decision would weaken the opposition, and said that “both sides failed to comply with the agreement.”
“I don’t think dissolving the agreement would make much of a difference now. As far as I’ve noticed, both sides failed to keep up with the agreement,” Haveeru reported Thasmeen as saying.