The ruling Progressive Coalition remains strong and united despite minor problems in the coalition’s “internal dynamics”, President Abdulla Yameen told the press yesterday prior to departing on his official visit to Japan.
Asked about rumblings of discontent from coalition partners, President Yameen suggested that the main issue of contention was appointing members of coalition parties to political posts, which posed difficulties to the government.
“One thing is that I don’t want the government to be one with that many political posts. I wanted to keep political posts within some limit,” he said.
Yameen explained that he had decided that political appointees should not exceed the number of appointees under the previous administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed.
“However, the written agreement of our coalition had higher figures than before,” he conceded.
President Waheed’s administration comprised of the same parties in the current ruling coalition.
Members of coalition parties as well as the Adhaalath Party worked hard in the presidential campaign to secure the coalition’s victory, Yameen continued, and were “awaiting some kind of post” in the government.
A second issue was the preference for appointing educated youth to political posts with a first degree as a minimum requirement, Yameen said.
Parties sought to secure appointments for its members to the boards of government-owned corporations, though Yameen said the executive’s hands were tied by the new privatisation law.
The president’s nominees are evaluated by the privatisation committee and individuals who do not meet the criteria are rejected, he added.
Similarly, nominees for diplomatic posts such as high commissioners and ambassadors must have a background in foreign affairs, Yameen said.
Tension within the coalition was caused by the difficulties in appointing members of coalition parties to their desired posts, said Yameen, though he insisted that there were no problems at the leadership level.
While the problems related to appointments could persist, Yameen said he did not believe it could “affect the coalition too much”.
The number of political appointees in the executive presently exceeds 100, with four deputy ministers on average for each ministry.
The president’s remarks came after Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim revealed at a rally on Saturday night that JP members have been appointed to only 29 political posts so far.
JP was promised 35 percent of all political appointees in the coalition agreement, Gasim noted.
“For example, if the government is making 400 political appointments, 29 is not 35 percent of that amount. [If it is 35 percent] there would be more. But if 29 appointments is 35 percent [of political appointments] then we are content,” the business tycoon said.
“But if we consider this figure, it should definitely reach 100. If this is not the case [we have to] look in to this.”
The JP was meanwhile absent from the celebration rally held earlier this month by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance.
Several unsuccessful JP candidates have contended that they lost due to PPM members contesting as independents in constituencies reserved for the JP in the coalition seat allocation deal.
Explaining JP’s absence at the celebration rally, Gasim said that the event was organised by the PPM rather than the coalition.
Gasim claimed JP leaders were not given the opportunity to speak at the rally – “not even to give words of thanks”.
He further accused the PPM leadership of refusing to grant the JP’s request to alter the agenda to allow JP members to address coalition supporters.
Following the coalition’s victory in the March 22 parliamentary polls, the PPM and JP announced that the coalition partners would be fielding separate candidates to become the next speaker of parliament.
The speaker will be elected through secret ballot following the swearing-in ceremony for MPs-elect scheduled for May 28.
On the dispute over the speaker’s post, President Yameen told reporters yesterday that discussions on the issue have not taken place yet.
Yameen stressed the importance of parliament’s cooperation for the executive to implement policies, deliver services and fulfil campaign pledges, noting that parliamentary approval was needed for obtaining loans.
No one should be allowed to either obstruct the government from providing services to the public or “slow down” the legislative process, he added.
“So for that reason I want the speaker of parliament post for my party. I know Gasim is also interested. God willing, we will discuss it further with Gasim within the coalition,” he said.