Independent MP for Faafu Nilandhoo Abdulla Khaleel has signed for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) today, bringing the ruling party’s number of MPs to 38 and the Progressive Coalition’s tally to 43 out of 85 seats.
Khaleel defeated incumbent PPM MP Abdul Muhsin Hameed by a one-vote margin – which increased to three votes following a recount – in the March 22 parliamentary polls.
Speaking to the press after signing the membership form at a ceremony in Muleeage this afternoon – attended by President Abdulla Yameen, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – Khaleel said he began his political career alongside friends who were currently in PPM, adding that he saw his future in the party.
“I support this government’s economic agenda very much and God willing I will have a role among Majlis members in achieving the important objectives of that agenda,” he said.
With Khaleel’s signing, four out of five independent MPs elected to the 18th People’s Majlis as well as one opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP have now joined the PPM, leaving Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed the sole independent.
Together with the five MPs of coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), the governing coalition now has 43 seats – the simple majority required to pass legislation and approve presidential appointments.
The Progressive Coalition – made up of the PPM, Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – had however secured a combined total of 57 seats in the March 22 polls.
Following a dispute over the speaker’s post, the PPM severed its coalition agreement with the JP last week. The JP had won 15 seats.
President Yameen however told reporters at the signing ceremony today that PPM was still willing to work with the estranged coalition partner, professing “respect” for JP leader Gasim Ibrahim.
“I believe there is still the opportunity for us to work together with the JP,” he said.
While nine political appointees belonging to the JP – including Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim – have been dismissed in the wake of the coalition’s breakup, Yameen noted that three cabinet ministers as well as board members of state-owned enterprises occupying JP slots remained in the government.
Yameen denied pressuring the JP members to sign for the ruling party to retain their government jobs, adding that it was “up to them to decide” how best to serve the nation.
The president also said that a clear majority in parliament would enable his administration to implement the PPM manifesto and carry out mega infrastructure projects.
“We wanted to keep the speaker’s post in our party for that reason as well. God willing, we will be able to carry on our government’s work swiftly when more members of the People’s Majlis join our party,” he said.
Yameen added that the party’s aim was to take the Maldives to “a whole other stage” of economic development.
Some MPs of the opposition MDP – the minority party in parliament with 25 seats – have also given assurances that they would cooperate with the executive, Yameen said.
Most MPs believe that political rivalry should be “set aside” in favour of working together in the public interest, he added.
“So God willing, our hope is to get a clear majority of the People’s Majlis in the not-so-distant future,” he said.