Ahmed Shareef of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM ) was sworn in as MP for Thimarafushi on Wednesday, enabling former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s party to achieve official recognition in the 77 seat parliament as the minority leadership.
Since its formation as a party in October 2011, PPM MPs have been required to stand as independent members in the Majlis chamber.
This requirement is based on parliament regulations that refuses a political party official representation in the People’s Majlis until one of its members contests and wins an election. PPM MPs had been previously elected to their respective seats in 2009 under a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) ticket.
Following the oath-taking ceremony yesterday, Shareef attended his first parliamentary session as an MP to speak on the amendment proposed to the Decentralisation Act.
Shareef won the Thimarafushi seat in a by-election this weekend against Mohamed Musthafa, a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member who had previously held the seat. Musthafa was disqualified by the Supreme Court in February over decreed debt.
Jumhoory Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdullah Jabir, who had won the Kashidhoo constituency’s by-election is expected to be sworn in today, raising the number of JP representatives in the parliament
Local media has reported that 44 MPs representing the PPM, DRP, JP and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), alongside several independent members, have now pledged allegiance to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s national unity government.
The DRP was the first official party registered by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom before he announced his resignation from politics in February 2010. After his resignation, Gayoom became the party’s “honorary leader”.
However, Gayoom last year became increasingly politically active and later fell out with his anointed replacement, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali in a public war of words.
This dispute led the former president to form the PPM after an acrimonious split. Several then-DRP MPs loyal to Gayoom and his half brother Abdullah Yameen’s People’s Alliance (PA) party then joined the PPM.
While Shareef’s victory has enabled the PPM to achieve official representation in the People’s Majlis, the party also stands to gain the minority leadership in parliament with a total of 17 members.
The DRP, which formerly held the minority leadership position, presently holds 15 MPs, while the now opposition MDP holds the majority party status with a 32 member parliamentary group.
In this environment, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yameen contended that the party would become the largest in the country. Yameen has said that “any seats that become vacant in the parliament will be won by PPM hereafter”.
“PPM will become the leading party in working for the people’s right without any personal agenda,” he claimed in a rally held Sunday on Guraidhoo Island to celebrate PPM’s by-election victory.
Deputy Leader of the DRP parliamentary group, Dr. Abdullah Mausoom meanwhile has told Minivan News that the party welcomed the PPM’s entry as an official party into parliament, adding that its promotion to minority party leadership did not “bother” DRP members.
Parliament’s current minority leader is Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, but once the change is finalised, Yameen said is expected to take the position.
“We do note work in the parliament, debate or vote based on minority or majority party. We prioritize people and nation’s interests,” Mausoom observed.
He further claimed that there was now a great opportunity to “enrich parliament’s debates through a variety of arguments and dimensions.”
While the DRP stands to lose its minority leadership, the MDP is meanwhile pushing for a no confidence motion against Speaker Abdullah Shahid, a DRP MP.
However, Mausoom insists that the vote will not succeed, adding that the MDP was “mistaken to think” that they will secure enough votes to remove Shahid.
PPM’s spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof meanwhile has been reported as saying in the local media that he would “like very much to vote against Shahid”.
However, Mahloof stressed that the PPM would decide what action should be taken against the speaker through a parliamentary group meeting. The PPM spokesperson said there were important issues to be addressed in relation to Shahid’s position. Mahloof alleged additionally that the motion was an attempt by the MDP to fragment the pro-government coalition in which DRP and PPM members are at the forefront. Several of the parties’ MPs currently serve as cabinet ministers.
Shahid has been target of no-confidence motions over the years, as various political parties have accused him of favouring other sides in the country’s highly partisan parliament.
MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that the party accepted the “PPM as the new political reality” after years of facing the DRP as its major parliamentary opponent.
However, he noted that the PPM’s road to official representation in parliament and obtaining the minority leadership has been “aided through the February 7 coup.” The MDP continues to allege that former President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign “under duress” on February 7.
Ghafoor claimed that the MDP was concerned that the “current government is on a political realignment witch hunt against its MPs to force them to cross party lines.”
“As you know there are MP’s with skeletons in their closets. These MPs will be the first to realign and we are already witnessing some two to three members within the MDP flirting with crossing party lines. They are not saying they will resign. But as you can see they are attending government ceremonies and showing support,” Ghafoor explained.
Ghafoor speculated that the country was witnessing a significant “political realignment”.
“We are seeing the tip of it. If it [new government] is allowed to entrench for longer, MDP will lose several political gains,” he said.
“The MDP government’s democratic reforms to decentralisation and social protection policies all are under attack and the country will fall back from the centre right policy into the elements of the old dictatorial regime.”