Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed said he remains committed to the party even if he is “punished” by its Parliamentary Group for not supporting a no-confidence motion forwarded against Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid.
Rasheed told Minivan News today that he expected to remain an elected member of the party, which he continued to support, despite standing by his position to back the parliamentary speaker against a reported three-line whip enforced by the MDP.
During a vote of no confidence taken against Shahid yesterday, 45 out of the 74 parliament members present in the sitting voted in favour of the speaker and 25 voted against him. Two members abstained. MDP MPs Hassan Adil and Ahmed Rasheed were said to have voted against their party line. MDP MPs Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed and MP Ali Riza abstained.
MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the MPs who voted against the no confidence motion would now be required to explain themselves to the party’s Parliamentary Group Leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Hamid added that the MDP had not yet decided on what course of action may be taken to deal with the MPs who voted against the whip at a time when the party trails in parliamentary support to a coalition of government-aligned parties. The MDP currently stands alone as an opposition party against the coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, which it alleges was brought to power in a “coup d’etat”.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we will do anything rash. Under these stressful circumstances we have to be disciplined as a party,” Ghafoor explained in regards to the possible measures that could be taken against MPs who had not supported the vote.
While the exact nature of action to be taken by the party against members who voted against the bill is presently unknown, MP Rasheed said he would not be looking to switch his political allegiance even when potentially facing being reprimanded or expelled.
“I believe in the MDP manifesto. There is no question to me that it is the only party that actually has a manifesto,” he claimed. “In my mind, there is also no one trying to force me out of the party.”
Last month, the MDP’s former President Dr Ibrahim Didi and former Vice President Alhan Fahmy switched allegiances to the Jumhoree Party (JP). The decision was taken after the MDP’s National Congress passed a majority vote to remove both men from their respective leadership posts after they stood accused of making statements contradictory to the party’s official line.
Despite pledging his allegiance to the party today, Rasheed maintained his support for Shahid in the no confidence motion, claiming that the present speaker, out of 77 parliamentary members, was the “only person right now” who should have the Majlis chair.
Despite Shahid representing the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Rasheed contend that the speaker – due to a perceived lack of power in the position of his party – would not directly support former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The PPM was formed last year after an increasingly bitter war of words between current DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Gayoom, who had originally founded the party. The war of words saw the party split between supporters loyal to Gayoom and those in favour of Thasmeen’s tenure.
Questioned as to whether the MDP, through its Parliamentary Group, would be looking to discipline the MPs who failed to back the party line, Ghafoor would not be drawn into the possible repercussions until an internal review was complete.
“The issue is that these MPs went against the whipline. This has been noted by the Parliamentary group Leader. He now wants to find out why,” he said. “If they go against the party line they must have a good explanation for doing so.”
Ghafoor claimed that as a party, the MDP had generally been “disciplined” in ensuring solidarity among its members during parliamentary voting – a decision he said had afforded it the best record among fellow parties.
“There have of course been mishaps from time to time where people have gone against the party line,” he said.
Ghafoor took the example of former Party President Dr Ibrahim Didi and Vice President Alhan Fahmy as a notable example of where its members had been reprimanded.
“At this delicate time, [voting against the party line] does serve to reduce confidence in the party,” he said.
“Major principles” were at stake in yesterday’s high-profile no-confidence motion, Ghafoor said, adding that there was particular pressure from grassroots supporters to ensure the no-confidence vote succeeded.
“This is nothing personal, but the party supporters are in no mood to tolerate such actions from their MPs,” he said.
Ghafoor claimed that whatever action the party may decide to take against MPs voting against the official MDP line, it would not act in a “rash” manner.
The MDP Parliamentary Group has maintained that it has held “serious reservations” for some time about the Parliamentary Speaker’s ability to pass policies into legislation – despite his capabilities and understanding of national politics.
Speaking during yesterday’s debate, DRP Leader Thasmeen stated that the no-confidence motion had been forwarded amid baseless accusations. He defended his fellow party member, saying that he had been executing the responsibilities of the speaker in accordance with the parliament rules and procedures.
Thasmeen further claimed that the motion was an attempt by MDP to “break” the coalition after the party leadership’s recent “political failures.”
“Such a motion will not impact the ‘unity’ between the parties in the coalition supporting the government of President Waheed. So therefore I must say, yet again this is another wrong step taken by the MDP leadership,” Thasmeen added.
PPM spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof stated that despite his being an outspoken critic of Shahid who made several statements in the media and the parliament floor, he would stand by the speaker’s side today.
“Yesterday, the PPM Parliamentary Group (PG) came to a conclusion that this motion is a ‘trap’ set up by the MDP to ‘finish off’ the people and the ruling coalition,” he said.
“Today at a time where Abdulha Shahid is facing a grave matter at hand, I will stand by him. Abdulla Shahid will get all the votes from PPM. What we ask is that he act justly and equally,” he added.
MDP MP Ali Waheed during the debate alleged that the motion would reveal those MPs who spoke “in two mouths”, referring to the PPM MPs allegations of that Shahid and Thasmeen had cut deals with GMR and the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed to support the privatisation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).