Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan renewed calls for a no-confidence motion against President Mohamed Nasheed, during a rally on Friday.
Nihan said the motion, which requires 25 signatures from MPs to be put before parliament and a two-third majority vote to be passed, was in response to an increase in problems such as gang violence and the dollar shortage.
“Galaxy Enterprises can no longer sell air tickets because of the dollar shortage, and I received at least 20 desperate calls last night from people needing medical treatment who are suddenly unable to travel to Colombo. The public is very unhappy,” Nihan said.
“I strongly believe the opposition should seriously consider this motion because the President is ignoring problems. There is inflation, and people are in a mess and getting reckless,” he said, claiming that Nasheed had been “lying to the country over the extent of the problem.”
The government, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have contended that a key contributor to the dollar shortage is the high spend on civil servant salaries in rufiya relative to its dollar income.
The government hopes a reform of the tax system, including a business profit tax and a tourism goods and services tax – delayed in parliament and passed only late last year – will eventually increase its income, but contests that political obstacles prevent it from reducing the size of the civil service.
Nihan acknowledged that while the civil service was “quite large”, blaming it for the dollar shortage was “just an excuse”.
“This country has survived for the last decade as a well-governed country. There was no problem getting dollars on this scale, only now due to mismanagement,” Nihan claimed.
He also acknowledged that even with 25 signatures, the no-confidence motion was unlikely to get the two-thirds majority required to oust Nasheed. It was, he claimed, an attempt “to get the President to take notice of the problems people are facing.”
The brief resignation of Nasheed’s cabinet in July 2010 was in part prompted by letters from six ruling party MPs who claimed they had been offered bribes by the opposition to vote against the party line. As the opposition parties already have a majority in parliament, this was widely interpreted as an attempt to secure a two-thirds majority to remove the President.
Nasheed promptly arrested the respective leaders of the minority opposition Jumhoree and People’s Alliance parties, businessman Gasim Ibrahim and the former President’s half brother Abdulla Yameen, and charged them with treason and bribery.
No charges stuck in court, and Nasheed was eventually pressured by the international community to release Yameen from his “protective” extrajudicial detention on the Presidential Retreat of on Aarah.
The possibility of the Dhivehi gaining a two-thirds majority is particularly unlikely given the recent fracturing of the party into factions loyal to either former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom or the DRP’s leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. Gayoom had endorsed Thasmeen as his successor on his retirement from politics early last year, but cemented his disapproval of Thasmeen’s performance with an open letter faulting his leadership and particularly the party’s dismissal of Deputy leader Umar Naseer, ostentiously for conducting protests without party approval.
During a rally on Thursday, Thasmeen told the press that he could not stand aside and watch when the internal dispute has reached the point where “the people are not sure what the DRP is.”
“When a rally is announced, it’s not clear who is calling for it,” he said. “A person dismissed from the party is using the party’s logo and giving press conferences as the party’s deputy leader.”
As the factional strife has reached “the limit where we can’t remain without taking measures,” Thasmeen said he would bring the matter to the party’s council seeking a decision.
Meanwhile Riyaz Rasheed, the sole DQP MP in parliament, participated in the Gayoom faction rally for the first time, despite the recent coalition agreement between the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Thasmeen’s faction. The party’s existing coalition partner, Yameen’s PA, supports Gayoom.
At the Thasmeen faction rally at Immadhudheen School, speakers strongly criticised Umar Naseer for “disregarding the party’s charter.”
Leading the attack, Deputy Leader Ali Waheed argued that the opposing faction consisted of “presidential candidates who couldn’t get 3,000 votes (Umar) and leaders of parties with less than 3,000 people (Yameen),” and accused them of hijacking the DRP’s membership base.
“These people are holding rallies in DRP’s name because it has 40,000 members. Why won’t they hold a rally in their the name of their own party?”
The Gayoom faction was “obsessed with the DRP” because “when the time comes, it’s the DRP that has the ace of spades,” Waheed said.
“But what they don’t know is that we’re not playing cards,” said Waheed. “We’re playing joker. God willing, we will put down the joker and win the presidential election. When you’re playing joker, the ace of spades isn’t that important.”
Waheed argued that rallies held by Gayoom faction were “in truth Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s presidential campaign.”