Parliament voted today 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot.
Today’s vote passed after a similar proposition was narrowly defeated 39-34 in November.
In October, the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) submitted a no-confidence motion to impeach President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.
The no-confidence motion has however yet to be tabled in the Majlis agenda. Under the rules or standing orders, the President must be given a 14-day notice ahead of the vote.
Today’s vote was won after MPs of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – including respective leaders MPs Gasim Ibrahim and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – joined MDP MPs to vote in favour of the amendments.
The amendment to the house rules was meanwhile approved after MPs voted in favour of a report (Dhivehi) by the MDP-majority General Affairs Committee, which voted last month in favour of the amendments proposed by MDP MP Ibrahim Rasheed for secret voting.
During today’s debate on the report, MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) contended that the report was tabled in the agenda in violation of Majlis rules and criticised having to vote on the same issue for a second time.
PPM MPs along with some DRP MPs and several Independent MPs argued against secret ballots in parliament and insisted that constituents deserved to know how their MPs vote.
MPs further contended that conducting no-confidence votes through secret ballot would give weight to widespread allegations of corruption levelled against parliament.
Meanwhile, speaking at rally on Thursday night, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called MPs who voted in favour of secret ballot “traitors.”
Imran warned that he would “chase after” MPs and the Speaker if the amendments were approved and threatened “direct action”.
“The day that [Speaker Abdulla] Shahid takes a vote to destroy the country is the day that we run after him,” Imran had said.
In an apparent response, Speaker Shahid said in a statement this week that intimidation and threats of force against MPs violated “the spirit of the constitution and democratic principles.”
Article 90(a) of the constitution states, “No member or other person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court, and no person shall be subject to any inquiry, arrest, detention or prosecution, with respect to anything said in, produced before, or submitted to the People’s Majlis or any of its committees, or with respect to any vote given if the same is not contrary to any tenet of Islam.”
While informing MPs of the wishes of the public was part of democratic norms, Speaker Shahid said in his statement that it did not include threats, intimidation and “inflicting psychological or physical harm on MPs.”