The parliament has impeached Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel with overwhelming multi-party support today, less than two years after the current administration took office in November 2013.
Jameel was removed from office with 78 votes in favour and two against.
The impeachment process was initiated by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives-Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) coalition, which controls 48 seats in the 85-member house. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house was required to remove the vice president.
MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) also voted in favour of the motion. Independent MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Hussain Areef cast dissenting votes while Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem did not participate in the vote.
Jameel is currently in London and did not return to answer charges at the parliament. In a 40-minute verbal statement released online this morning, Jameel said he was sidelined four months after the presidential election and dismissed the charges in the impeachment motion.
The motion accused Jameel of incompetence, dereliction of duty, links with the opposition, failure to defend the government, and excessive expenditure from the state budget.
The main opposition MDP parliamentary group had issued a three-line whip last night to vote in favour of the impeachment motion.
Opposition MPs’ backing for a constitutional amendment passed last month to set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency was widely perceived as part of a deal in exchange for transferring imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed to house arrest.
During the debate on the impeachment motion, ruling PPM parliamentary group leader MP Ahmed Nihan said the vice president was in charge of the cabinet’s social council tasked with overseeing the health and education sectors, but had failed to show progress.
Pro-government MPs accused Jameel of disloyalty and plotting to depose the president while opposition MPs stressed that the ruling party was seeking to remove their own vice president.
MDP MP Eva Abdulla said the only reason for the opposition party to vote to save Jameel was the “dim hope” that he might create divisions within the government.
Jameel had obstructed the MDP’s efforts since its inception, she said, and had vowed not to hand over the presidency even if the party’s candidate won the 2013 presidential polls.
“I don’t see that an MDP member could vote to save Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed,” she said.
Several MPs meanwhile questioned the necessity of the vice president’s post and suggested amending the constitution to dissolve the post.
MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi observed that successive presidents have lost confidence in their deputies.
Former vice president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik had perpetrated a “coup d’etat” with the opposition in February 2012 to assume the presidency, she said, while the current ruling party has also lost confidence in the incumbent vice president as well.
Jameel had appointed former attorney general Husnu Suood as his lawyer, but Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed informed the vice president yesterday that the lawyer could not respond to the charges on his behalf.
Maseeh said today that he had received a letter from Suood’s law firm shortly before the sitting began, but could not accept the written statement it contained as it did not bear Jameel’s signature.
Article 100(d) of the Constitution states that the vice president shall have the right to defend himself in the sittings of the People’s Majlis, both orally and in writing, and has the right to legal counsel.
JP MPs Ali Hussain and Faisal Naseem as well as some MDP MPs expressed concern with the parliament not granting Jameel the right to defend himself.
The pro-government majority in the parliament had amended the parliament’s standing orders so that an investigation by a select committee was not required before impeaching the vice president.
Ali Hussain said fast-tracking the impeachment process was against the letter and spirit of the constitution, adding that the historic impeachment vote would be remembered as a “dark day” in Maldivian history.