The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has secured a 43-seat simple majority of parliament with the signing of Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Mohamed Abdulla ‘Muhamma’.
The MP for Ihavandhoo and former comedian-actor handed over his membership form to President Abdulla Yameen at a ceremony in Muleeage last night.
Speaking to press at the official presidential residence, Muhamma said he had pledged to work with the government when he contested the Ihavandhoo seat through the ruling coalition, adding that it was also the wish of his constituents.
The main reason for switching to the ruling party was “the progress of President Yameen’s economic policy,” he said.
Muhamma said his work in parliament would become easier as all MPs of Haa Alif atoll were now with the PPM.
“My constituents, too, want sewerage and harbour construction and development. This can be best achieved if I work with the government in the Majlis,” he said.
Backing the MPs’ stance, President Yameen told reporters that parliamentarians were joining the PPM to “play a big role together with the government” to ensure development of their constituencies.
“The second [reason] we feel is that citizens in the atolls as well as Malé believe that political activities have been sufficiently conducted in the Maldives during the past ten years. But it has not brought about either the economic development to the country it should have or prosperity for individuals and contentment or progress for businesses,” Yameen said.
The PPM took office with the economy as the “main agenda item” or the highest priority, he added.
“So I believe that members of the People’s Majlis are joining us – and citizens are waiting patiently and supporting the government’s efforts – to give us this opportunity for five years, because they are awaiting economic development and positive changes in the country,” Yameen said.
Two former JP MPs – Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeed Abdul Qadir and Nolhivaram MP Hussain Areef – who switched allegiance to PPM had also said they were urged by their constituents to join the ruling party to speed up development of their constituencies.
Although the PPM won 33 seats in the March 22 parliamentary elections, four out of five independent MPs, three opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs, and two JP MPs have since switched to the ruling party.
With its newest member, the PPM now has 43 MPs in the 85-member house, while coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has five MPs.
The opposition MDP has 23 MPs while the JP’s parliamentary group is reduced to 12 MPs. The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has one MP and Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed remains the sole independent.
The Progressive Coalition – comprised of the PPM, JP, and MDA – contested the parliamentary polls jointly with the 85 constituencies divided among the pro-government parties.
However, the PPM severed its coalition agreement with the JP after the coalition partner’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, ran for the post of Majlis speaker despite the PPM fielding its senior MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed as the ruling coalition’s candidate.
In the wake of the coalition’s breakup, President Yameen sacked Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim and other JP political appointees, whilst cabinet ministers on slots assigned for the JP – Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed – joined the PPM.
Home Minister Umar Naseer – appointed as part of the coalition agreement with the JP – is meanwhile facing criminal prosecution on charges of disobedience to order.
Following the loss of two JP MPs last month, Gasim claimed at a press conference that the MPs had told him that the government had threatened to cease development of islands in their constituencies.
The JP leader heavily criticised the pair for allegedly reneging on an agreement signed under oath “before God Almighty” to remain in the JP until the end of their five-year terms.
Gasim said he had heard that the pair were offered MVR10 million (US$648,508) each for the transfer.
The business tycoon also claimed to have provided MVR20 million (US$1.2 million) as financial assistance to the PPM’s parliamentary campaign.
Following his third-place finish with 23.37 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election, Gasim initially announced that the JP would remain neutral. However, the JP’s council decided to endorse Yameen against MDP candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed, three days before the second round of the polls on November 16.