Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has announced that the ruling coalition will dissolve if the coalition partner Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim stands as speaker of the newly elected People’s Majlis.
The 18th People’s Majlis is due to be sworn in tomorrow, with the new speaker to be elected by secret ballot.
Gasim has responded by saying he will not retract his name, claiming the PPM was the first to breach the coalition agreement made during November’s presidential elections.
“Truth is, they have been trying to kick us out of the coalition for a long time now,” Gasim told the press today.
After coming third in the presidential polls, Gasim’s support was crucial in securing a win for the PPM against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Gasim’s support was given in exchange for a 35 percent stake in executive political postings and a promise to work together during subsequent local government and parliament elections.
The Progressive Coalition secured a combined total of 53 out of 85 seats in parliamentary polls, no party won enough seats to reach the 43-vote simple majority alone.
Who broke the agreement?
PPM deputy leader, and minister of tourism, Ahmed Adeeb further warned last night that he would request President Abdulla Yameen replace JP political appointees should Gasim stand as speaker.
“From [Gasim’s] actions, we are seeing him working together with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to acquire the speaker’s seat,” said Adeeb.
“As MDP worked to present obstacles to this government when they held parliamentary majority, we cannot accept a coalition member working alongside them,” he continued.
PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had also written to Gasim, describing a recent meeting with MDP leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed as being against the “coalition’s spirit”.
During the meeting at Gasim’s residence last month, Nasheed had signalled the MDP’s support for Gasim – a stance reiterated today.
Gasim subsequently called a press conference today during which he argued it was not his party but the PPM, which had breached the agreement.
Holding up the agreement, he said coalition partners had agreed to hold discussions to resolve any issues not included therein.
The PPM had unilaterally informed him they would nominate separate candidates for the position, said the JP leader, who also complained of not receiving the party’s quota of appointments.
“The agreement says 35 per cent of political appointments will be given to us, which would amount to between 90 to 40 posts when we consider the total number of political appointments in this government. However, today we have only about 29 slots,” Gasim explained.
Gasim stated that he had received the support of President Yameen, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and Adeeb prior to publicly announcing his candidacy.
“Nazim and Adeeb said it’s a good decision and wished me luck. No one asked me to not put my name forward or mentioned they wanted to further discuss the matter. Then without any notice, they make this announcement about breaking up the coalition,” Gasim said.
“I will always work for the rights of the people. We do not want another administration where the president can unilaterally call the shots on all matters. We need a democratic system,” he continued.
JP MP Ahmed Sameer added that the coalition agreement signed by Gayoom and Deputy Leader Abdu Raheem explicitly stated that the agreement will be in effect until November 11, 2018.
“So how can they just break up the coalition like this? What more is there to say about people like them? Where is the justice in these actions of theirs?” Sameer asked.
“Parliament must be led by PPM”
Speaking to local media yesterday, President Yameen said he believed Gasim must withdraw from the speakership claiming it to be the “general norm around the world” for the majority party to hold the speaker’s seat.
Contrary to the JP’s claims, he claimed that the PPM had sent Gasim a number of letters and held discussions on the matter.
The PPM yesterday announced that it planned to nominate the party’s parliamentarians Abdulla Maseeh and Abdu Raheem Abdulla for speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.
Current Deputy Speaker of parliament Ahmed Nazim – affiliated with the PPM – has also expressed interest in the position, though Yameen has expressed confidence that Nazim would not run against the party’s wishes.
Meanwhile, the deputy leader of second coalition partner the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), Ahmed Amir, has also announced he will be running for speaker.
Saying that the PPM announced its nominees after he had already decided to contest, Amir said he had no intention of withdrawing his name, though the PPM has promised action against any competing coalition candidates.
The MDP announced last Friday (May 23) that the party’s 25 MPs-elect would back a candidate who support’s the parties policies, including judicial reform, empowerment of local councils as well as the introduction of a progressive income tax and a minimum wage.
Following the signing of three out of the five independent candidates elected to the 18th parliament, the PPM currently has 37 seats, followed by the opposition MDP with 25 seats, the JP with 15 seats, the MDA with five seats, and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party with one seat.