Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has survived the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) initiated no-confidence motion.
In the vote taken on Tuesday, 45 out of the 74 parliament members present in the sitting voted in favour of Speaker Shahid and 25 voted against him. Two members abstained.
Surprisingly, government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed voted in favour of removing Shahid despite speaking against the motion, while MDP MPs Hassan Adil and Ahmed Rasheed voted against their party line. MDP MPs Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed and MP Ali Riza abstained. A fifth MDP MP, Zahir Adam, was absent.
During the debate over the motion, MPs from the coalition of parties supporting the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan spoke in favour of Shahid, with a number of MPs describing the speaker as the “most able and competent” MP to be in the role.
Speaking during the debate, leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali stated that the motion had been forwarded amid baseless accusations and defended his fellow party member, saying that he had been executing the responsibilities of the speaker in accordance with the parliament rules and procedures.
Thasmeen further claimed that the motion was an attempt by MDP to “break” the coalition after the party leadership’s recent “political failures.”
“Such a motion will not impact the ‘unity’ between the parties in the coalition supporting the government of President Waheed. So therefore I must say, yet again this is another wrong step taken by the MDP leadership,” Thasmeen added.
Former president Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof stated that despite his being an outspoken critic of Shahid who made several statements in the media and the parliament floor, he would stand by Shahid’s side today.
“Yesterday, the PPM Parliamentary Group (PG) came to a conclusion that this motion is a ‘trap’ set up by the MDP to ‘finish off’ the people and the ruling coalition,” he said.
“Today at a time where Abdulha Shahid is facing a grave matter at hand, I will stand by him. Abdulla Shahid will get all the votes from PPM. What we ask is that he act justly and equally,” he added.
MDP MP Ali Waheed during the debate alleged that the motion would reveal those MPs who spoke “in two mouths”, referring to the PPM MPs allegations of that Shahid and Thasmeen had cut deals with GMR and the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed to support the privatisation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).
“Today is not a day the Speaker should be upset about. Today is a day the Speaker will be victorious. [Because] the people will hear those who ‘smashed’ the DRP speak today,” he said.
“I am happy because today those who accused the Speaker of taking bribes, selling off the airport to GMR and travelling abroad at GMR’s expense, will applaud him [for his integrity],” added Waheed.
Waheed also alleged that the MDP had been “held hostage” while Shahid proceeded with the oath taking ceremony of President Waheed on February 7.
“He let just two or three MPs into the parliament chamber and forgot about the rest of the MPs,” Waheed claimed.
MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed during the debate stated that every time there was a conflict of opinion, it should not be taken as far as a no confidence motion.
“Shahid is not someone who had my support to become the speaker. [But] up until today during our journey with the constitution, he has contributed to a lot of things that we achieved. We don’t need to go to a confidence assessment of the speaker who focused on what we had to do up until today,” he said.
Speaking in his concluding statement at the end of the debate, Shahid stated that even if the position of the parliament speaker is seen as a ‘big seat’ and a great privilege, he had faced a very difficult environment in the last three years during his time as the speaker.
“At times I felt very comforted and proud to see the results [produced] by the parliament members. I never responded to the allegations and claims made against me in parliament. I even did not respond to such allegations and claims even outside the parliament, because I wanted to be sure I was doing my job,” he said.
He claimed that due such the allegations he had to work under circumstances that caused hurt to himself, his family and the party which he belonged to.
“But one person is elected out of 77 members to make some sacrifices. I made those sacrifices during the last three years. I have learned that as someone who makes vital decisions, I can’t please everyone,” he said.
He further stated that there were a lot of members who had opposing views to him, and that there were also members who later came to him and admitted that what they had previously believed was not right as well.
He said that the decision that the members were to make today was a historic one and that it was the first occasion in the parliamentary history of the country where the parliament was to take a no- confidence motion against a speaker.
He advised the members to not to make the issue a political one but rather a decision that they would make for the sake of the best interest of the people. He asked the MPs to think about the people who elected the members before pressing the voting button.
“Whatever way the decision [of the vote] goes, I wish all you members well. Whatever way the decision comes out, I will continue repaying the debt I owe to the constituents of Keyodhoo Constituency who elected me,” he said.
Shahid concluded his speech stating that he did not hold any hard feelings towards any member, and thanked the members who had said “beautiful things” about him.
Many MPs cheered as the Deputy Speaker announced that the motion had failed to get the required number of votes to oust Shahid.
Speaking to Minivan News after the vote, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the MDP parliamentary group had made a decision to take the no confidence motion against the speaker even before the transfer of power on February 7, but had waited for the right moment.
Ghafoor said that one reason for the motion was to assess the current political situation following the emergence of the PPM.
“Our argument is that a political party by the name of PPM has been formed. We wanted to assess the strength of the opposition coalition,” he said.
Ghafoor admitted that for the time being, the coalition of the political parties supporting the government seemed to be united as was seen from the vote, but questioned how long they would work together.
He said it is inevitable that the coalition would break apart in the near future because of leadership tensions, raising doubts as to whether political figures within the coalition could work together for a longer period.
Asked whether the fact that MDP got 25 votes when the party had 30 MPs meant that there were internal conflicts within the party, Ghafoor said that it did not represent an internal conflict but just “a difference of opinion”.
“Our experience is that we lost four votes today. Two of our MPs abstained from the vote while MP Ahmed Rasheed and MP Hassan Adil voted with the opposition. MP Zahir Adam was absent today,” he said.
Ghafoor further stated that the parliament was a place of discussion and votes but on February 7, the transfer of power did not take place like that. He also said that the vote reflected that the majority of the parliament did not object to the coup.
“While the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has raised doubts over the transfer of power on February 7, today we saw that despite those doubts, the majority of the parliament voted in favour of a coup,” he said.
Ghafoor said that despite the no-confidence vote not succeeding, the MDP did not view it as a defeat but rather an indication of how the political culture in the country had progressed.
After deciding in April to forward the no-confidence motion, the MDP stated that motion against Shahid concerned allegations that he had been making decisions relating to significant parliamentary issues without discussing them with various political parties.
The party claimed that Shahid had been acting outside of his mandate by deciding to suspend certain parliament regulations, whilst opting to follow others that were to his personal benefit.