Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP-elect for Thaa Thimarafushi, Mohamed Musthafa, along with independent MP-elect for Haa Alif Dhidhoo, Abdul Latheef Mohamed, have joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
The new signings brings the number of PPM MPs in the 18th People’s Majlis to 37, and the number of Progressive Coalition MPs to 57 with five from the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) and 15 from the Jumhooree Party (JP).
Abdul Latheef Mohamed defeated incumbent JP MP Ahmed Sameer in the March 22 polls with 40 percent of the vote while Musthafa won against incumbent PPM MP Ahmed Shareef Adam with a margin of nine votes.
Musthafa and Abdul Latheef signed their membership forms in the presence of PPM leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, at a ceremony this afternoon in Nasandhuraa Palace Hotel.
Gayoom later tweeted: “PPM now has 37 seats in Majlis n our Coalition 57- a two-thirds majority. What an impressive achievement!”
President Abdulla Yameen, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, and Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim were also in attendance.
Musthafa told the press at the ceremony that he believed the government could develop the nation in the current climate of peace and stability.
Musthafa tweeted yesterday that he could not remain in parliament “making idle chatter” to the detriment of his constituents.
His first priority as an MP was the nation, followed by the constituency, and then political party, Musthafa tweeted.
“I’m MP elected to represent Thimarafushi [and] Veymando constituents. I will fight for them disregarding the politics they stand for,” he tweeted on March 24.
Meanwhile, of the five independent MPs-elect, three have now signed for the ruling PPM – including Naifaru MP-elect Ahmed Shiyam and Mahibadhoo MP-elect Mohamed Thoriq ‘Tom’.
Today’s signings follow friction in the coalition over the post of speaker of parliament. In the wake of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s announcement that he would seek the post, the PPM declared that it would nominate one of its MPs for speaker.
Following the polls, Gasim accused coalition party members of costing his party almost a third of the seats it had contested.
Other disgruntled JP candidates accused the PPM of attempting to “destroy” its coalition partner, suggesting that PPM members masquerading as independents actively campaigned against Gasim’s party.
With the addition of two more MPs-elect, the PPM and coalition partner MDA are presently just one vote short of the 43 simple majority without the JP.
Aside from the two remaining independents and the Adhaalath Party MP-elect for Haa Dhaal Makunudhoo, Anara Naeem, the opposition MDP has 25 MPs-elect.
Speaking to Minivan News today, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the coalition was “obviously split on the question of the speaker.”
“They are not making a secret out of it,” he observed.
Hamid said Musthafa’s defection was “widely anticipated by a lot of MDP members”.
“We are currently in a settling down period. Obviously there will be candidates whose independence is compromised. What happens in this country is that their [candidates] capability to stand independently is compromised and they bow to coercion and pressure” he said.
“Another one bites the bite,” he added.
Hamid also suggested that the MDP’s primaries to select parliamentary candidates were “obviously flawed.”
“This doesn’t lend much credibility to the process. There was a lot of ‘branch stacking’ – a process where parties get candidates to sign for another party to influence their primary votes,” he explained.
Musthafa won the MDP primary for the Thimarafushi constituency against lawyer Abdulla Shairu, a member of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team.
Musthafa was elected to the 17th People’s Majlis on an MDP ticket after beating Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Gayoom.
The High Court however annulled the results of two ballot boxes and ordered a revote after Gassan alleged widespread intimidation and irregularities in the poll.
The presiding judge in the three-judge High Court panel was Judge Ali Hameed, who was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court bench.
Upon winning the revote, Musthafa described Gayoom as “the most brutal leader in the past 100 years.” He went on to severely criticise the former president in parliamentary debates.
In July 2010, Musthafa was arrested together with Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim for allegedly bribing MPs and a Civil Court judge.
Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed however ordered police to release the pair, ruling that there were no reasonable grounds to grant an extension of pre-trial detention.
The pair were accused of offering US$6,000 as well as a return ticket for an overseas trip to a civil court judge to allegedly influence an ongoing case.
In March 2011, a phone conversation between Musthafa and Nazim surfaced in social media, implicating the MDP MP in secret deals with then-Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
Musthafa is heard claiming in the leaked recording that Thasmeen offered financial assistance to his campaign in 2009.
On February 20, 2012 – less than two weeks after the controversial transfer of presidential power – the Supreme Court stripped MP Musthafa of his seat over a decreed debt.
Musthafa lost the subsequent by-election in the Thimarafushi constituency to PPM candidate Shareef.