The People’s Majlis today approved the appointment of Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen as well as 14 cabinet ministers nominated by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
The Maldivian Democractic Party (MDP) chose to boycott the session en masse, although one of the group’s MPs, Shifag Mufeed, was in attendance and voted to approve the appointments.
Waheed was later sworn in as the Vice President at a ceremony held at the President’s office. Following the ceremony, Waheed and President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik met with the press.
The new Vice President observed that the Maldives is today witnessing the “politically most upsetting days” the country has ever seen and that he was honoured to have been selected to serve in the national reconciliation process.
“I have accepted the post because I want serve the nation and people. While I serve the people, there will be no discrimination between colors [political parties],” Waheed noted.
Speaking before today’s approval process, MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor said that the voting would determine those who were legitimising the coup and those who were not.
The appointees, requiring only a majority for parliamentary approval, received universal support from the quorum of 45 MPs. The MDP currently holds 32 out of the chamber’s 77 seats.
MDP parliamentary group (PG) leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday: “We continue to believe the transfer of power occurred through a coup d’état. We do not believe any cabinet Dr Waheed appoints to be lawful. Therefore we believe the sitting scheduled to approve such a cabinet is also an unlawful sitting.”
The MDP released a statement today, before the vote was held, calling on the speaker of the house Abdulla Shahid not to table the endorsements before changes were made to the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) in line with recent calls from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
The MDP last week submitted a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker Shahid, arguing that he had been making decisions without adequately consulting all relevant parties and had been acting beyond his remit.
Speaking after an MDP protest march over the weekend that stopped for a time outside the speakers house to call for his resignation, former Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa explained the MDPs dissatisfaction with Shahid’s failure to take a leading role in calling for fresh elections.
“We have been very patient [with Shahid]. Now, instead of asking him for his leadership, we are asking him to resign,” said Zulfa.
Zulfa cited the example of the Speaker of Parliament in Mali who is currently in the process of organising fresh elections in the African nation.
The MDP has repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of Waheed’s presidency since he assumed office following the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
In the absence of an approved Vice President, the speaker of the house is constitutionaly mandated to act as next in line. This would then have automatically triggered a presidential elections within 60 days. After today’s approval, the Vice President becomes next in the line of succession, claimed Dr Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza.
President Waheed has stated that he would resign should an independent inquiry find February’s transfer of power to have been illegitimate.
Waheed’s CNI was established to do just that but has since come under fire from the MDP, the Commonwealth, and Maldivian civil society groups for its apparent lack of impartiality. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) last week issued a strongly worded statement warning of serious repercussions should the government not reform the CNI by the middle of next month.
Crossing the party line
Shifag, the solo MDP representative in Majlis today, has already spoken out against the official party line this week according to local media, criticising the party’s calls for early elections in yesterday’s session.
He is reported to have said that an amendment to article 125 (c) of the constitution was needed. The article states that “Where fresh presidential elections have to be held for any reason during the currency of an ongoing presidential term, persons elected to the office of the President or the Vice President shall only continue in office for the remainder of the ongoing presidential term.”
Shifag was also reported to have criticised the failure of political parties to cooperate in order to resolve the current political crisis, including the MDP.
“Because the party Interim Chairperson Moosa Manik could not clarify the events of the day to us as told by President Nasheed from the first day, the public is in a state of confusion. Investigations have to be conducted into how the government changed… For example, Alhan Fahmy submitting a case to the Parliament Committee – this is one way to do it. But we turned our backs on that proposition. Our intentions are therefore questionable,” Sun Online reports Shifag as having told the Majlis.
MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor said today the Shifag “has not been towing the party line recently.”
Regarding Shifag’s votes in favour of the president’s appointees today, Ghafoor said: “There will be ramifications, you can’t break a three-line whip. The party will have to know why.”
Again, at today’s session, Shifag was reported by local media to have criticised his party. This time he questioned the failure of the MDP to conduct its own investigation into the events of February 7.
A coalition of Maldivian civil society groups working under the banner ‘Thinvana Adu’, meaning ‘Third Voice’, similary urged political groups in the country to continue dialogue “without preconditions”. The group also focussed on the need to make steps to legitimise the CNI.