MDP sets eight conditions for backing candidate for Majlis speaker

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has set eight conditions for supporting a candidate for the Speaker of the 18th People’s Majlis.

Following a meeting of the party’s executive national council in Addu City, the MDP revealed in a statement yesterday (May 23) that the party’s 25 MPs-elect would back a candidate who supports eight main policy objectives:-

  • Removing obstacles for access to justice and reforming the judiciary
  • Empowering local councils and amending the Decentralisation Act to enable councils to generate income
  • Establishing a minimum wage
  • Strengthening social security and the ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme to ensure coverage for all citizens
  • Assuring investor confidence in business transactions with the state
  • Working with the MDP to “resolve the international problems that have arisen due to the cancellation of the contract to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.”
  • Introducing an income tax, maintaining the Tourism Goods and Services Tax at eight percent and eliminating import duties
  • Removing obstacles to expanding the guest house business, which is the “quickest route to eradicating poverty.”

The main opposition party contested the parliamentary elections in March on a platform of judicial reform and empowerment of local councils.

With the next speaker due to be elected through secret ballot at the first sitting of the newly-elected parliament on Wednesday (May 28),  the question of which party should control the post of speaker has led to tension within the ruling coalition.

While Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim has announced his bid for the speaker’s post, President Abdulla Yameen has said repeatedly that the speaker should be a member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The Progressive Coalition – made up of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – secured 53 out of 85 seats in the March 22 parliamentary polls.

The MDP won 26 seats while independent candidates won five seats and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party won one seat.

Three independent candidates along with MDP MP-elect for the Thimarafushi constituency, Mohamed Musthafa, have since signed for the PPM, bringing the ruling party’s numbers up to 37 and securing a two-thirds majority for the coalition.

However, neither party on its own has enough MPs-elect to reach the 43-vote simple majority.

While the PPM and MDA is one vote short of the simple majority with 37 seats and five seats respectively, the JP and MDP falls three votes short with 40 seats.

Meanwhile, PPM MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan revealed in the wake of the parliamentary elections that the pair had pledged their support for Gasim’s bid to become speaker during negotiations for forming the Progressive Coalition ahead of last year’s presidential election runoff.

Moreover, former President Mohamed Nasheed – acting president of the MDP – signalled the opposition party’s support for Gasim following a meeting at the business tycoon’s residence last month.

The PPM has meanwhile yet to announce the party’s choice for the speaker’s post. However, PPM MPs-elect Ahmed Nazim – deputy speaker of the outgoing parliament – and Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed have expressed interest in becoming the next speaker.

The ruling party appears to be divided over which MP to nominate for the post with Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb – deputy leader of the PPM – claiming  that allegations of corruption that surfaced in the press last week were linked to his refusal to support certain individuals for the speaker’s post.

Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, Adeeb dismissed the allegations as an unfair “defamation attempt.”

Adeeb later told newspaper Haveeru that PPM MP Nazim was behind the corruption allegations, which are currently under investigation by both the Anti-Corruption Commission and auditor general’s office.

Adeeb said he could not back Nazim’s bid to become speaker as he was suspected of “blackmail” and “corruption” and declared his support for Maseeh.

“This problem [corruption allegations] has come up because my stand is strong inside the PPM. I am accused of these things because I take the stand that is most beneficial to the country. And because I have influence within PPM,” he alleged.

“This is a political ploy to defame myself, PPM and the government. This has been done to blackmail me in order to politically twist the Majlis speaker issue a certain way.