Speaker Shahid confirms switch to opposition MDP

Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid has today joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – days after resigning from the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Following ongoing media speculation over the last week that the speaker was considering defecting to the MDP, Shahid today confirmed via his Twitter account that he had changed his political allegiance over concerns about the direction of the country’s democratic transition.

Shahid did not elaborate further when asked by Minivan News today if he believed his decision to switch parties would potentially lead to government-aligned MPs reconsidering their support for his speaker role.

“Strong and resolute”

Shahid’s former party, the DRP, today said that it did not wish to comment on the personal decision of someone who was no longer a member of the party.

DRP Deputy Leader Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that despite the defection of the speaker, the party would “remain solid, strong and resolute”.

Mausoom added that the government-aligned party did not presently have any intention to pursue a no-confidence motion against the speaker as a result of him switching parties.

“In the past, most of the no-confidence motions have been conducted by either the MDP or the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM),” he claimed.

Mausoom alleged that previous no-confidence motions submitted from the two parties had been undertaken as a means of seeking vengeance against the speaker or other political figures – something he claimed the DRP would not do.

“We have not initiated a no-confidence motion. We believe that no confidence should only be taken on an issue of national importance,” he said.

However, he claimed that in cases where any politician – whether a speaker or cabinet minister – was deemed to be compromising national issues, then the party “would not hesitate” to take action.

Abdulla Yameen, Parliamentary Group Leader of the government-aligned PPM – the country’s second largest political party after the MDP and minority party of parliament – did not respond to calls from Minivan News about the speaker’s switch today.

Earlier this week, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said he had worked with Shahid for many years and personally found him to be very capable in his position as speaker.

However, he added that he was not sure how his fellow party members or other government-aligned MPs might view a decision to switch to the opposition.

“Ideological shift”

Shahid’s switch comes almost exactly one year to the day that the opposition MDP submitted an unsuccessful no confidence motion against the speaker, accusing him of making decisions relating to significant parliamentary issues without discussing them with various political parties.

However, MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today said that the speaker’s switch was strongly supported by the party’s “grass roots”.

Ghafoor claimed that Shahid’s arrival to the party reflected an “idealogical shift” in the country’s political arena that would bring many more supporters to the MDP who may have previously been sceptical about doing so.

“What [Shahid] is saying, I believe, is that the country needs stability,” he added.

Ghafoor claimed that he had not been made aware of any party moving to challenge Shahid’s position as speaker as a result of his decision to switch parties so far.

He said that the MDP would itself be holding a rally tomorrow night (April 19) dubbed ‘New Strength’. Shahid is believed to be among the speakers at the rally.