Comment: Talking of another possible coup

Former President and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supremo Mohamed Nasheed has given what may be seen by some as a timely warning to the nation and incumbent, Abdulla Yameen, about ‘another coup’.

In doing so, he has implied that there is an urgent need for institutional reforms if such a course is to be averted. In an interview to MDP-supported Raajje TV, he claimed that some Supreme Court Judges were also behind what he reiterated was a ‘coup’ to oust him from office in February 2012 – but did not elaborate or provide substantive evidence.

That there is an urgent need for ‘institutional reforms’ in democratised Maldives is conceded readily by all sections of the nation’s polity. Most leaders now in the fray were also members of the Special Majlis that drafted and adopted the current 2008 constitution. For them to concede that they may have blundered, without actually having the courage to acknowledge it as such, should be welcome.

There is, however, a need for urgency in pursuing these issues within a more substantive and meaningful national dialogue. Such a dialogue may have to wait for a new parliament to be elected in the 22 March polls. It will be equally interesting to observe what various political players have to say on such issues during the current campaign period.

The various political positions that could be taken by different political parties will in turn be based on their own experience with the existing constitution (as they perceive it), and their expectations (as they conceive it). There is no guarantee that they would not err again, but ‘dynamic societies’ like the Maldives would always have to make constant and continuing compromises – either now or later.

It may become more difficult under different circumstances and under newer players on a distant day to attempt such changes.

Mis-reading, mis-leading

The present reference to ‘another coup’ apart, this is the second occasion in almost as many weeks that former President Nasheed is hinting at a change of national leadership. On the earlier occasion, media reports quoted him as saying that the MDP would move a no-confidence motion against President Yameen in the post-poll parliament, and have him removed at the first available opportunity?

Such reports will sound credible only if the MDP is able to muster the required two-thirds majority in what will become an 85-member parliament, up from the current strength of 77. It also implies that all MPs belonging to the party would stand by the leadership and its diktat, to vote out the incumbent. Whether it would have to be accompanied simultaneously by a no-trust move also against the incumbent vice-president – if the political strategy was to ensure early polls to the office of the president – is a moot question.

Alternatively, the MDP – which is still the single largest party – both within the People’s Majlis and outside, could muster those numbers if, and only if, MPs belonging to the ruling coalition led by President Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were to cross floor, either as constituent parties or individual members.

In a country where ‘defection’ has been a password for political survival, both before and after the advent of multi-party democracy, such a scenario is not unimaginable.

In this background, Nasheed’s caution towards the incumbent and the nation is likely to be mis-read and hence misunderstood. Whatever the scenario one were to look at, such a scare has the potential to destabilise the nation’s polity and political administration all over again. In political terms, it could become an electoral tool in the hands of the adversaries of President Nasheed and the MDP, in that order, during the run-up to next month’s polls.

In the ensuing melee, both the MDP and former President Nasheed could be dubbed ‘over-ambitious’ and politically greedy – which need not be the case. The two will have to remember that within the high vote-share for Nasheed in the final-round poll in the November elections, a substantial numbers were ‘non-party’, non-committed voters. Given the turbulent, and at times violent, turn that multi-party democracy has taken since inception in 2008, this section of voters in particular could feel ‘uneasy’ and ‘uncomfortable’.

Going by the second scenario, encouraging defection can cut both ways. The present parliament saw both the MDP losing and gaining from defections. To an extent, it also dependent on the ‘incumbency’ factor. It was among the various factors that helped the MDP become the single largest party after coming second in the 2009 parliamentary polls, and later going on to become the ‘majority party’ as well.

Cross-voting, if not outright defection, also worked against the party’s diktat when MDP parliamentarians more recently helped ensure the mandated Majlis clearance for President Yameen’s cabinet.

It is the third of Nasheed’s possible apprehensions about a ‘possible coup’which should be of greater concern. It is here that his reassurance that he “will do everything” in his “personal capacity” to prevent a coup from taking place assumes significance. Given the context, and the MDP’s claims to his losing power to a coup in the past, it has now become morally, if not legally, binding on both to share whatever details that might come their way, now or in the future, with the nation and the government of the day.

In the same vein, however, Nasheed has possibly reiterated his past reference to a no-confidence vote when telling Raajje TV that “we will work within the legal ambit to ensure that the transition of power takes place through an election”. This may have made the earlier ‘reassurance’ as unsettling as it may be untimely – not only for the nation but possibly for the MDP too.


No confidence motion against Speaker disqualified

A no-confidence motion submitted by the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) against People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid was disqualified while it was being debated on the parliament floor on Thursday.

According to the Parliament’s Standing Orders, a no confidence petition must have the support of 15 MPs. Today’s motion was disqualified when two of the 15 MPs who signed the petition withdrew their signatures while the debate on the motion was ongoing.

The two MPs were  Ahmed Shareef and Ibrahim Ameen.

Speaking to Minivan News, Shahid said the no confidence motion was a “baseless, judgmental and a reaction to the broader political divide in the country.”

“I feel once again, that the MPs have recognised my contribution in a very politically turbulent time,” he said.

The PPM tabled the motion claiming Shahid was an “obstruction in the maintenance of law and order” alleging he had violated the sanctity of the People’s Majlis, abused the powers of his position, challenged the Supreme Court’s orders and helped MDP MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor evade justice by offering him refuge in the parliament building.

In response, Shahid said he welcomed the no confidence motion as the current Majlis is the only parliament in Maldivian history where MPs were allowed to express or withdraw support for a Speaker.

Before the ratification of the 2008 constitution, it was the president who had the authority to appoint or dismiss the Speaker.

Noting that the Maldives’ presidential system mandates an active political role for the Speaker, Shahid said: “In the aftermath of a very tight political presidential election, it is expected that one or more political parties may have grievances against the Speaker.”

He said he had upheld the constitution and the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act, reminding the Majlis that they had passed the act with a two thirds majority after the president vetoed the bill.

Parliamentary privileges are not duty free cars or diplomatic passports, but the privilege to speak on behalf of the people without any fear, Shahid said and noted that several MPs were in jail when the special assembly to write the new constitution held a vote to select the Speaker of the constitutional assembly in 2005.

Every MP is an elected representative and as such Shahid had facilitated every MP’s right to represent their constituency and express the citizen’s views within the law, he argued.

Pointing to the Majlis refusal to hold sittings when President Mohamed Nasheed had arrested MPs Gasim Ibrahim and current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Shahid said he had stood up for the rights of every single MP without regard to political party.

“I will not hold any enmity towards any of you for any action taken against me as I speak the truth,” Shahid said.

Shahid has been an MP since 1995 and had survived a no confidence motion submitted against him by the MDP in June 2012 with 45 MPs voting against the motion.

Shahid joined the MDP in April 2013.

The MDP has withdrawn a no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim


MDP withdraws no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has withdrawn a no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker  and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nazim.

The MDP and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) submitted no confidence motion with 35 signatures in October alleging Nazim was politically biased in carrying out his duties as Deputy Speaker.

Speaking to the press last night, MDP Parliamentary Group’s deputy Leader Ali Waheed said the party had decided to withdraw the motion as the MDP intends to be a responsible opposition party and to ensure calm in the country following the PPM’s win in the November 16 presidential polls.

Meanwhile, the PPM has also submitted a no confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Shahid. The vote was scheduled for November 20 but has now been delayed.

In November, the MDP voted out then Attorney General Azima Shakoor and has also tabled a no confidence motion against Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz.


Committee approves no-confidence motion against Prosecutor General

Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee has approved a no-confidence motion against Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz with four votes in favour and three against.

Following today’s committee decision, the motion will be put to a vote at the People’s Majlis floor.

At the committee’s previous meeting on Monday (November 4), Muiz was asked to submit a response in writing after the meeting was disrupted by MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives, Jumhooree Party, and Dhivehi Qaumee Party.

The no-confidence motion against Muiz was filed by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party last month claiming that the PG had failed to prosecute police officers who mutinied against the former government and assaulted protesters. The party has accused the PG of “selectively” pursuing cases against its members while ignoring “human rights abuses” committed by police in the wake of the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.


Prosecutor General asked to submit response in writing after havoc in committee meeting

A meeting of parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee held today for the Prosecutor General (PG) to respond to a no-confidence motion was called off after disorderly conduct from MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives, Jumhooree Party (JP), and Dhivehi Qaumee Party.

A motion was passed with the support of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MPs to ask PG Ahmed Muiz to submit his defence in writing by 9pm tonight.

The pro-government MPs contended that the proceedings were in violation of parliamentary rules and harangued Chair MP Ahmed Sameer. MPs Riyaz Rasheed, Ilham Ahmed, Ali Arif, Abdul Muhsin Hameed and Ahmed Amir banged saucers and cups on the table and raised their voices.

JP Deputy Leader Ilham played music on his phone and held it up to a mic.

The MDP filed a no-confidence motion against Muiz last month claiming that the PG had failed to prosecute police officers who mutinied against the former government and assaulted protesters.

Today’s meeting was held after Muiz asked for more time to respond to the charges last week saying he had been on his annual leave when he received the summons to attend the committee.


Dismissed Attorney General “not a team player,” says PPM MP Mahloof

Attorney General Azima Shukoor dismissed by parliament in a no-confidence vote yesterday (October 29) was “not a team player,” Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof told local media yesterday.

“Azima is not a team player, she prioritises her own interests over the interests of the team. The letter sent to the parliament regarding the procedure to be followed if a president is not elected by 11 November, was also based on her own advice. The matter was not discussed,” Mahloof told Sun Online.

The no-confidence motion submitted by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was passed with 41 votes in favour and five against. The MDP’s 33 MPs were joined by MPs of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and Independent MP for Raa Dhuvafaru Mohamed Zubair.

MP Mahloof was the only PPM MP who participated in the vote while MPs of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party along with Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed voted against the motion.


No-confidence motion delayed after Attorney General calls in sick

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has postponed the no-confidence motion against Attorney General (AG) Azima Shakoor, initially scheduled for today (October 28).

According to Majlis officials the speaker made the decision to delay for two days after Shakoor informed him that she was unwell and not able to attend the parliament session.

Article 101(b) of the constitution states that cabinet members must be given at least fourteen days notice of any debate concerning no-confidence motions against themselves, and that the individual has the right to defend themselves – both verbally and in writing – in the sittings of the People’s Majlis

Parliament received the motion on September 25, with the ensuing notice to the AG being delivered on October 1.

The motion has now been rescheduled for October 30.

Cabinet members against whom no-confidence motions are raised are allowed to sit in in the parliamentary debate on the matter. At the sitting, they are given the opportunity defend themselves against the claims raised.

An official from parliament stated that it was the cabinet minister’s decision whether or not they used the opportunity to defend themselves. He said that,while the parliament could proceed with the motion even though the minister is unable to attend, it is at the discretion of the speaker to decide to postpone the motion.

Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Consul General Fathimath Filza were not responding to calls at the time of press.

The no-confidence motion was submitted to the parliament on September 25 with the signature of 26 Members of Parliament (MPs) – 16 more than is stipulated in the constitution’s article 101(a).

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) previously decided to pursue a no-confidence motion against the AG during a contingency meeting of the party’s National Council on September 20 .

During the debate, MDP MP Ahmed Sameer announced that the party’s parliamentary group had prepared a no-confidence motion against the AG, contending that she had neglected her duties and had advocated on behalf of a political party against the Elections Commission (EC), a state institution.

Meanwhile, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Parliamentary Group’s Deputy Leader Moosa Zameer at the time said that the party would not support the removal of a former council member of the party.

However, with the support of at least six out of ten MPs of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – which has pledged support to MDP presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed in the upcoming election – the MDP would have enough votes in parliament to pass the no-confidence motion.

AG Shakoor was approved to her post by 38 votes in favour in parliament on July 31, with 31 MPs having voted against.

Formerly the lawyer for PPM leader and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Shukoor was initially appointed AG by sitting President Dr Mohamed Waheed after the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

She was later reassigned as Minister of Family, Gender and Human Rights – an appointed which subsequently failed to gain the approval of parliament, before the President Waheed re-appointed her to her former position as AG.


No-confidence motion against Attorney General tabled for Monday

The no-confidence motion submitted in parliament against Attorney General Azima Shakoor has been tabled for Monday (October 28), reports local media.

The motion, with 26 MP’s signatures, was received September 25, said the parliament secretariat.

Shakoor was notified on October 1 that parliament will be debating the no-confidence motion against her.

Constitutional article 101(2) requires 14 days notice be given to the cabinet member in question and that individual will have the right to defend themselves both verbally and in writing.

The Maldivian Democratic Party’s parliamentary group is also seeking to move no-confidence motions against Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb for their roles in the government’s attempt to stall the presidential election, reports Haveeru.


Extraordinary Majlis session cancelled amid chaos, vandalism in chamber

An extraordinary meeting of the People’s Majlis was cancelled today after Speaker Abdulla Shahid’s microphone was vandalised during a Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP)-led effort to disrupt parliamentary proceedings.

Twenty-nine MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had asked Shahid to schedule an extraordinary sitting claiming certain politicians were “destroying constitutional tenets and straying from the path of democracy”, as the JP seeks to annul the first round of September’s presidential polls in the Supreme Court.

Vilifushi MP Riyaz Rasheed and Gemanafushi MP Ilham Ahmed blew on whistles and vuvuzelas as PPM and JP members raised numerous points of order and shouted “rigged vote.”

Shahid took a short break at 10:00am to speak with Parliamentary Group leaders, but was unable to reconvene the session after a cable on his table microphone was cut.

The MDP – which placed first with 45.45 percent of the vote – has said it will table a no confidence motion against Attorney General Azima Shakoor after she intervened in support of the JP and change the composition of the Supreme Court bench.

The MDP and its recent ally the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) control a majority in the Majlis with a combined strength of 39 of the 77 MPs.