Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Mohamed has joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed announced at today’s sitting of parliament.
The defection of the MP for Noonu Holhudhoo brings the PPM’s number of MPs to 41. The opposition MDP has 24 MPs followed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) with 13 MPs and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) with five MPs.
The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has one MP while Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed remains the sole independent.
With the new signing, the PPM-MDA coalition has now secured a comfortable majority of 46 MPs in the 85-member parliament.
Elected to the 17th parliament on a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) ticket, Ali Mohamed quit the party in mid-2011 and joined the MDP in April 2013.
Today’s sitting of parliament was meanwhile adjourned by Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed after proceedings were disrupted by MDP MPs raising consecutive points of order and subsequent verbal sparring between opposition and pro-government MPs.
MDP MPs insisted that the legislative process could not begin in the absence of standing committees to review bills after preliminary debate.
Maseeh had also called off last week’s sitting under similar circumstances after announcing that discussions would be held with political party leaders to resolve the dispute.
However, raising points of order, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim and MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih denied that the parties were consulted before a sitting was scheduled for today and accused the speaker of misleading the public.
Shortly thereafter, Maseeh adjourned the sitting after PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan suggested a recess to hold discussions with party leaders.
At last week’s sitting, pro-government MPs had accused the opposition of obstructing Majlis to thwart the government’s legislative agenda, while MDP MPs accused the ruling coalition of attempting to create “a one-party state” without parliamentary oversight.
Referring to MPs crossing the floor, JP MP Ilham Ahmed had accused the speaker of stalling as the government had not finished “hunting” for new MPs.
A five-member select committee – comprised of representatives from the five political parties – was formed at the sitting to constitute the 13 standing committees.
The committee has so far been unable to reach an agreement while a two-week deadline stipulated by parliamentary rules elapsed last week.
Following the cancellation of last week’s sitting, the select committee held a meeting on Saturday at the request of the speaker. However, the meeting was cancelled due to loss of quorum after MDA MP Ali Mauroof walked out ahead of a vote on a proposal by the MDP.
As parliamentary rules dictate proportional representation in standing committees for political parties based on the number of MPs in each party, the PPM-MDA coalition with its 46 MPs are entitled to a majority of seats on all 13 committees.
While not insisting on a majority on key government oversight committee, the MDP has demanded four seats in the government oversight committee, independent institutions oversight committee, and public accounts committee.
“After PPM, MDP holds the highest number of seats. So as per regulations, after PPM selects its committees, it is MDP that must get the second choice. However, in reality, PPM is allowing MDA – which holds only five seats – to have its say over that of the MDP. This is not how it should be done,” MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih explained to Minivan News last week.
“The question that has given rise to so much debate and disgruntlement is which three committees will the MDP get four seats in. We are saying we want the seats in committees with oversight functions.”
The select committee meanwhile held a meeting following the adjournment of today’s siting. However, with the MDA unwilling to forego any seats on oversight committees, MPs on the select committee has not been able to reach an agreement as of the time of press.