Maldivians believe MPs switch parties for corrupt reasons

Most Maldivians are worried that MPs frequently switch parties in parliament because of corruption, a survey has found.

Eighty percent of people see party switching as connected to corruption, a report from Transparency Maldives indicates, showing that floor crossing is perceived to have a negative impact.

Another survey by Transparency last year showed that Maldivians had low levels of confidence in parliament.

In the latest survey, eighty-four percent of respondents said they believe floor crossing happens because money or some sort of gain is offered to parliamentarians in exchange for voting against their own party line or defecting.

Eighty-seven per cent of respondents believe there should be laws that prevent or restrict switching.

Transparency Maldives said that forcing MPs to reveal detailed financial holdings would help.

“The most necessary option is to implement a correct method of asset declaration, not just for the sake of it but in a manner involving detailed financial statements,” Thoriq Hamid, programme manager at Transparency, told reporters.

“There should also be vetting mechanisms for these statements. That is the role of Maldivian institutions like the anti-corruption commission and possibly the auditor general.”

Eighty-one percent said that floor crossing can undermine democracy and weaken the party system.

Transparency will share the report with parliamentarians and other institutions.

Floor crossing is a common occurrence in the Parliament of the Maldives.

The former MP for Feydhoo , Alhan Fahmy, was initially elected as a Dhivehi Rayyinthunge’ Party (DRP) candidate but he switched to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Later on he left them to join the Jumhooree Party (JP) and then again left the JP to rejoin the MDP.

Another such case is Abdulla Abdul Raheem. The MP who has changed parties the most, he was also elected as DRP candidate and left them to join the MDP. However, he again went back to the DRP within 24 hours. In 2012, he made another switch, this time to the JP, and then again signed to the MDP the very next year. He was expelled from the MDP in December 2013.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives came to power last year with 33 MPs but another 10 joined them from other parties within four months.

These individuals have not been specifically accused of corruption, but they are among many MPs to have switched parties.

Transparency Maldives interviewed 200 randomly selected Maldivians for the survey.


PPM considers lawsuit against JP

Deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Ahmed Adeeb has threatened to sue former coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) for intent to sue MPs who switched from the JP to PPM.

Three JP MPs crossed the floor to PPM after a coalition agreement fell apart after JP leader Gasim Ibrahim contested for the speakership of the People’s Majlis against PPM candidate Abdulla Maseeh.

The JP last week said MPs had signed an agreement swearing in the name of Allah to remain faithful to the party and said it will consider a lawsuit for breaching the agreement. The party also said PPM had bribed and coerced MPs into switching parties.

In response, Adeeb told local news agency Haveeru that the PPM will counter any lawsuits, arguing that the agreements are unconstitutional.

“JP cannot make agreements in a manner that deprives members of their constitutional rights. Even our 43 members are not serving under any agreements. So they cannot take an agreement that is against the Constitution to court, they cannot even take away their parliamentary seats,” said Adeeb.

Allegations of bribery are baseless, Adeeb said claiming the JP was attempting to intimidate MPs.

Gasim had sent text messages to the three MPs regarding the funds spent on their campaign in an attempt to intimidate them, he said.

“I advise him to stop threatening members of PPM. Even Ilham [Dhangethi constituency MP Ilham Ahmed] switched to JP after being elected to the post of our party’s deputy leader. We did not run after him. That is because changing political ideologies is a right that members have,” he stated.

Parliamentarians Hassan Mufeed Abdul Gadhir, Mohamed Abdulla and Hassan Areef switched to PPM after being elected as JP members.

Following the changes, JP alleged that the PPM is offering “unattainably high financial and material incentives” to members.


JP to sue three MPs for switching parties

The Jumhooree Party (JP) is to sue three parliamentarians who switched to the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.

The unanimous decision was announced at a party meeting on Saturday night, but the former ruling coalition partner is yet to decide on how to pursue the case.

JP council members said MPs had sworn in the name of Allah to refrain from crossing the floor and the switch had caused damage to the party. The PPM bribed MPs, JP alleged.

“The PPM’s actions in offering unattainably high incentives to parliamentarians of our party, and providing them with financial and material incentives so as to have them switch to their party, are against the vows they made to the public in their ascension to power,” a JP statement read.

The JP’s backing was crucial in PPM’s presidential win in November. The two parties decided to field joint candidates under separate party banners for the 85 member house in March. The PPM won 33 of the 50 seats it contested, while the JP won 15 of the 28 seats it contested. Coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance won five seats.

The PPM severed its coalition agreement with the JP in May after the coalition partner’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, ran for the post of Majlis speaker despite the PPM fielding its senior MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed as the ruling coalition’s candidate.

JP currently has 12 MPs after Ihavandhoo MP Mohamed ‘Muhamma’ Abdulla, Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeed Abdul Gadhir and Nolhivaram MP Hassan Areef’s signed to the PPM.

The MPs said they were urged by their constituents to join the ruling party to speed up development of their constituencies.

Following the loss of two JP MPs last month, Gasim claimed at a press conference that the MPs had told him that the government had threatened to cease development of islands in their constituencies. Gasim said he had heard that the pair were offered MVR10 million (US$648,508) each for the transfer.

The JP leader heavily criticised the pair for allegedly reneging on an agreement signed under oath “before God Almighty” to remain in the JP until the end of their five-year terms.

In response, the PPM has denied offering any incentives for crossing the floor.

“Today’s reality is that because PPM is in government, many members are taking their own intiative in joining our party. This is done with the intention of providing development to the constituencies they represent,” PPM Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla told local media.

Meanwhile, MP Muhamma told Minivan News he does not believe the JP has the grounds to take him to court.

“I don’t believe the JP can go to court on this matter. I don’t believe that any agreement made against the constitution can be valid,” he said.

He further claimed that it is “far more logical” for the JP to take PPM to court for breaking up the coalition than to sue individual parliamentarians.

The PPM now has a 43 member majority. In addition to the three JP MPs, four out of five independent MPs, and three opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have switched to the ruling party.

Minivan News was unable to contact parliamentarians Hassan Mufeed Abdul Gadir and Hassan Areef for comments at the time of press.


Three DRP MPs defect to Jumhoree Party

Three members of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have defected to resort tycoon-turned-politician Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP).

DRP MPs Hussain Mohamed, Hassan Latheef and Ahmed Mohamed announced their defection during a meeting held by JP at its party headquarters last Monday night.

Meanwhile former DRP Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, his wife MP Visam Ali and party’s Deputy Leader MP Rozeyna Adam defected to the opposition MDP last week.

The DRP backed opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Presidential Candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed in the last Presidential Elections, shortly after the Supreme Court annulled the first presidential polls held in September, in which Nasheed won 45.45 percent of the popular vote.

The new change of sides, leaves the DRP – who won 29 seats in parliament during last parliamentary elections – downsized to just three MPs, with its interim Leader MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Mausoom and MP Mohamed Ramiz as remaining members.

However, since the fact that neither the MDP nor the coalition of parties supporting President Yameen Abdul Gayoom have the sufficient number of MPs to form a simple working majority of 39 MPs, means the DRP would still continue to be an influential swing party in deciding parliamentary matters.

This is because, the government coalition – even with the support of all independent MPs – would still be able to command just 35 MPs – four MPs short of a majority– while the opposition MDP commands 36 MPs.

The change in party compositions in parliament could also possibly jeopardize the opposition MDP’s majority in parliamentary select-committees, which they gained following DRP’s decision to back Nasheed in the presidential polls.

MP Abdulla Mausoom who took part in Monday night’s JP meeting told local media that although he had not formally joined the JP, he “now supports the JP”.  However, Mausoom said that he still intends to remain in DRP and follow the DRP’s whip-line.

Mausoom’s announcement of his support to the JP also coincides with his appointment to the position of General Manager of the Sun Island Resort and Spa – a resort owned by JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

“Tourism has always been very close at heart. I’ve taken over as the resort’s General Manager yesterday,” Mausoom told the press earlier.


In a press conference held this Tuesday morning, Interim Leader of DRP MP ‘Colonel’ Nasheed admitted that his party is now “in ICU” and appealed to the support of party members to revive the party.

“But, as a doctor who is attending to the DRP’s condition I shall not give up hope on her. I am sure that this party will be revived. DRP will again become a powerful political party in Maldives in a near future,” Nasheed told the press.

“I am not [former Maldives autocratic ruler for thirty years and founder of DRP] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. I am not [former DRP Leader] Thasmeen.  So my strategy would be different,”

Nasheed also said that the DRP was currently in the process of an internal audit as it has standing debt of approximately MVR 10 million. He however said that the party would be taking the responsibility for debts it had incurred instead of blaming its former leaders.

“I won’t be able to sort this mess out on my own. This party has members across the country. We fell into this stage because we did not have the needed active members. So I am calling out to all party members to become more active,” Nasheed said.

He further added that the DRP will be fielding its candidates in the upcoming local council elections and the parliamentary election. The party’s target is, Nasheed said, to win the mayorship of Male’ City Council and win at least 10 seats in parliament.

Following the change, the DRP now has 3 MPs, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 36 MPs, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has 20 MPs, the JP has 7 MPs, resort tycoon Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) has 2 MPs, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has one MP and five independent MPs.

Three out of the 77 seats are now vacant. The vacant seats include seats belonging to two former DRP MPs Ali Azim and Ahmed Nashiz – who were unseated after the Supreme Court held that they had unpaid debts – and the Mulaku Constituency seat which belonged to President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

The Elections Commission earlier said that by-elections for the seats would not be held as the current parliament’s term will expire before six months, and as per the constitution, a by-election is required to be held if the parliament’s term has more than six months before expiration.


Reports of Speaker Shahid, DRP MPs’ defection to MDP unconfirmed

Rumours that Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid and two other government-aligned MPs, Alhan Fahmy and Abdulla Abdul Raheem, have joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are being widely circulated by local media.

Minivan News was unable to confirm the reports at time of press as Speaker Shahid and the other MPs were not responding to calls. The DRP has acknowledged the rumours, but has said it has not been officially informed of the switch.

Local media has also reported that government-aligned MPs Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, MP Ali Azim and MP Hassan Adil are also preparing to join the opposition.

Speaker Shahid, Ali Azim and Nasheed are all from government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP). The supposed reason for their defection, as reported in local media, was a clash within the party’s parliamentary group over its stand on recently scheduled no-confidence motion against Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

A source in the MDP familiar with the matter alleged to Minivan News that the defection of the MPs was prompted after DRP Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali brokered a “last minute deal” with the government in return for DRP not voting against the minister.

According to a 2010 report by former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, loans totalling Rf1 billion taken out by Fonadhoo Tuna, a company owned by Thasmeen at the time, and luxury yachting company Sultans of the Sea, connected to the party leader, had yet to see any repayments.

Together the loans accounted for 13 per cent of the total amount loaned by the bank in 2008. Naeem commented at the time that defaults on bank loans issued to “influential political players” could jeopardise the entire financial system of the country.

DRP MPs Mohamed Nashiz and Ali Azim were summoned to court in November 2012 regarding the debts, just as parliament was voting to determine whether no-confidence motions against ministers could be taken in secret.

Those summons were in relation to a Civil Court ordering Mahandhoo Investments and Kabalifaru Investments – two companies with ties to DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – to repay millions of dollars worth of loans to the Bank of Maldives Plc Ltd (BML). The verdict was also upheld by the High Court in October 2011.

MP Azim alleged at the time that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and other senior members of the executive had approached him, offering to cancel the court summons if he agreed to vote for the secret balloting in a way they preferred.

According to the MDP source, ahead of the no-confidence motion on April 8 the DRP had “in principle agreed” to vote against the minister, but had changed their minds at the last minute. Speaker Abdulla Shahid was “left no choice but to call off the session”.

Shahid called off the parliamentary session following point of orders taken by opposition MDP MPs over the issue of the secret ballot, which the Supreme Court had overturned despite parliament’s earlier vote in favour.

Upon concluding the session Speaker Shahid announced that the matter raised by MDP MPs regarding Supreme Court’s decision had been sent to parliament’s General Affairs Committee. He said the committee will review the decision and begin working the following day.

Despite the rumours, the DRP MPs have been in no hurry to confirm the reported switch.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that “a re-alignment in favour of the opposition is definitely happening”.

“I can confirm you as I am a parliamentarian myself that several parliamentary groupings who previously stood behind the old dictatorship are slowly dismantling now. They have now started to realise that backing an old dictatorship is wrong,” said Ghafoor. “I can guarantee you that a re-alignment is definitely happening and dismantling of the old dictatorship is imminent.”

However Ghafoor declined to reveal the names of those MPs involved in the claimed switch.

Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef said the party had received no official confirmation that Speaker Shahid or any of the party’s MPs had resigned from the party or were  looking to switch to the MDP.

However, Shareef said he could not rule out the possibility of such a switch in the current political climate, citing that political defections “occur very fast in this country”.

“Anything is possible” he admitted. “As far as we are concerned, there are a lot of rumors right now about a political switch.”

Should the defections happen as rumored, the number of opposition MDP MPs will be 35 – just 4 MPs short of the parliament’s simple majority required for the dismissal of cabinet ministers and pushing through legislation.

Parliament breakdown by party (prior to rumoured defection of five DRP MPs):
MDP 29
PPM 19
DRP 11
JP 3
PA 1
Independent – 11

MP Colonel Nasheed defects to DRP, claiming MDP “undisciplined”

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Nolhivarum constituency Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed has opted to join the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

The DRP was founded by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and now led by his former vice presidential nominee, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, after a split in 2011 that saw Gayoom and his supporters leave the party to form the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

During a small ceremony held at the DRP head office, Nasheed signed to the party in front of party leader Thasmeen.

The defection comes the day following his defeat in the MDP’s parliamentary group elections, in which he contested for the position of one of the two deputy leaders.

MP Nasheed placed last after receiving five votes out of the 30 members. However, he said during the ceremony that the defeat in the party election had nothing to do with his defection to DRP.

Speaking during the ceremony after joining the party, the MP said that even though former President Mohamed Nasheed had a vision to reform the country, his aides never had the same thinking.

He also claimed that he joined DRP because he wholeheartedly believed the DRP was consistent in upholding its policies, and had“civilised” policies to offer for the nation.

“MDP is a party that I love. To sell MDP’s ideology, I took it on my own shoulders and carried it to the international stage. I spent days in imprisonment to uphold that ideology. But the truth is that our former presidents can do little to help this country. We cannot remain tied with the past,” he said.

Nasheed argued that whenever there was a conflict of opinion among a group of members the matter should not be settled “in the wrestling ring”.

He also said that both the parliament and the courts deserved privileges and respect.

“All boys who get ‘A reports’ are in DRP”

“In my view, we should never disrepute the state organs. At the same time I do admit to the fact that both the country’s legislature and judiciary have their problems. I believe the DRP is the only disciplined party that can solve the problems in a civilised manner,” he said.

Nasheed also criticised the recent anti government protests led by the MDP, contending that freedom of assembly should be exercised within the law.

“I do not believe that it is freedom of assembly when protesters overturn a passing van,” he said. “I believe in the right to freedom of assembly. But it is not freedom of assembly when you shatter the windows of a car and injure two school boys in it.”

Nasheed, who spoke highly in favor of his new party, said that DRP was a formidable vehicle that only needs to be activated by a few young people.

The MP claimed the party “has the most able and competent individuals in the country”, which is reflected from the performance of DRP cabinet ministers.

“All those boys who get ‘A reports’ are in DRP and all those who gets ‘B reports’ are with the MDP. What we are seeing today is that the country is being run by boys who end up with ‘C reports’ while those who get ‘A reports’ and ‘B reports’ are kept sidelined. This is something that public should clearly think about,” MP Nasheed said.

MP Eva Abdulla and Ilyas Labeeb calling the shots in deciding party whip line: Colonel Nasheed

Nasheed also alleged that MP Eva Abdulla and MP Ilyas Labeeb were calling the shots in deciding the party whip line in parliamentary votes, and claimed that there was no discussion between the remaining members of the parliamentary group.

“[MDP’s] whip line comes depending on what Eva Abdulla and Ilyas Labeeb feel about the matter. That is not how I want to follow the party whip line. When you vote in parliament, the first priority is the nation. The nation is bigger that any of our individual interests,” Nasheed said, expressing his frustration.

“The DRP is a party that upholds principles. Those principles are followed by the members of the DRP parliamentary group. When we don’t vote on a matter, we have reasons and justifications to our actions,” he said.

Following the addition of a member to his party’s parliamentary group, an ecstatic Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said that Nasheed and he had common views and principles.

The DRP leader described MP Nasheed as a person of both conviction and principle.

“The way he acts in parliament will prove whether he is a person who sticks to principle,” Thasmeen said.

Meanwhile DRP Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Mausoom tweeted welcoming Nasheed’s decision to join the party.

“Happy Day! Welcome [MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed] to DRP, the responsible political party of Maldives,” he tweeted.

MDP response

Speaking to Minivan News about the defection, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that MP Nasheed and the rest of the parliamentary group members did not share common thinking.

Although he said he did not know the exact reason for the defection, Ghafoor suggested that the move could be for the reason that Nasheed wanted to assure his re-election to parliament.

“Maybe it was an attempt to secure his re-election. But we see that re-election possibilities are high within our own party. We also noticed that he was working very hard to get a position in the parliamentary group which did not bear much fruit,” he said.

MP Colonel Nasheed began his parliamentary career in 2007 following a by-election victory for the Male’ seat of the constitutional assembly that drafted the current constitution. He won the seat on an MDP ticket with a support base of 7,000 votes, but left the MDP to join the Social Liberal Party (SLP) following disputes.

Nasheed again rejoined the MDP ahead of the 2009 parliamentary elections and won the seat of Nolhivaram constituency on an MDP ticket.


Supreme Court invalidates anti-defection clause in Decentralisation Act

The Supreme Court has on Tuesday invalidated clause 119(e) of the Decentralization Act, which had prevented a councilor from switching political parties after he was elected.

The clause was brought into force following an amendment proposed to the Act on January 2011.

The Supreme Court’s seven-member bench held that the concerned clause contradicted the articles 30(a) and 26(c) of the constitution.

The case was filed by Independent MP and lawyer Ibrahim Riza and Lawyer Ahmed Shaheem who argued that the clause was unconstitutional. Jumhoree Party (JP) Youth Wing Leader Moosa Anwar also intervened in the case.

The article 119(b) of the Decentralisation Act states: “Those elected under a ticket from a political party shall lose his seat if he leaves or he is removed from the party he was when elected.”

The new verdict by the Supreme Court will mean that councilors can now switch from party to party without losing their seat.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed ratified the act on May 2010 but rejected a complementary bill on local council elections.

Nasheed at the time said that his then Attorney General (AG) Husnu Suood advised the president’s office that although the decentralization bill would not hamper the implementation of government policies, some provisions were “legally questionable.”

“If the bill becomes law, both the attorney general and this office has noted that there could be legal problems in enforcing it without amendments,” he told the press.

He echoed similar sentiments on the bill in his weekly radio address at the time where he stated that he would sign the bill into law despite misgivings as any further delays would do “more harm than good”.

“I hope that after I ratify this bill, amendments will be made as soon as possible, within the present framework, to change the provisions where these conflicts could arise,” he said at the time.

Although then opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) removed the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s concept of provinces from the government’s bill, Nasheed said the Act did not prohibit the creation of province as it stipulates that new legislation would be needed to form “province councils.”

Despite opposition from MPs in opposition claiming that grouping atolls into seven provinces was unconstitutional as 21 administrative areas or atolls were clearly specified in the constitution, Nasheed later established provinces in an administrative level.

The bill was subjected to several amendments and court cases.

Last August, the Supreme Court ruled that provisions of the Decentralisation Act were not in conflict with the constitution.

In March 2011, former State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem filed a case at the apex court arguing that some provisions of the Act contradicted the unitary nature of the Maldivian state as laid out in the constitution, and requested the conflicting articles be struck down.

Naeem had argued that the Local Government Authority (LGA) created by the Decentralisation Act was not answerable to any government minister while article 140 of the constitution states – “A member of the cabinet shall be given responsibility for each authority or institute established by the government or the People’s Majlis, except for independent institutions specified in this constitution or established pursuant law. Such member of the cabinet must take responsibility for the operation of such authority or institution and must be accountable for it.”

Previously, several councilors lost their seats following removal from their respective political parties.

In March this year, Noonu atoll Maafaru Island Councilor Anwar Abdul Ghanee lost his seat after he was removed from his party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) but contested the by-elections with Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) ticket, winning the seat.