Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim to join PPM “very soon”

People’s Alliance (PA) MP and Parliament Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim has revealed he intends to join Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Nazim told local media that despite being PA’s parliamentary group leader, he had always worked closely with the PPM since the party’s inception in October 2011.

PA’s former president, Abdulla Yameen, was elected as PPM’s presidential candidate on Saturday (March 30) ahead of the  2013 presidential elections in September.

“PA was formed for a specific purpose wasn’t it? It was formed for the political future of Yameen as he wanted out of the DRP [Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] at the time,” Nazim told local newspaper Haveeru.

“So when Yameen chose to further his political career through PPM the result is very clear isn’t it? However, my switch to DRP had to be put off as the political party bill was still in the parliament,” he explained.

PPM is the second largest party in the Maldives with a total of 22,765 members, according to February’s figures. The party is led by former autocratic ruler of the Maldives and half-brother of Yameen, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In regards to the PA, Nazim stated that future progress of the Maldives lies with the functioning of larger parties, hence why he voted in favour of the Political Parties Act to dissolve parties with less than 10,000 members.

The Political Parties Act, ratified by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik on March 12, saw a total of 11 parties removed from the Election Commission’s political parties register – including the PA.

Out of the 16 parties that had existed prior to the bill’s ratification, only the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), PPM, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, Jumhoree Party and Adhaalath Party remain registered in the Maldives.

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to smaller parties. But if so there is a fear that it would lead to a tribal system in the Maldives,” Nazim told local media.

“If we start giving every party a seat in the cabinet and companies, the whole thing will function without a proper system. We can see that from the coalitions we’ve formed so far,” he added.

According to local media, PPM will have secured a total of 19 seats in parliament should Nazim sign to the party.

Although Nazim did not give an exact date for the switch, he told Haveeru that it would take place “very soon”.

Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


People’s Alliance confirms “attempts” under way to reconvene Majlis next week

Senior representatives from the government-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) party have said attempts are under way to reconvene the People’s Majlis by next week.  Parliament was indefinitely suspended late last month by Speaker Abdulla Shahid over concerns about maintaining order in the Majlis chamber.

PA MP Moosa Zameer told Minivan News today that Majlis Deputy Speaker and fellow PA MP Ahmed Nazim had confirmed that the speaker was committed to restarting parliament by next week – despite no agenda yet being set.  Both Nazim and Speaker Shahid were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile said it had been aware of the speculation over reconvening parliament next week, but added that it was “impossible to say” ahead of an MDP National Executive Committee meeting today whether an agreement could be reached on the matter.

Just last week, informal parliament-initiated talks – running parallel to the formal All-Party talks – were deemed to have stalled after participants failed to reach a consensus on resolving wider ongoing political deadlock and the suspension of the Majlis.

Following last week’s meeting, resort tycoon and leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), Gasim Ibrahim, called for the resignation of the speaker after he did not appear at the high-level talks.

Shahid said he had decided to suspend Parliament indefinitely pending a resolution to the ongoing political turmoil.

Parliament temporarily reconvened for a one-off emergency session in early August as government-aligned and opposition MPs agreed to extend the General Regulations Act until April 2013.  The Majlis has not held a session since the vote was passed.

However, MP Zameer claimed today that ahead of a Majlis recess scheduled for next month, it was important to reopen discussions between elected MPs through parliamentary channels.  Zameer claimed reconvening parliament remained the most viable path to ensure a potential political breakthrough.

“I think we need to go back to the Majlis, once we have dialogue there, we can begin to discuss key issues,” he claimed. “We need to get back to the Majlis to see what can be done and at least talk about finding a solution.”

Quoting MDP MP Ali Waheed, who represented the opposition party at last week’s informal talks, Zameer said that it had been agreed that it was down to Speaker Shahid to decide on reconvening the Majlis.  He claimed therefore that the MDP was not taking responsibility for the suspension.

The MDP has itself been criticised in local media by the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) for its conduct and perceived role in having parliament suspended, which was claimed to be an “infringement” of democratic rights in the country.

DQP Vice President and Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed was at the time quoted by local newspaper Haveeru in calling for parliament to press ahead with its work to amend and enact national legislation such as through restarting various parliamentary committees.

However, despite the ongoing political stalemate, Zameer contended that it has been possible, despite the current highly partisan environment, to reach compromises in parliament; such as with the recent reconstitution of the Majlis’ committees.

“During the events of the last two months we have discussed and agreed to a compromise that I proposed for the MDP to have more members on the Government Oversight Committee,” he said.

The PA – led by Deputy Speaker Nazim – last month gave up its seat on the Government Oversight Committee to the former ruling party in exchange for one of the MDP’s four seats in the Finance Committee.

Zameer claimed that although there was still concerns amongst government-aligned parties about the MDP’s commitments to ceasing street protests, he believed the Majlis remained the only institution at present where an agreement had the potential to succeed.

“It is certainly a lot better than sitting at home doing nothing,” he said.

Should parliament reconvene next week as speculated by the PA, Zameer added that there were “a lot” of pending issues needing to be addressed, including a number of reports compiled by parliamentary committees that needed to be returned to the floor for debate.

“Had the Majlis convened one week earlier [than currently anticipated] you’d have seen a lot of work being done by MPs,” he claimed.  “There are issues lying there right now that have a wide consensus to be enacted ,” Zameer added, not providing specifics.

MP Ali Waheed, who represented the MDP during last week’s informal parliament-initiated talks designed, was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

However, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the issue of resuming parliament would be discussed at a meeting of the MDP National Executive Committee today. Ghafoor claimed no agreement had yet been reached on setting a date for parliament to resume.

“My understanding is that we will give our cooperation to the Majlis for it to conduct meetings once we have seen how talks are progressing,” he claimed.

Ghafoor claimed that, with the MDP continuing to question the legitimacy of the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the party was waiting for progress in securing early elections through ongoing road-map talks before returning to the Majlis.

“It is impossible to say if an agreement will be reached on resuming parliament. I have been made aware of such suggestions, but there has been no public announcement on this matter,” he said. “Right now this talk [of reconvening the Majlis] is just speculation. There is no room for speculation in the current climate.”


Parliament committees reconstituted

A compromise agreement between parliamentary group leaders to rework the composition of standing committees was approved with 60 votes at today’s sitting of the People’s Majlis.

Two consecutive sittings were cancelled last week to allow parliamentary group leaders to agree on the reconstitution, which was triggered by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hassan Adil joining the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP).

Section 101(b) of the parliamentary rules of procedure stipulates proportional representation in the committees, stating that the number of MPs each party has should be taken as the basis for determining the composition of the 11-member standing committees.

The beginning of today’s sitting was meanwhile delayed to 1:00pm as talks continued between parliamentary group leaders to finalise the agreement. The sitting concluded immediately after the vote was taken, which saw 60 votes in favour and one against.

Following days of negotiations and disagreement over control of powerful oversight committees, a deal was struck on Thursday between the government-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) and the formerly ruling MDP.

The PA – led by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim – gave up its seat on the Government Oversight Committee to the former ruling party in exchange for one of the MDP’s four seats in the Finance Committee.  The PA however gave their Finance Committee seat to the JP.

The agreement sees MDP gain control of the Government Oversight Committee with six seats out of eleven.

Meanwhile, the former main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has two seats in each of the 13 committees, while the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has three seats in seven committees and two seats in six committees.

Following the approval of the reworked composition by the full Majlis today, Speaker Abdulla Shahid expressed gratitude to Deputy Speaker Nazim and parliamentary group leaders for their cooperation in reaching the agreement despite “serious disagreement”.  He went on to urge MPs to continue in the “spirit of compromise.”

The agreement reached today, said Shahid, was the result of lengthy discussions last night among the speaker, deputy speaker, Majority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.


EC Secretary General resigns

Secretary General of the Elections Commission, Ahmed Shareef, has resigned reports newspaper Haveeru.

President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq confirmed Shareef’s resignation, the paper said.

Fuad told the paper that Shareef had not mentioned the reason for his resignation in his resignation letter.

Shareef originally joined the EC after leaving his role in the People’s Alliance (PA), the party headed by Gayoom’s half-brother, MP Abdulla Yameen.


Religious NGOs to hold “protest to protect Islam” on December 23

A coalition of religious NGOs have claimed that 100,000 people will join a protest in December “to protect Islam”, and called on “all Maldivians to take part”.

Speaking to the press at the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) studio, President of the NGO Coalition Mohamed Didi said that more than 127 local NGOs, music clubs, political parties and Island Councils would take part in the protest on December 23.

According to MNBC, Didi said the protest was not a movement against the government but a movement “against all un-Islamic ideas.”

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef warned that “our faith will not be shaken by something someone says, but because of these things it might turn the non-muslims living in neighboring countries against us.’’

MNBC reported that the People’s Alliance Party (PA) had called on parents to bring children to the gathering.

Local newspaper Sun quoted Didi as saying that the government had been conducting many activities with the motive of erasing Islam from the country, and claimed that the NGO coalition was “left with no other choice but to protest to protect Islam.”

Senior officials from the Adhaalath Party, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Jumhoree Party (JP) were present at today’s meeting.

Claims that national monuments placed in Addu for the SAARC Summit were idolatrous and hostility towards a call by UN Human Rights Ambassador Navi Pillay for a national debate on flogging sparked protests in Male’ recently.

“This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country,” Pillay said, referring to the practice of flogging a punishment for fornication.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Yameen announces intention to join Gayoom’s party, run in presidential primary

Opposition People’s Alliance (PA) Leader Abdulla Yameen has announced his intention to sign up for the new political party recently advertised by his half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, reports Haveeru.

The MP from Mulaku told Haveeru that Gayoom’s creation of a new political party was “widely requested” and due to “no other choice”. He said MPs from PA and Gayoom’s opposition faction had voiced concerns that  the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) was not fulfilling its duties.

The PA will not be dissolved in the wake of Yameen’s departure, Haveeru reported. Instead the party would form a coalition with the new, as yet unnamed party. Yameen told Haveeru that he was no longer involved in the People’s Alliance.

Yameen further announced that intends to run in the new party’s presidential primary. He added that he will support whoever the party chooses for the 2013 presidential election.


People’s Alliance splits from DRP

The People’s Alliance (PA) party, headed by the former President’s half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen, has broken its coalition agreement with the main opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).

“PA MPs decide they were unable to continue working within the DRP coalition, as they were not receiving support from the DRP,” said the PA’s acting Secretary General Ahmed Musthafa.

“The PA’s Council and MPs felt that [DRP leader] Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction was not cooperating with the PA. The Z-DRP faction also urged us to break the coalition agreement,” Musthafa said.

The Z-DRP is a faction of the DRP affiliated with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which split from the party following the DRP Disciplinary Committee’s decision to oust then Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

Musthafa added that the party was not yet sure how the decision to break the coalition would affect the opposition’s narrow operating majority in parliament, “although we will still be working with opposition MPs and the Z-DRP.”

The decision would require that the committee allocation decision in parliament, which resulted in parliamentary deadlocks last week and ultimately the removal of disruptive Z-DRP MPs by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), be revisted, Musthafa said.

DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that the PA’s breaking of the coalition agreement would “break the hearts” of the DRP’s support base in constituencies with a PA MP.

“In the Majlis election [the PA] in Meemu and Laamu Atoll asked for DRP support. These [constituencies] have a huge DRP support base and people there will be very uncertain because of today’s decision. They are very loyal to the DRP but voted for the PA tag,” Dr Mausoom said.

He suggested that the PA’s decision “could be a way for those people with discontent about the committee allocation [in parliament] to bring the issue back to the table.”

Dr Mausoom declined to speculate on whether there was now potential for the formation of new coalition between the Z-DRP and the PA, but did make one observation: “I think this is the beginning of the road to 2013.”


Yameen would support DRP’s Thasmeen in opposing government – media reports

People’s Alliance (PA) party leader Abdullah Yameen has told local media that he will cooperate with Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, despite the fellow opposition head’s involvement in factional infighting with certain former political allies.

Thasmeen has been engaged in a war of words with some serving and former DRP members, who have formed a faction called the Z-DRP in support of Yameen’s half brother and former national President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Newspaper Miadhu reported that Yameen has claimed he will nonetheless work together with Thasmeen on matters opposing the government, even with the DRP head engaged in a war of words with the Z-DRP.

The PA leader was reported as stating that he would work with any members of the DRP or Z-DRP to hold the government accountable for their actions

The Z-DRP faction is headed by serving DRP MPs like Ahmed Nihan and Ahmed Mahlouf, as well as the party’s dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and Gayoom.

Yaameen was unavailable for comment when contacted by Minivan News concerning the comments.


PA Deputy Leader takes DRP Leader to court

Minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) Deputy Leader Ahmed Nazim has sued coalition partner main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to recover more than Rf2 million (US$155,600) allegedly owed to him.

According to Haveeru, Thasmeen’s lawyer argued at the Civil Court hearing on Thursday that Nazim’s claim was unclear as a number of financial transactions occurred between the pair during the presidential and parliamentary elections, requesting that the court ask Nazim to specify how the loan was given as well as the terms agreed upon for repayment.

After Nazim’s lawyer produced a document with Thasmeen’s signature, Judge Hathif Hilmy pointed out that the purported loan agreement had a reference number and it was therefore reasonable to expect Thasmeen to be aware of the details of the amount in question.

The judge adjourned the hearing after ordering Thasmeen’s lawyer to respond to the claim at the next court date.

Deputy Speaker Nazim is suing Majority Leader Thasmeen to recover Rf1.92 million (US$149,400) allegedly unpaid from a loan worth Rf2.55 million (US$200,000) along with Rf100,000 (US$7,782) incurred as lawyer’s fees.