Grand Alliance politics are not new to Maldives. Such coalitions were formed twice in the past – in 2008 to defeat Maumoon Gayoom and in 2013 to unseat Mohammad Nasheed.
The first round in the Yameen vs. Grand Alliance bout offered no surprises. On Monday, March 27. President Yameen survived without much effort. His camp adopted crude tactics though.
The challenge from the combined opposition was the no confidence motion against the Speaker, Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed. The ruling PPM with 48 MPs and its coalition ally MDA with six MPs have comfortable numbers in the 85-member Majlis, the Parliament. On the Opposition side, Maldivian Democratic Party has 21 MPs while the Jumhooreee Party seven MPs; Anara Naeem is the sole Adhaalath Party lawmaker.
Before the proceedings began, the ruling camp was down by two votes- Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed (as he was facing no trust vote) and, Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik (as he was sitting in the chair). Still they were with the half way mark, and just 42 votes were enough to check mate Maumoon- Nasheed combine’s plans.
Yet, the Opposition hoped to fare better. Presence of PPM chief, and former strongman, Maumoon Gayoom in the Grand Alliance boosted the hopes of defections from the treasury benches to swell their numbers. The hope did not materialise though four PPM MPs (Faris Maumoon, Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, Mohamed Musthafa, and Mohamed Ameeth), one MDA lawmaker (Hussain Areef) openly supported Maumoon, and the no trust vote was defeated “amidst heightened tension”, as Maldives Independent reported “as it happened”.
The public galleries were closed and journalists were denied access to parliament, but photographs shared on social media, and live feed on face book of some Opp MPs shared on social media showed chaotic scenes.
1:37 pm – Opposition MPs are protesting inside the chamber as the deputy speaker calls a vote on Majority Leader Nihan’s vote for a roll call vote.
2:21 pm – The deputy speaker is attempting to restart the sitting with security personnel surrounding the speaker’s well.
2:18 pm – Riot police are dispersing opposition supporters gathered outside the MDP office near the parliament building.
2:59 pm – About 100 opposition supporters have gathered again outside the MDP office. The protesters remain on the pavements. The police have left the area after a previous attempt to disperse the crowd with pepper spray.
3:20 pm – Security personnel are forcibly evicting MPs whose names were called by the deputy speaker.
3:37 pm – A live Facebook feed from MP Nihan shows female MPs Eva Abdulla and Mariya Ahmed Didi dragged out by two women in plain clothes.
3:33 pm – PPM MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, MDA MP Hussain Areef and MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa have also been removed.
3:26 pm – More videos from Majority Leader Nihan of opposition MPs being dragged out of the chamber by soldiers.
3:30 pm – MDP MPs Ali Azim, Ali Nizar, Mohamed Rasheed Hussain, Mohamed Abdul Kareem, Imthiyaz Fahmy, Mohamed Falah, Fayyaz Ismail and Mohamed Nazim have been forcibly taken out of the chamber.
3:49 pm – Police raid MDP’s office with a court warrant that said the party is disrupting public order.
3:59 pm – 13 opposition MPs removed in all.
4:17 pm – opposition MPs walked out. 13 opposition MPs were evicted; Electronic voting rejected. Roll call ordered. Chair declared the motion defeated.
4:30 pm – At a press briefing by the opposition alliance, Minority Leader Solih and Gasim Ibrahim insisted that the vote was void. “It was cast in breach of the parliamentary rules. We will resubmit the no confidence motion (against Speaker)”.
After the vote Maumoon Gayoom tweeted: “What we saw in Majlis today was total disgrace. The extent of Govt’s fear of a free vote. All the reason why we must overhaul the system!”
An immediate fall-out of the Tuesday vote was President Yameen’s decision to sack the country’s former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as the supremo of the ruling PPM. Yameen has taken executive control of the party. “Gayoom has been sympathising with the opposition. His ideology no longer aligns with that of the PPM,” a ruling party official said by of explanation for the sack order.
The no trust vote against the Speaker came a day after four party alliance was formed. Main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), Jumhooreee Party led by business tycoon, Gasim Ibrahim and Islamist Adhaalath Party of Sheikh Imran Abdulla closed ranks with former strongman Maumoon Gayoom, President’s half-brother, to take on President Abdulla Yameen. Maumoon is still the president of the ruling PPM though he has parted ways with Yameen last.
In their declaration on March 25, the four political heavyweights resolved to “protect ownership of the land, sea and natural resources”, “find a resolution to the political discord afflicting the country”, “safeguard civil and political rights abrogated from citizens”, and “ensure elections held in the Maldives are free and fair in which candidates of political parties choosing are allowed to contest.”
The four parties also decided to work together to “secure freedom for all individuals who have been arrested, under investigation, on trial, or convicted of politically motivated charges”, “prevent corruption and embezzlement within the government”, and “seek the restitution of transactions and properties unlawfully seized from citizens by the government”.
In a tweet, Maumoon Gayoom said he signed the agreement “with the good intention of reforming the country”.
Nasheed also in a tweet, said: “We’ve relentlessly worked to find common ground. This agreement will allow us to steer the country onto democratic path.”
Sheikh Imran, who has been under house arrest since April last year, was quoted as saying: “When division, mistrust and competitive politics are cast aside, and political parties of differing ideologies decide to work together, we understand the dire situation facing the country,”.
Grand Alliance politics are not new to Maldives. Such coalitions were formed twice in the past – in 2008 to defeat Maumoon Gayoom and in 2013 to unseat Mohammad Nasheed. Gasim has made common cause with Nasheed as the government targeted his business empire that straddles tourism, resorts, shipping and media. Sheikh Imran is facing music for siding with Nasheed and Maumoon.
—malladi rama rao