By Ashna Butani
The opposition of the Maldivian house of Parliament was expected to impeach Speaker Abdullah Maseeh Mohamed, amidst growing tension among the members, on the 24th of July, 2017. However the parliament was shut down, on orders by President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and the process was impeded.
A no-confidence motion in the Maldivian Parliament was expected to give way to the Speaker’s impeachment, on Monday. The Speaker, Maseeh, a key ally of the President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, was to be impeached on the grounds of ignoring corruption as well as rights abuses. The motion was a severe blow to the President, who ordered the military to shut-down the Parliament and stop the impeachment of the Speaker. The infuriated opposition says that the motion has gained the support of 45 lawmakers in an 85-member house.
Not the first time
In March, the opposition posed the first threat to the President’s power by going against the ruling party and passing a motion to impeach the Speaker. The opposition holds that Maseeh is responsible for an unfair conduct, disregarding the rule of law, and eroding checks and balances.
He has also, allegedly, denied ministers the right to reply before being removed from the house. In the past, he has deliberately ignored the requests of the opposition to summon MP’s to answer questions of national importance. “The speaker’s actions have eroded public trust”, said the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in a statement.
After the expulsion of an opposition member, the entire opposition walked out in protest. The opposition members stated that the majority party suddenly changed the electronic voting system. This led to them questioning whether the new system would show how the members voted. The controversy stirred tensions, thereby leading to the Speaker’s survival. The President, a close ally of the Speaker, is expected to be the reason for the Speaker’s unforeseen survival.
Reasons for the president’s action
The president ordered a military lockdown on Monday, thereby thwarting the process of impeachment, once again. Mohammad Nasheed, the first democratically elected President of the Maldives in 2008, sided with the MDP. He has been in exile in London, ever since he was charged with supporting terrorism in 2015. The opposition has been working to free those members that have fled into exile or have been jailed. Had Nasheed’s party won the ruling, the law would have been overturned, thereby resulting in his return.
President Gayoom tweeted an appeal to all MP’s to vote ‘NO’ to Speaker Maseeh’s removal in March. However, this time, he resorted to an order to the army. His approach has been called undemocratic and unconstitutional. Soldiers from the Parliament were dragged out by the military, and the opposition will not forget this. The issue of the impeachment of the Speaker is yet to get a verdict.
If the opposition succeeds in removing the Speaker and appointing their own, it will face fewer hindrances and more support in parliamentary decisions. Hence, the verdict will also make way for a possible opposition victory in the Presidential elections, next year. The issue is one to look out for in the near future, as it will indicate which side is more likely to emerge victorious, amid the tailspin of Maldivian politics.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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