Maldives govt faces first true test in Speaker censure motion

The Maldives government has endured rather tough times during its three year tenure in office. Since incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom took office in 2013, the government has bled political support and the once mighty coalition has dwindled to a single ally.

In recent months, an unprecedented turn of events has seen the government face mounting pressure from even the ruling party as president Yameen took his half brother and former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom head on in a bid to wrest party control.

President Yameen won the battle as a court order -- backed by the appellate courts had handed control him of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). However, the war seems far from over as the elder Gayoom has since intensified a push to rally support to his faction and has successfully managed to even further isolate the government from key political opponents.

During the past three years, the government much to the dismay of the opposition has reveled in complete control of the parliament richly aided by the once wide coalition.

However, after the row between the two Gayooms reached an unpleasant end, the ruling party has been split right down the middle and the elder Gayoom has secured the backing of key political players -- especially in parliament, leaving question marks over the extent of control president Yameen currently has in legislature.

The no confidence motion against Speaker has been seen by many as the opposition's way of 'testing the waters.'

According to the parliament rules of procedure, a no confidence motion against the speaker can only be filed with the signatures of at least 15 lawmakers stating reasonable grounds for removal and would go for a vote after a debate on the parliament floor.

A simple majority of lawmakers present during a respective sitting is sufficient to pass the no confidence motion.

The increasing political isolation for the government means that every political party with presence in parliament barring one, has taken up arms against president Yameen. Gayoom meanwhile has already rallied several lawmakers to his side, though their respective loyalty when 'push comes to shove' remains to be seen.

The elder Gayoom having secured Jumhoory Party (JP) support last week, backed by the government's main foes Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) has considerably tilted the parliament's power dynamics to threaten the government's 'monopoly' over it.

  • MDP: 22 MPs
  • AP: 01 MP
  • JP: 07 MPs
  • Gayoom faction: 07 MPs

However, the government remains adamant that the opposition, even after losing lawmakers to Gayoom would not be able to muster enough votes to challenge the government.

The numbers, if one dares to predict the way lawmakers would vote, seems to back such confidence. As the speaker himself would not be able to vote and with jailed opposition aligned lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof ruled out, 83 MPs out of the total 85 would be eligible to vote in the censure motion, provided of course the parliament sees a full house.

  • Total MPs: 85
  • MPs eligible to vote: 83
  • Majority: 42
  • Opposition: 36

However though the numbers still appear to favour the government, the opposition refuses to rule pulling off an upset claiming that several government lawmakers could still defect or at least break whip-line on the day.

But such optimism appears unlikely as the motion would not be put to a secret ballot which could potentially discourage any allegedly aggrieved lawmaker from defying the government stand.

The government has yet to fail in any of its endeavours in parliament. But the censure motion is undoubtedly the first of, possibly many future attempts by the opposition led by the former strongman Gayoom to unsettle his half brother's government.

But as things stand, despite the volatile and unpredictable nature of Maldives politics, the opposition seems unlikely to sway the censure vote in its favour.