Speaker a mere 'scapegoat' for opposition to 'test waters'

Maldives politics for months, rather uncharacteristically has been in a 'lull.' The once vocal opposition, muzzled in the face of the ever expanding government might has resorted to the censure motion against the parliament speaker as its 'go to' avenue to prevent fading into oblivion.

Despite two failed previous attempts, opposition has launched a fresh bid to oust the speaker, but this time, there seems to be a hint of arrogance mixed with confidence in the air in the opposition side of the fence, given further weight by the incessant show of force by government lawmakers.

The motion is backed by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), a few government lawmakers loyal to the ousted ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former government coalition partners Jumhoory Party (JP) and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

The now 'united' opposition claims that its lawmakers would walk into parliament with the vote already secured. Despite the numbers heavily stacked against their favour, opposition remain confident that it has already swayed 'disgruntled' government votes. They remain convinced the vote at 1.30pm on Monday would be just a formality.

Conversely, government has flaunted its parliament majority in the past few days to snub any suggestion of a rift in its ranks.

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.

  • MDP: 22 MPs
  • AP: 01 MP
  • JP: 07 MPs
  • Gayoom faction: 04 MPs

The numbers, if one dares to predict the way lawmakers would vote, still seem overwhelmingly tilted towards the government. As the speaker himself would not be able to vote along with jailed opposition aligned lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof and deputy speaker Moosa Manik (barring a tie) ruled out, 82 MPs out of the total 85 would be eligible to vote, provided of course the parliament sees a full house.

  • Total MPs: 85
  • MPs eligible to vote: 82
  • Majority: 42
  • Opposition: 34

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.

'Sacrificial lamb' for the big fish

From what has been said by both sides during the past few days, one thing is clear. The speaker does not top the opposition's agenda, but their ultimate prize is the president himself.

The motion is designed to test the government's 'monopoly' over the parliament which would eventually pave the way for an impeachment based on Monday's outcome.

Even the narrowest of margins for the opposition, could mean a significant shift in the present political landscape. For the government, simply defeating the motion would not be deemed as a victory. The nature of the defeat is as important, if not more important.

Government would be looking to crush the motion and with it, quash the hopes of opposition efforts to orchestrate a premature end to president Yameen's administration and send a resounding message to the opposition ranks leading up to the next presidential elections.