Maldives govt confident of 'reversing' lawmaker defections

Despite losing several lawmakers to the ever growing opposition, government on Monday appeared calm with a senior minister insisting that the government could sway many opposition lawmakers to quit the opposition coalition and crossover to the government.

Deposed ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has joined forces with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohamed Nasheed, former government coalition partners Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla to pen a historic treaty to work together against the government.

Gayoom lost a bitter power struggle for PPM’s control with the party’s incumbent leader, president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom after the civil court handed over party reins to the younger Gayoom.

The rift between the two brothers has split the party in two, which ultimately ended with the elder Gayoom publicly withdrawing his support for his brother.

The elder Gayoom has since been sacked from the ruling party along with his lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

Since the new opposition coalition was formally announced, the government has continued to bleed lawmakers to the former president Gayoom's faction.

However, fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee expects the "power-hungry" coalition to break-up in the near future.

"There would always be MPs looking to switch sides. So that means there would be MPs who would crossover from MDP to our side. Same goes for JP. We can play the same game. But their sincerity would be questioned by the people in 2019," Shainee who is the chief government representative of the all-party talks said during a program on government aligned TV station 'Channel 13' on Monday evening.

Referring to former presidents Gayoom and Nasheed, the minister alleged that the only reason why the once political adversaries who had vowed they would never "get into bed" with each other, have teamed up because they cannot "digest" the unprecedented development president Yameen has brought to the country.

The opposition coalition is a desperate attempt to impede the development projects by inciting political turmoil in the country in order to hold onto their flailing hopes of regaining power in 2018, he alleged.

Despite failing twice, Gasim still thirst for the presidency, while Gayoom wishes to pave the way for his lawmaker son Faris to be president, he added.

Shainee also said the self-exiled former president Nasheed would not allow anyone else to lead MDP to the next presidential elections while former vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed shared similar ambitions.

"The so-called coalition will remain only until its time to pick a presidential candidate. It won't survive beyond that. Because we can't see anyone of them stepping aside. Ultimately we would see them stabbing each other in the back. Because no MDP supporters would come out and vote Gayoom's son as president," Shainee added.

"Similarly, Gayoom's supporters won't back Nasheed's presidential bid. And JP members won't vote for anyone else but Gasim."

According to Shainee, the government does not expect the opposition to accept the recently extended invitation for all-party talks as the opposition does not want meaningful dialogue.