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Maldives Review of Political Trends

The politics of Maldives is complex driven by personal and political rivalries due to the insular, small population and geographic divisions and separation of the atolls. There are also structural challenges.

A presidential republic, the President is head of government and state and enjoys widespread powers as an executive head to appoint the cabinet though approved by the People's Majlis (Parliament) and also commands the armed forces.

Lack of separation of powers has undermined role of the Parliament causing friction in Maldives politics as attempts by the Majlis to regulate the executive has led to contestations.

The current President is Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. President and Members of the unicameral Majlis serve five-year terms, with the total number of members determined by atoll populations. At the 2014 election, 77 members were elected. The People's Majlis, located in Malé, houses members from all over the country.

Maldivian Democratic Party or MDP led by Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed who has been injured in a terrorist attack on May 6 and is convalescing in the UK presently has a majority in the Parliament and it by far the most popular party.

Nasheed however returned to the country in October 2021 but how long remains to be seen.

The main opposition party is the Progressive Party of Maldives or PPM led by former President Abdullah Gayoom. Other major parties are the Republican (Jumhooree) Party or JP, People's National Congress or PNC and Maumoon/Maldives Reform Movement or MRM led by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Political differences are developing in MDP with the speaker of the Parliament Mohammad Nasheed speaking up against his own President Ibu Solih. Dispute over the parliamentary system and radical terror appear to have led to a political rift between Nasheed and Ibu Solih.

Nasheed has raised the differences between him and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih publicly even alluding to talking to his main political opponent and former President Abdulla Yameen and his party Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

In a programme Ask Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed it would be beneficial to conduct a referendum to decide whether Maldives should switch to a parliamentary system of government next year as per Sun Online.

Nasheed believes that opposition PPM and former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom himself will work together with MDP to campaign for a parliamentary system ahead of the referendum. PPM's Deputy Leader, Naifaru MP Ahmed Shiyam stated that the ideologies between MDP/Nasheed and PPM/former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is as different as sky and earth and thus no compromise is possible. Maldives Reform Movement (MRM) 's interim leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that there is no room for a parliamentary system of government in Maldives.

In line with the call by Nasheed, a petition has been prepared calling for a constitutional referendum to switch from a presidential system to a parliamentary system by Central Maafannu MP Ibrahim Rasheed (Bonde). A campaign has also been launched calling for a constitutional referendum for a switch to a parliamentary system.

Meanwhile long absence of the speaker due to convalescence in Europe has led the opposition to call for his resignation. Opposition PNC's deputy leader, Maduvvari MP Adam Shareef Umar, has called on Mr Nasheed to step down from his post as Parliament Speaker, and allow someone else to take his place and does not believe Nasheed, who survived an attempt on his life in May, will return to Maldives.

Speaker and former President Nasheed is also not satisfied with the investigations on the May 06 attack targeting him. He has sought declaration of an emergency and targeting extremism whereas the government

President Solih has appointed the South Asia region human rights expert Abbas Faiz as the government's special envoy to monitor the investigation, prosecution and trial of the May 6 terrorist attack. Solih has also assured that he will be monitoring the case closely. However, the former President back in July threatened to withdraw support for the current administration due to differences of opinion.

While Nasheed is the leader of the ruling MDP, this has led to a rift within the party. While some lawmakers, citing the speaker, have said that the incumbent President has not attempted to check on Nasheed since he left for further treatment, a credible source refuted this and claimed it was the other way around as per Raajje MV but Nasheed is yet to respond to the President, despite having announced that he started using his mobile phone via Twitter on July 6.

Article 253 of the Maldives Constitution provides the country's President with the power to declare a state of emergency in the event of a national security threat in all or part of the country for a period not exceeding thirty days. The Maldives has gone into a state of emergency on multiple occasions. The last one was announced by former President Abdulla Yameen back in February 2018 following a Supreme Court order to release political detainees.

In Maldives, differences over response of the May 06 terror attack on Speaker and former President Mohammad Nasheed is leading to a split in the ruling MDP. The move by Nasheed to hold the President and his team responsible for the attack has led to differences, and now President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared that a majority of the Parliament stands by his side while answering a question asked by a news reporter at a press conference. On the other hand Speaker and former President Mohammad Nasheed has moved a motion in the MDP for declaring a state of emergency.

Declaring a state of emergency to give the police an opportunity to catch religious extremists is a motion passed by MDP's National Congress. This motion was introduced in the 180th meeting of the congress by Nasheed and was passed with the majority votes of 39 being in favor of the motion, out of 43 who took part in voting.

While presenting the motion, Nasheed stated that the appeal was formed to take necessary steps, considering the information shared by the Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed and the Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem on 24th July 2021. Nasheed also stated that he is making this announcement on behalf of the majority of MDP who strongly believe that the country must move into a state of emergency, to determine the extent of the threat of religious extremism and to allow security services to capture terrorists as per Rajje MV.

President Solih affirmed that although the motion was approved by 39 members of MDP's National Congress, there are a total of 142 members in the congress. He then stated that most members did not show up to the voting because they did not wish to move into a state of emergency nor disregard the statements made my Speaker and Former President, Mohamed Nasheed. He also assured that all action will be taken to eliminate extremism from the country.

Weakening of the MDP will result in return of the PPM to the stage in Maldives though elections are some way off. In case a referendum is held on switch to the parliamentary system there will be more flux in the political environment.

The PPM on the other hand is caught in the conviction of former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who has appealed his five-year prison term for money laundering with the court. Yameen was found guilty of laundering USD 1 million from the sale of GA. Vodamula by the Criminal Court on November 28, 2019 and is now looking for relief in the Supreme Court. The court has denied bail, and though it refused to issue a stay of execution of his full sentence, did issue a stay of payment of his USD 5 million fine until the court reaches its decision.


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