Joint Statement: President Yameen Rushes Rule Changes Ahead of Second Parliamentary No Confidence Vote

9 April, Male’: President Yameen’s faction of the ruling party has proposed abrupt and arbitrary changes to the Parliamentary Standing Orders, designed to derail a second no confidence motion submitted against the Speaker of Parliament.

The cross-party no confidence motion, submitted on Sunday, was signed by 31 MPs. The MPs include those from the main opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), together with members from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the Jumhooree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and an independent MP.

Within minutes of the motion’s submission, though, the government-controlled Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs passed an amendment to the Parliamentary Standing Orders. The Standing Orders state that support from a minimum of 15 MPs is required to submit a no confidence motion against the Speaker. The minimum requirement has now been changed to 42 signatures. The amendment also states that the changes will be applicable to any motions that have already been submitted, thereby ensuring that the oppositions’ second motion is invalidated.

The Constitution of the Maldives states that the Speaker of Parliament can be removed by a simple majority of those MPs present in the chamber for the vote. Therefore, demanding 42 signatures is both arbitrary and unconstitutional, because the Speaker can be removed with less than 42 votes if attendance is low on the day of the no-confidence vote.

The Yameen faction’s behaviour in parliament demonstrates the panic measures the President is willing to undertake in order to try and maintain his increasingly precarious grip on the legislature.

On 27 March, the Speaker, a Yameen crony, only survived the first no-confidence motion because of serious voting irregularities, and because the military had forcibly removed opposition MPs from the chamber. Despite this, the vote saw President Yameen’s majority in parliament collapse to 48, from the 60-plus votes he used to command earlier in the year.

Since the 27 March vote, President Yameen has jailed the leader of the Jumhooree Party, Hon. Qasim Ibrahim, on spurious charges and has instigated a campaign of harassment and intimidation on all opposition leaders and a number of lawmakers. In an attempt to stifle dissent, President Yameen has also heightened his crackdown on the media and on peaceful political activity.

President’s Yameen’s actions are a contemptible attempt to further erode the separation of powers by undermining the independence and effectiveness of the legislature. With these underhand tactics, President Yameen has shown, once again, that he is prepared to subvert the institutions of state to maintain his increasingly fragile and illegitimate hold on power.