Budget sitting stymied as MDP lawmakers refuse to enter chamber

Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer presents the projected state budget for 2023 at the parliament on October 31, 2022. (Photo/People's Majlis)

The parliamentary sitting on Monday morning – where the government was set to present the 2024 state budget and the 2023 supplementary budget – has been suspended due to lack of quorum.

Opening the sitting, Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla said that multiple lawmakers from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were gathered under umbrellas in the Parliament building’s backyard. She said that the Parliament did not have the quorum to hold the sitting, as a result.

Eva said she will continue to ring the quorum bell and wait for the lawmakers.

Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer had informed the Parliament he would be unable to attend the morning sitting to present the budget, citing poor health.

Article 47 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders stipulate that the annual state budget must be submitted to the Parliament by November 1. And it must be presented by the finance minister.

The government had been originally scheduled to present the budget on October 31. However, MDP lawmakers blocked the sitting due to lack of work on a no-confidence motion they filed against Speaker Mohamed Nasheed.

Ameer had decided against attending the sitting under the advisement of Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath.

The no-confidence motion against Nasheed, which was initially tabled for October 26, had remained stymied after Eva, Nasheed’s cousin and fellow Democrats member, called in sick all through that week.

The Parliament’s Secretariat had decided that only the Deputy Speaker can chair sittings in the event of a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.

The MDP lodged a constitutional case with the Supreme Court, which last week found the Secretariat’s decision to halt the motion unconstitutional.

The motion was then re-scheduled to Sunday. But Vilufushi MP Hassan Afeef, who chaired the sitting, rejected the motion and instructed the MDP to re-submit it, agreeing with members of his party Democrats that the it did not fit the standards for a motion.

The Parliament’s Secretariat refused to back the decision and rescheduled the motion for the afternoon. But Eva, who chaired the sitting, said she did not believe the motion could be processed given the presidency’s earlier dismissal of the case.