Democrats join MDP in boycott of President’s address

Top officials from the MDP and Democrats hold talks in Thoum on January 22, 2024. (Photo/Democrats)

The Democrats have joined the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in boycotting President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s address to the Parliament on Monday, at this year’s inaugural sitting.

In a statement on Sunday night, Democrats said they decided to boycott the address because the three cabinet members who the Parliament rejected last week had been invited to the sitting.

President Muizzu took his oath of office on November 17, 2023. He asked the Parliament for approval for the 22 members of his cabinet, the next day. However, the Parliament went to recess in December without taking the vote.

The Parliament took the long-delayed cabinet approval vote in an extraordinary sitting on January 29.

While 19 out of the 22 members of the cabinet passed the vote, three were rejected. They are:

  • Housing Minister Dr. Ali Haidar Ahmed
  • Islamic Minister Dr. Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed
  • Attorney General Ahmed Usham

The MDP had passed a three-line red whip the day before to reject the three ministers, as well as Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed. Saeed narrowly survived the vote.

But within hours of the vote, Usham, Haidar and Shaheem were reappointed to the cabinet.

The Democrats said they see the decision to be unconstitutional and in contempt of the Parliament’s authority.

This party will not participate in acts that encourage and sanction such illegal acts by the government, reads the statement.

Meanwhile, the MDP said it decided to boycott the address because of President Muizzu’s decision to abandon the years-long practice of making the day a public holiday.

The party said the decision is meant to diminish the Parliament’s honor.

MDP said that another reason it decided to boycott the address is because top government officials were involved in rioting outside the Parliament on the day of the cabinet approval vote, throwing rocks and water bottles inside the Parliament building, and creating fear among the public.

The party accused the government of making no effort to stop the protestors as they threatened and physically assaulted lawmakers, and of attempting to undermine the Parliament’s authority and infringe on its privileges.

MDP said it decided to boycott the address as a form of peaceful protest “in condemnation of the actions of the government that is far removed from democracy.”

Last week, the party questioned the legitimacy of the reappointment of the three ministers, and remains adamant that they will not endorse them. According to the party, the Parliament’s counsel general Fathimath Filza has stated that their names cannot be sent to the Parliament for approval, given the earlier rejection.

The MDP and the Democrats have 56 MPs between them.

The Parliament’s standing orders establish the quorum for sittings as 25 percent of total parliamentarians.

Seven lawmakers resigned from the Parliament in November, to assume top positions in President Muizzu’s administration.

Taking advantage of the situation, the MDP – which holds a majority in the Parliament – amended the Parliament’s standing orders so that vacated seats aren’t counted when determining the total number of MPs.

With the amendment, the total number of MPs is now counted as 80, instead of 87. Therefore, 20 MPs must be present to meet the quorum.

It also lowers the number of votes required to pass a motion to impeach the president.

The Attorney General’s Office has contested the amendment with the Supreme Court, arguing that the Parliament does not have the authority to make the change.

The MDP has warned they plan on filing a motion to impeach President Muizzu before the upcoming session ends in May.