After weeks of friction within the main ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the party has once again shown why it is at the top of the game.
Following April’s parliamentary election, Central-Mahchangolhi constituency’s MP-elect and MDP’s leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed endorsed North-Hithadhoo constituency MP Mohamed Aslam for speaker in the 19th parliament.
While the new MPs will take oath of office on Tuesday night, reports of incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih lobbying for Vilufushi constituency MP-elect Hassan Afeef surfaced days ahead of the vote.
MDP has a supermajority in the 19th parliament, with the party securing 65 of the 87 seats; five of them had expressed interest in being speaker. But the toughest competition was between Aslam and Afeef, with party members expressing their frustrations in its leaders via social media over the matter.
The party’s parliamentary group met on Monday night, to take a vote on its nominees for speaker and deputy.
At this meeting, we saw the biggest “plot twist” of the year.
“Drama of the year”
The newly elected parliamentary group met at 9:30pm on Monday, with the former president presiding.
At the beginning, he read out the votes that were to be taken at the meeting, with the second one being the vote for speaker and third being vote for deputy speaker. The first vote asked whether the MPs-elect would prefer a secret a vote on the matter, which they unanimously decided against.
Next, North-Galolhu constituency MP Eva Abdulla nominated Aslam for speaker, who stood up next and decided to nominate Nasheed.
However, Nasheed declined the nomination, but his name was presented again, this time by Afeef.
While Nasheed seemed hesitant still, a standing ovation led to his requesting “one phone call.”
While he is yet to disclose who the call was to, it is speculated that it was to the incumbent president.
He then returned to the meeting room, and accepted the nomination. 64 MPs, out of 65, that attended the meeting unanimously voted in favor of him.
The party then took a vote for deputy speaker nomination, and MP Eva Abdulla was nominated. She also received 64 votes.
Afterwards, former President Nasheed spoke to the press and ensured that the people “will see a difference” in the upcoming parliament.
Nasheed said that he accepted his nomination after considering the difficult situation within the party and out of respect to the members’ wishes.
However, he declined to reveal whom his “one phone call” was to.
“No, it was a personal call,” said Nasheed when journalists inquired on the matter.
He, however, highlighted that that he “always” discusses and debates on issues with President Solih.
Following the decision, President Solih congratulated Nasheed and Eva “as MDP’s most senior official.”
All eyes on MDP
There is no doubt that MDP’s decision tonight, was solely in the party’s interest.
Given the situation on social media, and within the party, it was headed for an inevitable split with both senior officials and members seeming to take sides on the matter.
Despite the appearances and efforts to present a unified front, it turned out to be a “ANNI vs IBU” situation.
And to further provoke party members during the rocky situation, opposition party People’s National Congress (PNC) voiced support for Afeef, describing it as “the president’s choice.”
A number of people gathered near Dharubaaruge ahead of the meeting, and there were rumors of the possibility of a physical altercation- depending on how the vote went down.
And the party of officials were aware that the only way to avoid this was to nominate the former president for speaker.
Whatever happened to MDP following April’s parliamentary election, it is certain that the party would not have a supermajority of 65 members in parliament if not for him. He is the one that fought for the party to contest in all constituencies, while some other senior officials wanted to distribute the seats with coalition partners.
MDP has shown its commitment to democracy over and over again, from how they handled last year’s presidential election to how they chose to broadcast tonight’s meeting live- where votes were taken with show of hands.