GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 694, 11 June 2023

Political Crises in Maldives
Immaculine Joy Paul C

What happened?
On 7 June, the ruling party's parliamentary group, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), lodged a no-confidence motion targeting the parliamentary speaker and the leader of MDP, Mohamed Nasheed. He was accused of stalling a no-confidence motion against Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath over the latter's failure to act in the best interest of the Maldives in the maritime dispute with Mauritius. 

On 6 June, the new party 'The Democrats' filed an emergency motion in the parliament. It complained of government intimidation of those who signed up for the party.

What is the background?
First, the long-standing internal feud within the MDP. A factional conflict emerged between parliamentary speaker Mohamed Nasheed and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. While having no quarrel over foreign policy stance (both Nasheed and Solih are pro-India and anti-China), Nasheed has pointed out key shortcomings in Solih's domestic governance relating to adherence to party ideology and constitutional reforms. Nasheed also accuses the Solih regime of corruption and changing or using rules to suit his political interests.

Second, turmoil in the opposition party - PPM. The main opposition and second largest party, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), is facing challenges, with its leader and presidential candidate, former president Abdulla Yameen serving a jail term on a money laundering case. 

Third, the difference between Nasheed and Solih over the nature of the political system. Both had agreed before the 2018 Presidential election that, within 18 months of coming to power, Solih would hold a referendum on changing the country's Presidential system to the Parliamentary system. But Solih failed to hold the referendum. Nasheed believes that the Presidential system would lead to concentration of power, dictatorship, and corruption, while the parliamentary system would be more democratic. He also believes the parliamentary system would provide a conducive environment for inter-party coalitions to work better in the country.

Fourth, the ITLOS and Mauritius. Earlier in April, ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas) ruled on a maritime dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius that the conflicting Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the two would be divided based on the equidistance formula. The Maldives gained 47,232 square kilometres of the disputed maritime territory, while Mauritius gained 45,331 square kilometres. The opposition argues that the Maldives is entitled to 95,563 square kilometres and alleges President Solih influenced this move by recognizing the Chagos as part of Mauritius. Previously, Nasheed criticized Solih, holding him responsible for losing a portion of the Maldives' maritime territory in the border dispute with Mauritius. Maldives National Party (MNP) 's leader, Mohamed Nazim, wants to sue President Solih for the loss.

What does it mean?
First, the divisions can potentially disrupt the upcoming September presidential elections. There is also a fear of a lack of consensus in the national decisions, thereby hampering the democratic process or the concern for people's welfare. 

Second, the current turmoil in the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) can potentially create violence as the Opposition PPM-PNC combined have threatened to halt the elections if their jailed leader Abdulla Yameen is not allowed to contest.

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