NEW DELHI: Who needs an Opposition in the Maldives when a former president and co-founder of the ruling party, Mohamed Nasheed, is playing this role quite effectively?
This is the question being increasingly asked by many within and even outside the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that Nasheed co-founded with current president Ibu Solih. Nasheed is also the Speaker of the Maldivian Parliament where his party has 65 of the 87 seats.
Nasheed has many firsts, he was the Maldives first democratically elected president in 2008, is the acknowledged poster-boy for democracy, human rights and climate change as well as a darling of the foreign media. But he’s turning out to be a chronic headache for his own party. His recent actions are seen as helping the Opposition, in particular the China-leaning Abdulla Yameen who lost the elections two years ago.
“Nasheed poses the biggest opposition to the MDP and to president Solih. He’s playing the role of the Opposition better than the Opposition itself and is thus paving the way for the Chinese,” said sources within the Maldivian government, alluding to Nasheed accusing two Solih cabinet ministers of corruption — finance minister Ibrahim Ameer and economic development minister Fayyaz Ismail.
“If the Ibu Solih-led government fails, the Opposition gains, China gains as well while Indian interests will be hit hard. Nasheed berates China and talks about the Chinese debt-trap yet at the same time is playing into its hands,” the sources warned.
To add to Solih’s woes, the Opposition is already stirring the anti-India cauldron, accusing him of “selling-out” to India. No specifics have been mentioned but it comes after a slew of big ticket India-funded projects were announced.
Nasheed says all he wants is a “clean party” and has demanded that Fayyaz “recuse” himself from his ministerial duties. In the case of Ameer, Nasheed has accused him of corruption in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded national single window project. Nasheed even sought to move a vote of no-confidence against Fayyaz in the Majlis but was unable to muster the required number of signatures to introduce it, despite the two-thirds majority his party enjoys. Both ministers have denied the accusations and Solih has stood by them, but what about Nasheed?
“As the Speaker, should Nasheed not be above party politics?” asked an MDP member. He also noted the fact that Nasheed is both party president and Parliament Speaker. This is usually not the case in democracies and is problematic, he added. “Also, it’s odd that as Speaker he was seeking to move a resolution against a minister of his own party’s government, that too as the first signatory. If there is a problem, should it not have been raised either within the party or with the president first?”
There is also a buzz that the recent move by an Opposition lawmaker to introduce a bill in Parliament seeking a parliamentary form of government, had Nasheed’s backing. The Bill proposed that until this form of government becomes a reality, the Parliament Speaker should lead the country.
So why is Nasheed rocking the boat of his very own government? Does he want to be president? His partymen believe so. If Ibu Solih’s government performs well, it would diminish Nasheed’s standing and perhaps even a second shot at the presidency.
“If the huge India-funded infrastructure projects do well and Solih is credited with carrying out constructive work, Nasheed would naturally be nervous,” remarked an MDP member.
Nasheed was unable to contest for the 2018 presidential polls as he was barred from doing so by the Election Commission. Solih, MDP co-founder became the President instead. Unlike the garrulous and high-profile Nasheed, the reticent Solih believes in going about his job quietly and efficiently. He was known to be an effective leader who played a constructive role even while leading the MDP’s parliamentary group in the Majlis when in the Opposition.
StratNews Global reached out to Nasheed through his personal website, seeking his response to this report. At the time of writing this copy, there was no reply to the two e-mails sent to him.