With the cabinet resigning en-masse and the arrest of two opposition politicians, the island nation appears to be in grip of a political crisis as the power struggle between the President and the Opposition intensifies.
President of Maldives Mohammad Nasheed and the opposition-dominated Majlis (Parliament) are on a collision course ahead of a vote of no-confidence against the Education Minister.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet resigned accusing the opposition MPs of “hijacking” the powers of the executive and making it impossible for the Ministers to discharge their constitutional duties and deliver the government's election manifesto. The Maldives has a presidential system of government, with separation of powers among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary guaranteed under a Constitution enacted in 2008.
The President and the Vice-President are elected for five years directly by the people. Mr. Nasheed and Vice-President Waheed were elected in October 2008. The Majlis has 77 directly elected members. The new Parliament members were sworn in in May 2009. The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which is aligned to the People's Alliance party, has the upper hand with 34 seats in the Majlis and the support of a number of independent MPs.
On Wednesday, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party charged the government with illegally detaining members of the opposition to influence the outcome of the no-confidence vote. In an e-mail statement, the party said it was unconstitutional to hold Majlis deliberations in the absence of leader of the People's Alliance Abdulla Yameen and of the Jumhooree Party, Gasim Ibrahim. A statement from Mr. Nasheed's office quoted him as saying: “The Majlis is preventing the Cabinet Ministers from performing their legal obligations. Majlis members are behaving against the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.”
“Every passing week, there is another attempt by opposition MPs to wrestle more control from the executive. They are making the country ungovernable,” the statement quoted Attorney-General Husnu Suood as saying.
The opposition, however, maintained that the resignation of the Cabinet and the imprisonment of leading opposition members was a reaction to the passing of an amendment to the Public Finance Act, which prevents the President from selling, leasing or giving away the assets and wealth of the country without approval from Parliament.
“The injudicious and reckless decision taken by the President, today, will no doubt haunt the country and act as a serious setback to a young democracy with serious repercussions in the future,” said the opposition statement.