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#Maldives: President Waheed secures major victory: Parliament Committee opens door for Government Bills

#Maldives: President Mohamed Waheed Hassan's Government today secured a major victory in Parliament. The Parliamentary Committee on General Matters unanimously approved a motion to amend Parliamentary Regulations to allow Government bills to be tabled to Parliament by MPs belonging to Dr. Waheed's coalition partners.

Dr. Waheed's Government has been shackled in the Legislature due to the lack of even a single MP from his party Qaumee Itthihaadh. Parliamentary Regulations state that a Bill by Government can only be tabled by a member of the ruling President's Party. The amendment passed in Committee today states that a Government Bill can be tabled by an MP belonging to any of the parties in the ruling Coalition. The amendment will now go to the Parliamentary floor for a vote.

The ruling coalition has a nominal majority in Parliament and can pass the motion if all goes well. However, one of the major coalition partners in Govrnment in terms of MP numbers, Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP), has in recent weeks been in vocal opposition to the Government on several matters. DRP leaders and MPs, including DRP Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, have criticized government for its policies and lack of action on major economic issues. In return, the President's media group, including his Spokeperson Abbas Adil Riza, have attacked DRP Leader Thasmeen Ali on several issues. The critical divisive issue between the DRP and the coalition of parties in Dr. Waheed's National Unity Government apears to be the issue of continuation of the lease agreement for Male' International Airport between Indian multinational giant GMR and Government.

The amendment was proposed by MP Riyaz Rasheed of the Qaumee Party. Qaumee Party, formerly in coalition with DRP, has been vocally critical against DRP on public media, criticising its leaders for their stand on the "GMR issue". Riyaz Rasheed has called for DRP to be evicted from the coalition. Qaumee Party is seen to be now very closely aligned with Dr. Waheed's Qaumee Itthihad, fuelling speculation that its leader Dr. Hassan Saeed may be Dr. Waheed's running mate in the 2013 Presidential Elections. Dr. Saeed and Qaumee Party are crucial to any challenger for the presidential post given its strong voter base in Addu Atoll, the second largest voting population in the country. Dr. Saeed successfully swung away from incumbent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom a large percentage of the Addu vote in 2008, a substantial contribution to Gayoom's defeat by the opposing alliance.

If the amendment is passed in Parliament, it will remove the shackles on Dr. Waheed which have prevented the Government from tabling substantial legislation to address critical issues including those on social and economic matters.

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