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#Maldives: Tremors in Ruling Coalition in The First Weeks of #Yameen's Presidency?

#Maldives: As the Yameen Abdul Gayoom presidency settles in to its third week, signs of discontent are appearing among the government coalition. The new government came to power in a narrow win of 51.39% of a wide coalition of several parties led by Progressive Party of Malives (PPM) against a solitary opposition, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by former President Mohamed Nasheed. Yameen's narrow victory can in fact be attributed to influential business man Gasim Ibrahim throwing his full weight and that of his party (Jumhooree Party) and coalition partners behind Yameen in the final runoff. Gasim, a candidate himself for Jumhooree Coalition, came third in Round 1 of the elections, with a significant voting block of 48,131 votes (23.35%). Core members of Jumhooree Coalition were Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

As the new Government settled into power, cabinet seats and other political appointments were rapidly distributed amongst coalition partners. Out of the 15 members Yameen’s cabinet, only five ministers are from Yameen’s PPM. The remaining 10 ministerial portfolios are of parties of the parties which backed Yameen. Gasim's leverage is evident in the core cabinet seats secured (Transport, Trade, Energy, Attorney General). The powerful post of Home Minister was also by Gasim secured for his coalition partner, former PPM Deputy Leader and formerly anti-Yameen campaigner Umar Naseer. Umar Naseer was resoundingly defeated by Yameen in PPM's presidential primaries in early 2013 following he began a strong anti-campaign against PPM and Yameen which eventually resulted in his dismissal from PPM. Adhaalath Party secured two cabinet seats, Islamic Affairs, and Housing. PPM coalition partner MDA also bagged one cabinet seat.

The government's woes have arisen due to the fact that elections for Local Council and Parliament (Majlis) were announced while it struggled for fair distribution of political appointments to coalition partners. Local council elections has been scheduled for January 18 whilst Majlis elections will be on March 22, 2014. Following the announcement, Gasim Ibrahim immediately declared that his party Jumhooree Party would contest both elections in collaborations with PPM/MDA, a very heartening move for the Government. 

However, coalition partner Adhaalath has been equally quick to declare it would contest separately in both elections for significant number of seats (32 Majlis seats and roughly 104 Council seats). Adhaalath is estimated to have a significant support base in some areas which may secure it Council seats. However, its support base may not be strong enough to defeat PPM Coalition or MDP for more than one or two Majlis seats. Given this, it is obvious that Adhaalath, while not winning by itself, will do maximum damage to PPP Coalition candidates by eating into their votes.

As the Yameen Government struggles to quickly agree with Gasim Ibrahim and remaining partners on distribution of Council and Majlis seats. MDP has thrown another spanner in the works by declaring that its MPs will not endorse non-PPM nominees to the cabinet. This is a possibly move targeted at leveraging Gasim Ibrahim away from the government coalition for the upcoming elections. Speaker Abdullah Shahid has informed the Goverment that if the parliamentary government oversight committee can complete the assessment of the ministers before December 23, he plans to schedule the parliament vote on the cabinet during the sitting on December 29.

During the short period after elections, Yameen has reportedly already done several deals with MDP. Two crucial deals were MDP's withdrawal of its no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker of Majlis PPM's Ahmed Nazim, in return for which PPM withdrew its no-confidence motion against Speaker MDP's Abdullah Shahid, much to the dismay of PPM Coalition supporters.

Yameen has also reiterated publicly that his government would not be investigating or prosecuting any alleged crimes by Nasheed's government, as it had confidence in the independent institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission whose mandate it was to investigate such matters. These moves are construed by some as part of ongoing maneuvering with MDP. He has further expressed confidence in the Judiciary and stated a non-interference policy, a policy which has drawn criticism in the light of the scandal related to Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed.

In spite of this, last weekend government scored a big hit by getting a Supreme Court ruling overturning provisions in the MPs Priviledge Bill, followed by the swift arrest of MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a move strongly condemned by MDP. Government has also taken strong action in the military by sacking senior officers and personnel who supported MDP's stand by petition during the interim period between the annulled vote of September 7th and the rescheduled vote.

As MDP and Adaalath gear up for the local council elections, PPM coalition appears to be struggling to agree on seat distributions for both elections. In the meantime, government appears to be swiftly moving forward in its work, with Ministers expounding policies to implement the campaign manifesto. A further strong move has been to patch deteriorated relations with regional big brother India, with Yameen invited to make his first state visit overseas to India late next month. Interestingly, this is balanced by the announcement that China will provide Maldives with xx in aid. As the days proceed it can be seen that the Yameen government is proceeding cautiously, yet in tandem with opposition MDP. It remains to be seen how long this honeymoon period will last, as slight tremors and faults keep appearing within the ruling coalition, and between PPM and MDP.

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