Ruling party in favour of abolishing voting rights of armed forces

PPM's deputy leader and Fonadhoo MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla speaks at press conference. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/MIHAARU

PPM’s deputy leader and Fonadhoo MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla speaks at press conference. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/MIHAARU

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on Thursday declared that they were in favour of banning the armed forces from voting in elections, proclaiming that the government is not looking to politically influence and manipulate the military to their whims.

PPM made the remark at a press conference held by the president’s faction of the divided ruling party. Pointing out that giving voting rights to the military is advantageous to whichever ruling party is in power at that time, PPM declared that incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is not looking to take such illicit gains. On the contrary, the president wishes to establish an unbiased and independent environment in which armed forces can serve the nation.

Speaking in defence of Minister of Defence Adam Shareef’s announcement on Tuesday that he will seek to abolish Subject 20 of the Armed Forces Act which accords the right to vote to the police and military, PPM expressed confidence that the parliament will pass the bill after it is realised and submitted for review.

The party’s deputy leader and Fonadhoo MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla declared that the entity that will be at the greatest political disadvantage should this bill come to pass is PPM itself. He added that voting rights granted to armed forces invites political influence to the military which is a power under oath to protect the sovereignty and interests of the country.

“Making the military an unbiased force is beneficial to the nation, paving the way to maintain its peace and harmony,” he said, going on to point out that there have been incidents where armed forces took part in political movements.

Vaikaradhoo MP Ali Areef elaborated on these arguments, declaring that the majority of armed forces are in favour of PPM. Describing the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s philosophy as destructive to the nation and, thus, unpopular among the military, he said, “If there is any damage to be caused by preventing [armed forces] from voting for those who wish to build and develop the nation, [PPM] are the ones that will be damaged. But we’re willing to do this for the sake of national interests.”

He also highlighted that the Constitution bans armed forced from taking part in political parties, political activities and labour associations.

PPM’s parliamentary group leader and Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan seconded these points, adding that curtailing the right to vote for some forces is done in certain other countries.

The ruling party also accused the opposition of attempting to politicise the armed forces to incite unrest among the community. Vowing that the government will not stand for such actions, PPM vowed to establish the military as an unbiased force.

Defence Minister Adam Shareef announced the decision to bar the military from voting in elections during the inauguration of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF)’s 12th Drill Competition late Tuesday. He stated that the objective of this decision is to separate the Maldivian military from political influences and to remove bias. However, the announcement was met with criticism and censure from the opposition and some legal operatives.

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