The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has seen thirteen of its parliamentarians defect to the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) in an unprecedented political realignment. Their membership forms were handed over to the PNC leader, President Mohamed Muizzu, at a ceremony held Thursday night.

The parliamentarians who have chosen to cross party lines include; Ibrahim Shareef (Maradhoo), Mohamed Nihad (Feydhoo), Ahmed Haitham (Mahchangolhi North), Ali Hameed (Isdhoo), Abdulla Shaheem Abdul Hakeem (Kanditheem), Abdul Ghani Abdul Hakeem (Kurendhoo), Hassan Zareer (Mathiveri), Ibrahim Naseer (Mulak), Abdul Muhsin Hameed (Nilandhoo), Adam Ali (Maafannu South), Mohamed Raashid (Komandoo), Hassan Shiyan (Thoddoo), and Ibrahim Shaz (Guraidhoo). Despite this significant shift, the MDP still holds the majority in parliament.

This move strengthens the PNC’s position in the parliament, elevating them to the status of the minority party with a total of 15 MPs. It also significantly reduces the MDP’s representation, dropping from 56 to 43 members.

Speaking at the function, Muizzu hinted at further potential defections from the MDP. He expressed confidence that there are more MPs within the MDP who support his leadership and would not vote against him in any impeachment proceedings. He voiced his expectation of seeing them join the PNC in the near future.

Concurrently, allegations of political foul play have surfaced. Galolhu South MP Meekail Ahmed Naseem, of the MDP, has accused President Muizzu of engaging in the ‘buying and selling’ of lawmakers. These claims have been staunchly denied by the President’s Office, with Chief Spokesperson Mohamed Shaheeb categorically refuting the bribery allegations at a recent press conference.

The government’s recent decision to retain Mizna Shareef, daughter of Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef and Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia, in her post, despite a general recall of ambassadors, has fueled speculation about possible incentives for the MPs’ party switch.

Amidst these accusations, the identity of several other MDP parliamentarians rumored to be considering a switch to the PNC remains undisclosed. The situation hints at a potential escalation of internal party rivalry ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections, further complicating the political dynamics within the Maldives.

Additional reporting by Andrew Richards