The Parliament has rejected the first bill introduced by President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s administration due to an unprecedented absence of government-aligned members during the vote. 

This incident, which occurred on Tuesday, highlighted a peculiar situation wherein a government’s legislative agenda was stymied by the absence of its own parliamentarians.

The bill in question, sought to create a legal framework for the operation of the Sovereign Development Fund (SDF), was part of the government’s ambitious first 100 days’ agenda. However, the absence of any member from the ruling coalition at the time of voting left the floor open to the opposition, which chose not to participate in the vote, leading to a deadlock.

Deputy Speaker Saleem, who presided over the sitting, expressed his astonishment at the turn of events, stating it was a first in the parliament’s history. Only two members participated in the vote: one in favour and one against, resulting in Saleem casting the deciding vote against the bill. This outcome underscored the gravity of the situation and the government’s miscalculation in securing attendance for a crucial vote.

Government MPs, speaking to the press on Thursday, rejected the vote, alleging there were irregularities on the part of the deputy speaker in calling a vote on the bill. They noted that they were present in Parliament but abstained from the sitting in an act of defiance to the Anti-Defection Bill currently under consideration. They noted that they were not informed of the vote, a claim the deputy speaker has dismissed. 

President Muizzu, addressing the issue at a campaign event, lamented the opposition’s lack of sincerity but sidestepped the glaring issue of his own party’s absenteeism. The president outlined significant milestones achieved in revamping the fund, projecting an optimistic future despite the parliamentary setback.

The SDF was established by President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in 2017 to help pay off state debt.

The incident has ignited a debate on the commitment of parliamentarians to their legislative duties, especially in times of political campaigns. With 28 members present but only two voting, the episode highlights a disconcerting disconnect between legislative responsibilities and political campaigning.

This unprecedented situation—where a government fails to pass its own bill due to the absence of its MPs—raises questions about parliamentary discipline and the challenges of governance amidst the political dynamics of the Maldives.