In the halls of parliament on Monday, a gavel’s echo marked a pivotal moment in the nation’s political sphere. The confirmation of 19 out of 22 of President Mohamed Muizzu’s cabinet nominees, a process that had been delayed for over two months, was finally realised. Yet, this milestone was not achieved without a tumultuous journey, marked by conflict, unrest, and even physical altercations.

The stage was set for a showdown on Sunday, with the parliament scheduled to vote on the cabinet confirmation at 1:30 p.m. The opposition, led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats, had issued three-line whips to oppose specific cabinet nominees.

However, the ruling coalition, an alliance of the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), took an unprecedented step. They disrupted the proceedings and locked out the opposition lawmakers from the chamber.

The opposition’s refusal to confirm specific cabinet nominations catalysed the ensuing chaos. The parliament chamber, once a symbol of order and decorum, descended into a cacophony of disruptive trumpets and shouting. Fistfights broke out, leading to physical altercations between lawmakers from the opposing sides.

As the chaos unfolded within the parliament, supporters of the ruling alliance gathered near Parliament House, some even resorting to hurling projectiles into the compound.

Despite the turmoil, Speaker Mohamed Aslam, from the opposition MDP, attempted to call for a vote to confirm the cabinet nominees. However, the sitting was adjourned as the cabinet confirmation stalled late into the night.

At the second extraordinary sitting on Monday, 19 cabinet nominees passed the vote, but three cabinet picks were rejected.

The ruling coalition’s disruption of Sunday’s sitting led the opposition to collect signatures for an impeachment motion against President Muizzu. Despite collecting 34 signatures—eight more than the required 26—the opposition parties, the MDP and The Democrats, have yet to submit the motion.

The collection of signatures follows a recent amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, spearheaded by the MDP, to effectively lower the threshold of votes required to impeach the president and vice president.

With a majority in parliament, the MDP and The Democrats can impeach the president and vice president using only their votes. They would only require the votes of 54 lawmakers to pass the impeachment motion—the MDP and The Democrats have a combined 57 lawmakers in parliament.

The ruling coalition has hit back at the opposition’s attempt to proceed with the impeachment proceedings against Muizzu, stating it would stop any such attempt. The combined parliamentary group PPM-PNC indicated that it would not allow the impeachment to proceed in parliament, hinting they would disrupt such attempts.

Ahmed Saleem, the parliamentary group leader of the PPM and Eydhafushi lawmaker, made a resolute declaration. “We will not allow it [the impeachment of President Muizzu]. They can only impeach President [Muizzu] after killing us,” he stated at a press briefing on Monday.

Ahmed Thoriq, Member of Parliament (MP) for Mahibadhoo, echoed Saleem’s sentiment. He reminded the MDP that the results of the last presidential election serve as a stark reminder that the political tide does not always flow in their favour. “The impeachment proceedings are carried out by an outgoing parliament. It cannot be done,” he asserted.

The term of the incumbent 19th parliament, a body comprising 87 lawmakers, is set to come to an end on 28 May 2024.