President Mohamed Muizzu’s decision to reinstate three cabinet ministers, despite their nominations being rejected by the parliament, is a move to exert undue influence on the upcoming parliamentary elections, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused. This allegation comes when the Elections Commission (EC) is gearing up to hold the parliamentary vote on 17 March, which falls during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

The ministers at the centre of this controversy are Attorney General Ahmed Usham, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and Minister of Housing, Land and Urban Development Dr Ali Haidar Ahmed. Their reinstatement occurred on the same day the parliament confirmed 19 of the 22 cabinet ministers nominated by President Muizzu, challenging the parliamentary decision and seeking subsequent approval, which remains pending.

Ahmed Easa, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kendhikulhudhoo and MDP’s campaign spokesperson, has characterised the retention of the three rejected ministers as an overt encroachment on the powers of the parliament and a flagrant disregard for the democratic decision of the people. These actions represent a strategic manoeuvre by the government to manipulate and potentially influence the outcome of the parliamentary vote, he alleged.

“Parliamentary authority is no longer being respected. Decisions made by the parliament are being challenged. Bills passed by the parliament are being withheld and not signed into law. Legal proceedings are being initiated regarding decisions made by the parliament,” stated MP Easa when questioned by Maldives Republic.

The MDP alleges that the government is manipulating the election outcome by intimidating government employees and utilising the social media platforms of state-owned companies to promote candidates from the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC).

The bill proposing to delay the parliamentary vote for a post-Ramadan date was forwarded to President Muizzu on 11 February. However, the president declined to sign the bill into law and returned it to parliament on Monday for reconsideration.

The MDP, which spearheaded the bid to delay the vote, contends that political activities during the fasting month would pose challenges for political parties, candidates, and voters. Attorney General Usham, one of the unconfirmed cabinet appointees, deemed the MDP’s bill to be in conflict with the Constitution.

This controversy unfolds as President Muizzu accuses the opposition-controlled parliament of succumbing to foreign influence by refusing the confirmation of three cabinet nominations. While he did not specify a country directly, these claims come amid deteriorating relations with India and the opposition’s close ties with the country.