Government proposes mandatory re-registration of opposition party members

Government proposes mandatory re-registration of opposition party members
March 23 17:49 2016

A ruling party MP has proposed changes to the Political Parties Act to make it compulsory for members of political parties to resubmit membership forms with fingerprints.

MP Ibrahim Didi submitted the government-sponsored legislation to the parliament on Tuesday amidst an ongoing court battle over the Elections Commission’s plans to de-register tens of thousands of members from opposition parties.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had contested the EC’s declaration in June last year that that all political party membership forms without fingerprints were invalid. The MDP, the first and largest political party in the country, would have lost nearly half of its members if they failed to fill new forms by December 31.

But the High Court on February 1 issued a stay order halting the EC’s mass de-registration process, pending the outcome of a case lodged at the civil court by the MDP, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The parties are arguing that the requirement for fingerprints cannot be applied retroactively. All three parties were formed in 2005, while the new condition was first introduced in a regulation in 2010, and later by law in the 2013 Political Parties Act.

The amendments submitted yesterday by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Feydhoo states that political party members who had registered without submitting fingerprints must do within a month after the changes to the political party law are ratified.

Members who fail to do so would be removed from the party’s official registry at the EC.

The condition does not apply to the ruling PPM as it was formed in late 2011 when fingerprints were required on membership forms.

Didi’s amendment is likely to pass as the PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance control a comfortable majority in the 85-member People’s Majlis.

Speaking to The Maldives Independent today, MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy called the proposed changes “absurd” and accused the government of trying to reduce the MDP’s membership in a bid to limit state funding.

The size of a party’s membership determines the amount of funding it would receive from the state budget. Some 10,000 members are required to be eligible for state funding.

“You cannot make laws like that, in a way that makes something done under a previous law null. If such a law is passed, MDP itself could be become a defunct party, because even the founders, the creators of the party wouldn’t be members,” Imthiyaz said.

The MDP had expended a lot effort, time and money to reach more than 48,000 members, he added.

“You cannot place an additional burden on citizens for something done under a previous law,” the MP for Maafanu North contended.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil had also reportedly advised the EC that it cannot de-register members as the Political Parties Act does not state that its provisions will apply to members who joined before the law came into force.

The PPM, which emerged as a splinter faction from the DRP, now has 36,232 members. The ruling party would become the largest party in the country if the MDP loses half of its members.

The Adhaalath Party meanwhile has 9,009 members, but has submitted an additional 1,000 forms in early November.

While the DRP was required to re-register 10,000 members, the Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party were to re-register 2,866 members and 2,764 members, respectively.