Supreme Court anti-defection ruling: roundup of reactions

Supreme Court anti-defection ruling: roundup of reactions
July 16 13:26 2017

The Supreme Court’s controversial anti-defection ruling threw into doubt the opposition’s bid to unseat the speaker and wrest control of parliament with defections from the divided ruling party.

In a joint statement, the four-party opposition alliance called the ruling “a deliberate and politically motivated attempt by President [Abdulla] Yameen to thwart the no-confidence motion” and “an egregious example of the executive’s continual manipulation of the judiciary to retain power and obstruct the opposition’s majority in parliament”.

Former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, who signed a coalition pact with the Jumhooree Party and Adhaalath Party in March, pledged to support the re-election campaign of any MP who is stripped of his seat.

“God willing I will work to re-elect any member who loses his seat for working for the sake of the people.”

“Don’t be concerned about losing your seat after signing the no-confidence [motion] against the speaker. With God’s will, we will take back your seat for you.”

Ministers and ruling party lawmakers meanwhile welcomed the ruling as “a victory for democracy” and celebrated the end of the “MPs transfer market.”

Shortly after the ruling was issued Thursday evening, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan invited renegade MPs who left the party after signing the no-confidence motion to return.

Ten MPs left the Progressive Party of Maldives after the Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling, but the party’s secretariat refused to accept their resignation citing ongoing inquiries by its ethics committee.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, MPs who were elected on political party tickets will lose their seat once the Elections Commission informs parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties. The disqualified lawmaker will be able to contest the by-election triggered by the vacancy.

“The PPM [parliamentary group] is ready to welcome back all the members who went away.”

“Today is a victory for democracy in the Maldives. A day when the constitution’s power was upheld. A day of victory for the compassionate government,” said the PPM’s deputy leader.

“Thank you for the Supreme Court’s important effort to protect the country from corruption and mischief.”

“This is a victory for the Maldivian people!”

“The people have been assured of their power…Thank you Supreme Court, President Yameen”.

“This resolve will not change in the slightest,” said the minister of fisheries and agriculture.

“Reforming the nation in name only. What is hidden is grabbing power, evading trial, plunging the nation into unrest and strife,” said the economic development minister.

Most of the dissenting MPs, however, expressed defiance and vowed to vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed despite the threat of disqualification.

“There will be no compromise even if I lose my seat. I will vote against Maseeh. This is the time to move forward with courage.”

“I will remain steadfast with this work as the people want. Don’t despair!”

“No change to determination. I will remain steadfast in the righteous path.”

“I will vote against Maseeh even if I lose my seat, this is best for the nation.”

“I will continue to protect the rights of the people and the nation.”

“The constitution has passed away late this evening.”

“The constitution cannot be buried alive. I will not change my thinking, resolve, courage or work. God willing, I am with the people.”

MPs Abdul Latheef Mohamed and Hussain Shahudhy also declared that they would not return to the PPM.

Former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain, who was contentiously removed in late 2014, meanwhile argued that the court’s power to interpret the constitution “could not be stretched to the extent to amend or change the constitution.”

My dissent …Sc had the power to interpret of const, could not be stretched to the extent to amend or change the…

Posted by Ahmed Faiz Hussain on Friday, 14 July 2017

At a press conference late Thursday night after the ruling was issued, leaders of the opposition joint parliamentary group said the MPs who signed the no-confidence motion will stand firm despite the threat of losing their seats.

MP Faris Maumoon suggested that the Supreme Court ruling was designed to block the opposition’s path to a majority in the 85-member People’s Majlis.

The opposition maintains that the constitution limits the Supreme Court’s authority over lawmakers to determining questions concerning their qualification or removal as laid out in Article 73. An MP will be disqualified if he is sentenced to more than a year in prison, has a decreed debt, or becomes a member of the judiciary.

In a blog post published before the ruling was issued, MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – a former legal reform minister and PPM lawmaker who has largely remained silent amid the political turmoil – also questioned if the court could “birth a new reason or circumstance” where MPs could lose their seat, without adding a provision to the constitution.

With Thursday’s ruling, MPs could be disqualified if they are dismissed from the party for defying a whip-line or any other reason.

Opposition lawmakers say the ruling is also inconsistent with a Supreme Court precedent and the political party law.

In 2012, the apex court ruled council members will not forfeit their seats for switching parties.

The political party law meanwhile states that membership can be relinquished without prior notice and that elected representatives will retain their seats despite expulsion from the party.

“There’s nothing about a party [in the MPs’ oath of office].”