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Anti-defection bill ratified

The sign-off means a dozen ex-ruling party MPs, who were already previously contentiously disqualified, have lost their seats in parliament.



President Abdulla Yameen Wednesday ratified controversial legal changes to punish convicted judges and lawmakers who defect.

Changes to the Judges Act mean that judges convicted of a criminal offence can be removed from office, without parliament’s involvement, after the appeal process has been completed.

The anti-defection bill penalises floor crossing and unseats a dozen ex-ruling party MPs, who were already previously contentiously disqualified.

The opposition has challenged the legality of Tuesday’s parliament votes on both bills as the ruling coalition lacked the constitutional quorum needed to pass laws.

An appeal was made to the Supreme Court for a swift ruling to strike down the bills as unconstitutional.

More than half the 85-member house must be present for voting on “any matter requiring compliance by citizens”. But only 39 MPs attended Tuesday’s sitting.

“I can’t accept this,” said MP Mohamed Musthafa, one of the 12 lawmakers.

“This is like crazy people doing the bidding of a mad person and the people are asked to believe it. No one will. First thing is the law says anyone who crossed the floor after July 13 [2017]. All the 12 lawmakers resigned from the party by July 11.

“The PPM charter says that any member’s resignation is effective immediately. Then this act violates the constitution and the political parties act. It is very clear in the constitution how MPs will lose their seats.

“I call on journalists and media also to stop reporting that we have lost our seats. We have not. This law is unconstitutional and invalid,” he added.

Last year the Supreme Court ruled that MPs elected on political party tickets would lose their seat if they left their party, got expelled, or switched parties.

The attorney general sought the anti-defection ruling on the day the opposition coalition secured a clear majority and tried to impeach the parliament speaker.

But the removal of MPs who crossed over to the opposition was used to quash the no-confidence motion and restore a smaller pro-government majority.

In its landmark February 1 order, the Supreme Court had cited parliament’s failure to enact a new law dealing with floor crossing for the court’s decision to overturn its earlier anti-defection ruling.

Photo: Mihaaru