The People’s Majlis has revised the political parties law to bar members who lose primaries from contesting elections on the ticket of a different party or as independent candidates.
Amendments proposed by ruling party MP Saud Hussain was passed 41-29 at Wednesday’s sitting of parliament with opposition MPs denouncing the move as an unjustifiable restriction of the constitutional right to seek public office.
The change was proposed as a deeply divided ruling party scrambles to fight an opposition coalition in January’s local council elections. The Progressive Party of the Maldives was plunged into civil war when President Abdulla Yameen and his half brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, began fighting for the control of the ruling party.
The amendment by Saud states that a “political party member who contests in a political party primary, in order to obtain the said party’s ticket for an election sanctioned by the Maldivian constitution and laws, must not stand in that election in any other capacity.”
If a candidate who contested a political party primary applies to contest elections in any other capacity, the elections commission must disqualify their candidacy, it states.
When losing candidates contest the elections independently or on the ticket of another party, it causes “anger between members of political parties, which then paves the way for chaos,” Saud said in his justification for the change.
The Yameen faction has now indefinitely postponed the parties primaries. The faction said in a statement that they are “working on deciding which candidates who will contest in the local council election on behalf of the party,”
The faction cited not having a complete registry of the party. They said that therefore “until the PPM has decided otherwise, the parties primary has been indefinitely postponed..”
Gayoom faction secretary general Abdul Aleem told the Maldives Independent that the Yameen faction is giving excuses for being unprepared.
“They will have the registry, it is just an excuse as they are still unprepared,” he said.
Aleem said that Gayoom loyalists will contest in both the primary and independently.
On Sunday, the civil court ordered the elections commission to indefinitely extend the voter registration period for January’s local council elections pending a judgment on the ruling party’s request to delay the polls.
The court issued a temporary order after the Yameen faction filed a case seeking court intervention to postpone the election by two months.
The deadline to register for voters who wish to vote outside their constituency or overseas was due to expire on Monday. But the re-registration process will now continue until further notice, the elections commission said in a statement.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has requested the court to let it join the proceedings.
The MDP in a statement on Monday said that the party condemns the Yameen faction’s use of the courts to take away the validity of election against the constitution. The party also said that the faction was taking away the people’s right to vote and destroying the country’s democratic system.
The party also noted that the MDP along with coalition partners, AP had held primaries, chosen candidates and prepared for the local council election when the case was filed. They said that delaying the election through the courts because the Yameen faction is unprepared “proves the amount of influence on the election”
Spokesman for the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, Ali Zahir, told the Maldives Independent that the party was completely against the amendment and that it obstructs the rights entitled to the people by the constitution.
“The constitution allows the freedom to contest in elections. This means that if a candidate loses the primary from one party, he is disqualified from that election. This is an effort to protect the interests of certain individuals,” he said.
Zahir questioned the ability of the elections commission to conduct polls fairly but encouraged the people to use their right to vote.
“There is no hope of a free and fair election. What parties and the people can do now is to be courageous and use their right to vote. We should also try to closely monitor the election, like how many people came to vote and we will at least have the satisfaction of knowing the reality,” he said