The High Court issued today a stay order halting the Election Commission’s de-registration of tens of thousands of members from opposition parties.
The order was granted following a complaint lodged at the civil court by the Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party over the EC’s declaration that all political party membership forms without fingerprints were invalid.
This means that 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 MDP, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and the Adhaalath Party are contesting the new condition, 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 high court ruled in MDP’s favour after civil court initially denied the request.
The appellate court said that if members are de-registered they risked losing their right to freedom of association.
Attorney General Mohamed Anil has previously advised the EC against the new conditions, but the commission’s lawyers in court yesterday said that they had disregarded his opinion because it was not a court ruling.
Hearings on the validity of the new conditions are yet to begin at the civil court.
The condition does not apply to the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives as it was formed in 2011. The PPM, which emerged as a splinter faction from the DRP, now has 36,232 members.
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.
The religious conservative Adhaalath Party 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.
Additional writing by Zaheena Rasheed