The elections commission has promised to release long-overdue state funding for political parties ahead of the local council elections in January.
“We are trying to distribute the funds as soon as possible. It will be given before the preparations for local council elections begin for sure,” EC member Ahmed Akram told The Maldives Independent today.
“All that’s remaining now is the administrative procedures to distribute the money.”
None of the six registered political parties – including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party – have received the funds despite a legal requirement for the EC to hand it over during the first three months of the year.
Akram blamed the delay on amendments brought to the Political Parties Act, which requires fingerprinted forms for membership, and ongoing court cases.
The MDP, which was asked to re-register half its membership, sued the commission over the withdrawal of its funds. The case is due to go to trial after the parties failed to reach a settlement at the civil court’s dispute resolution phase.
Abdul Aleem, the PPM’s deputy secretary-general, meanwhile wrote to the EC last week seeking an explanation for the delay.
“Since the party needs the funds to cover the expenses of the upcoming local council elections, we request that the funds be deposited to the party’s bank account at the earliest,” reads the letter.
The MDP’s secretary general, Anas Abdul Sattar, also stressed the importance of the funds to prepare for the polls.
MDP MPs have previously said the fingerprint amendment was aimed at reducing the party’s membership and cutting off its state funding. The number of members in a party determines the size of the grant it receives from the state budget.
Some 23,058 of MDP’s 46,608 members could be taken off its registry.
The PPM, the second largest party with 36,232 members, was not affected because the fingerprinted membership form for political parties was first introduced in a regulation in 2010, and by law in 2013.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Aleem also suggested that the attempt to deny the funds for the MDP was responsible for the delay in handing it over to other parties.
“The commission has no right to hold the funds without a court order. The commission has failed,” he said.
Aleem said the PPM had been managing its expenses with financial assistance from “well-wishers” and sponsors this year.
The PPM is presently in the midst of a power struggle between its leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his half-brother, the incumbent president.
He has since launched an agenda to reform the PPM.
Last week, Gayoom instructed the PPM’s elections committees to begin preparations for the council elections. The MDP is meanwhile due to announce its primaries this week.
The polls have been scheduled for January 14, 2017.