The Elections Commission has asked the High Court to support its decision not to recognise the “unlawful” congress of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives in September.
The extraordinary congress was held days after President Abdulla Yameen’s election defeat and he was elected the PPM’s president along with four deputies.
But the electoral body refused to endorse the decisions, prompting the PPM to seek a court order to compel the EC to recognise its new leadership as duly elected.
At the first hearing Monday afternoon, EC lawyer Riffath Abdulla cited several irregularities, including non-members acting as delegations at the congress.
The party’s statutes require ballots to be cast at a voting booth but EC observers noticed that a ballot box was carried to each delegate, he told the court.
Four deputy leaders were elected despite an announcement to elect three, he noted.
Information was missing from the minutes submitted to the EC, he continued, and the PPM failed to comply when given the opportunity for resubmission.
The PPM could not provide details of 49 delegates, except their names, when requested by the EC.
He also questioned the legitimacy of a council meeting held prior to the congress where four clauses from the party’s electoral rules were abolished without an announcement. The minutes for the council meeting were not submitted to the EC.
Abdulla Shiyaz, the PPM’s lawyer, claimed the party had acted in accordance with the political parties law, the PPM charter. and electoral rules.
The EC decision not to endorse the congress was unlawful, he contended.
The presiding judge, Mohamed Faisal, gave the PPM lawyer three days to respond. Judges Hassan Ali and Hussain Shaheed were also part of the three-judge panel hearing the case.
The hastily-arranged congress was widely seen as a move to avert a likely challenge by Gayoom – the PPM’s founder who was elected as the party’s leader at the last congress in 2013 – to reclaim leadership.
The PPM was split into rival factions when Gayoom was stripped of his leadership role by the civil court, which ordered Yameen – who previously held a ceremonial role as the party’s chief advisor – to resume council meetings under his leadership.
The council promptly put the president in charge of the party.
But Gayoom disputes the legitimacy of the Yameen-led council, insisting he remains the PPM’s leader. The 82-year-old went on to join forces with opposition parties to form the broad coalition that defeated Yameen at the polls.