The High Court on Thursday overruled the Elections Commission’s decision not to recognise the congress of the Progressive Party of Maldives in September.
The extraordinary congress was held days after former president Abdulla Yameen’s election defeat.
He was elected as 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.
The High Court ordered the EC to list the new leaders in the political party registry within 24 hours and to register amendments brought to the PPM’s charter or governing statutes.
The judgment came after the EC requested a change in the three-judge panel hearing the case. The presiding judge, Mohamed Faisal, was formerly the president’s appointee to the judicial watchdog.
The other judges were Hassan Ali and Hussain Shaheed.
During the hearings earlier this month, EC lawyer Riffath Abdulla cited several irregularities as grounds for the EC decision, including non-members acting as delegations at the congress.
Four deputy leaders were elected despite an announcement to elect three, he noted.
But the High Court noted changes to the PPM statutes were approved before the election.
Other issues raised by the EC included failure to observe a requirement for ballots to be cast at a voting booth as a box was carried each delegate.
The statutes did not require the ballot box to be kept in a specific place, the High Court noted, adding that secrecy of the ballot was ensured.
The appellate court ruled the congress was organised in compliance with procedures stipulated in the party’s charter and relevant laws.
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 previous 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 disputed 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.
A lawsuit filed by two PPM members seeking an order to hand over the leadership to Gayoom is currently before the Supreme Court.