The July 24 no-confidence vote against the speaker has been cancelled after four MPs were stripped of their seats, Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik informed lawmakers Thursday morning.
Without the disqualified MPs, the number of signatures on the opposition-led motion falls below 42, the minimum required to submit a no-confidence motion, the deputy speaker said.
The Elections Commission contentiously decided yesterday that MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, Mohamed Ameeth, Saud Hussain, and Abdul Latheef Mohamed have lost their seats as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s anti-defection ruling, which says that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will lose their seats once the electoral body notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.
The EC informed parliament on Tuesday that the four lawmakers have been expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives. The commission also announced that by-elections will take place for the vacant seats.
The opposition, however, contends that the move was unconstitutional as only the Supreme Court has the authority to determine questions concerning the qualification and removal of lawmakers.
On Thursday afternoon, the four MPs asked the Supreme Court to overrule the EC decision and declare that their seats are not vacant.
The lawmakers say that the EC decision contravenes both the anti-defection ruling and a subsequent order issued by the Supreme Court clarifying that the new rule “cannot be enforced retrospectively” if any of the three conditions for disqualification arose before July 13.
MPs Waheed, Ameeth and Saud were expelled from the PPM in late March and early April after taking former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s side in an acrimonious leadership dispute with his half-brother Yameen.
The PPM was split into rival factions after the elder Gayoom was stripped of his powers as the party’s elected leader in October last year. The 79-year-old went on to sign a pact with opposition leaders and sought to seize the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party.
MP Latheef, who represents the Dhidhoo constituency in Haa Alif atoll, was meanwhile among ten MPs who signed the no-confidence motion and left the PPM before the Supreme Court issued the anti-defection ruling.
However, the PPM secretariat refused to accept their resignation letters, citing ongoing inquiries by its ethics committee.
It is unclear why the EC deemed Latheef’s seat vacant as he was elected as an independent.
The Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling from the Supreme Court on the day the opposition alliance filed the no-confidence motion with 45 signatures, signalling the collapse of the previously unassailable pro-government majority.