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Maldives court reinstates four lawmakers

A total of 12 MPs were deemed to have lost their seats for defecting.



Four lawmakers have been reinstated after the Supreme Court ruled Monday they were unlawfully stripped of their seats for defecting.

Judges issued verdicts at separate hearings for MPs Abdullah Sinan, Ilham Ahmed, Saudhulla Hilmy and Abdulla Ahmed.

A dozen former ruling party lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats when they backed impeaching the parliament speaker in mid-2017. Their defection realigned the parliamentary majority in favour of the opposition.

But their disqualification was used to quash the no-confidence motion against the speaker and restore a pro-government majority.

The court said its July 2017 anti-defection ruling was misapplied by the Elections Commission to unseat the 12.

According to the verdicts, MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the EC notifies parliament that they have either left their party or been expelled.

It was clear that the four were expelled from the Progressive Party of the Maldives long before the July 13 ruling, which could not be applied retroactively, the judgements said.

Earlier this month the court reinstated Mohamed Ameeth, Abdul Latheef Mohamed, Saud Hussain and Mohamed Waheed, who were also deemed to have lost their seats.

An additional four – Mohamed Abdulla, Mohamed Musthafa, Hussain Shahudhee and Ali Shah – are awaiting judgements after the apex court concluded hearing their cases.

The EC decided to hold by-elections as the constitution requires vacant seats to be filled within two months.

But the lawmakers challenged their removal at the Supreme Court, which the constitution says must settle disputes concerning “the removal, or vacating of seats, of a member of the People’s Majlis.”

With the apex court previously unable to reach a judgement since hearings began in August 2017, 60,000 constituents have been deprived of representation in parliament for more than a year.

The 12 insisted they remained lawmakers until the court said otherwise, but soldiers and police officers barred their entry to the parliament building.

File photo of the parliament building under lockdown from February