The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party launched a membership recruitment drive in Malé and its suburb Hulhumalé last week.
The MDP said in a statement on Thursday that it is aiming to re-register more than 23,000 members –nearly half of its 48,000 members – before the end of the month. The Elections Commission had imposed a deadline of December 31 for parties to re-register members who had submitted membership forms before a requirement for fingerprints was enforced.
The recruitment drive took place at the party’s meeting halls in the capital and its suburb last week, the MDP said, adding that the party’s women’s wing is planning to expand the recruitment activities to the rest of the country.
The requirement for fingerprints on membership forms was introduced in a regulation in 2010 and by law in the 2013 Political Parties Act.
The EC has ordered all parties to re-submit forms for members who had not submitted fingerprints by the end of the year. If not, the members will be taken off the party registry, the commission has warned.
The party’s founding members, including imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed, will also have to resubmit membership forms.
On November 23, the MDP and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party filed a case against the EC at the civil court. The case is due to go to trial after the parties and the independent commission failed to resolve the dispute through mediated discussions.
Political parties receive funding from the state based on the number of members.
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, formed in 2011, is not required to re-register members as all of its membership forms held fingerprints.
The MDP was the first political party to register in 2005, followed by the DRP.
The PPM, which emerged as a splinter faction from DRP, has 36,232 members. The DRP has 14,750 members, and the Jumhooree Party has 13,990 members.
The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has 9,009 members, but has submitted an additional 1,000 forms in early November.
If the MDP is unable to re-register 23,000 members, the PPM will become the largest political party in the Maldives.
While the DRP has to re-register 10,000 members, the Adhaalath Party and JP have to re-register 2,866 members and 2,764 members, respectively.
The EC has previously said it receives complaints from the public about being registered to political parties without their knowledge or consent.
The commission has set up mechanisms to check party registration either through text messages or on the official website.
A text message sent to 1414 with PPR space followed by the national ID card number would show if the person is registered to a political party. Alternately, the EC website has an online database to check party registration by entering the ID card number.
The EC in 2014 fined the PPM, MDP, JP, Adhaalath Party and DRP for submitting fraudulent membership forms.
The commission in September 2014 fined the Jumhooree Party for a ninth time after it discovered repeated fingerprints by 36 people on some 258 new membership forms.
The PPM was also fined in March 2014, after it emerged that the ruling party had submitted forms on behalf of a dead man.
The Anti Corruption Commission in 2012 interviewed 100 members of then-President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) and alleged 85 percent of those polled had no knowledge of ever joining the party.