The elections commission has struck off nearly half of the Maldivian Democratic Party’s members from its registry after the parliament approved a law requiring all political party members to submit their fingerprint records.
Some 18,803 members were removed, reducing the main opposition party’s membership to 27,805 members.
Other parties affected by the law include the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party. The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, which emerged as a breakaway faction of the DRP in 2011, will not be affected.
The PPM, with 37,633 members, is now the largest political party in the country.
The DRP lost nearly 10,000 members, and now has only 3,966 registered members. The JP’s membership was reduced by 3000, while some 1000 members were taken off the AP’s registry.
The JP now has 10,989 members, and the AP has 9,009.
A fingerprinted form for political party membership was first introduced by a regulation in 2010, and by law in 2013. Then in July 2014, the elections commission gave all parties a six-month deadline to re-register all members whose fingerprints were not on file.
The MDP and the DRP challenged the order at the civil court, arguing that the requirement cannot be applied retroactively, a view the attorney general has supported.
Nine months after the court battle began, a PPM MP proposed an amendment to the Political Parties Act, requiring all members submit fingerprinted membership forms within 30 days or be taken off the party registries.
It was passed with 40 votes in August, and political parties were given a deadline of October 11 to re-register members whose fingerprints were not on file at the commission.
Although the PPM claims the law is necessary to prevent fraud, MDP MPs said it was aimed at reducing the party’s membership, and cutting off its state funding, as the number of members in a party determines the size of the annual grant it receives from the state budget.
The elections commission has meanwhile withheld funding for all political parties citing leadership vacuums and mismanagement by some parties.
None of the six registered parties have received state funds this year, despite a legal requirement obliging the election commission to distribute the funds during the first three months of the year.
The AP and DRP will no longer be eligible for public funding as the parliament has also set a threshold of 10,000 members to be eligible.