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Political parties given deadline to re-register members under new fingerprint law

Political party members whose fingerprints are not on file at the elections commission have until October 11 to submit their records under a new law



Political party members whose fingerprint records are not on file at the elections commission are being required to re-register after President Abdulla Yameen signed into law a new bill requiring fingerprinted forms for political party membership.

The amendment to the Political Parties Act threatens to take nearly half of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s members off its registry.

Other parties affected by the law include the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party.

The elections commission says it has given parties a re-registration deadline of October 11.

The law does not affect the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, which emerged as a breakaway faction of the DRP in 2011.

A fingerprinted membership form for political parties was first introduced in a regulation in 2010, and by law in 2013.

In July 2014, elections commission gave parties a six-month deadline to re-register members whose fingerprints were not on file. At the time, the election commission said some 23,058 of MDP’s 46,608 members could be taken off its registry. The MDP was the first political party to register in 2005 and is the biggest party in the Maldives.

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.

When the high court granted an injunction on the election commission order, a PPM MP proposed an amendment to the Political Parties Act, requiring all members submit fingerprinted membership forms or be taken off the party registries.

The bill was approved earlier this month with 40 votes.

MDP MPs said the law is 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 grant it receives from the state budget.

PPM MPs meanwhile said the law was necessary to prevent fraud.

All political parties have been fined for submitting fraudulent membership forms; some were found to have submitted forms on behalf of dead people, and others of registering people without their knowledge.

The PPM has 36,232 members and the DRP has 14,750. The Adhaalath has 9,009 and the JP has 13,990 members.

Mohamed Shifaz, the MDP vice president, said the party will challenge the law.

“We do not accept it. The commission is not independent and it does not have the capacity to verify fingerprints, because they have to rely on the police to do so.”

The opposition claims the PPM-dominated parliament stacked the commission with government supporters. The president of the commission, Ahmed Sulaiman, was a senior member of the now defunct- People’s Alliance, a party set up by Yameen in 2007.

The commission and the opposition have also clashed over plans to introduce electronic voting in the Maldives.

Hassan Moosa contributed reporting