Five of the six registered political parties in the Maldives have united in condemning the elections commission’s refusal to disburse public funding.
The commission had cited what it called a leadership vacuum in some parties and mismanagement in others in postponing the release of funds allocated for political parties in the state budget.
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and its allies, the Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party, and the non-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party issued an unprecedented joint statement on Thursday, accusing the national electoral body of flouting the constitution.
This is the first time the PPM and the MDP have shown a united front on a political issue.
The five parties said that “the elections commission’s actions are putting the Maldives’ nascent multi-party system at risk,” and urged the commission to disburse funds without further delay.
The statement also criticised the commission for interfering in their internal affairs.
The Political Parties Act requires the election commission to distribute some 0.2percent of the annual state budget among all registered political parties according to their membership within the first three months of the year.
Anas Abdul Sattar, the MDP secretary general, told reporters that the delay would obstruct the parties from fronting candidates for the upcoming local council elections.
“The elections commission’s decision comes at a time that parties have to select candidates for the [local council] elections. This makes things very difficult for us, and that is why we are all concerned,” he said.
Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed said the move raises questions over the commission’s ability to conduct free and fair polls.
“To participate in this election, or hold our congress, we need money. We have no confidence that the elections commission could guarantee a free and fair election because of its politicised actions.”
He added: “Our advice to the commission is to cease arbitrary action and follow the laws and regulations.”
Meanwhile, Abdul Aleem, the PPM deputy secretary general, dismissed rumours of an alliance with the opposition, and said the ruling party – which is in disarray amid infighting between its leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his half-brother, the incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen – was teaming up with the other parties because of the gravity of the issue.
“This is not an attempt to send a message to certain people. I am here because this issue concerns all political parties,” he said.
Ali Sulaim, the president of the election commission, said he was withholding funding because some parties had failed to elect their leaders and others had suspended their governing councils.
The leaders of the MDP and the AP were removed after the PPM-dominated parliament approved a law barring individuals who are sentenced for criminal offences from holding leadership positions or membership in political parties.
Mohamed Nasheed, a former president and leader of the MDP, and Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who heads the AP were handed lengthy jail terms on terrorism charges in trials widely condemned as unfair.
Gayoom has meanwhile suspended the PPM’s governing council and internal committees after its disciplinary committee expelled his son, Faris Maumoon, an MP.
The elections commission had previously clashed with some political parties over plans to introduce electronic voting and an order requiring them to re-register members whose fingerprints were not on file.
The Maldivian Development Alliance, run by Yameen’s associate, MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam, has not commented on the funding delay.