The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives wants to bar candidates who fail to secure a political party ticket from contesting elections independently or on the ticket of another party.
If passed, the amendment to the Political Parties Act will apply to all elections, including local council, parliamentary and presidential elections.
MP Saud Hussain’s proposal comes as a deeply divided ruling party scrambles to fight an opposition coalition in January’s local council elections.
The PPM was plunged into civil war when President Abdulla Yameen and his half brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, began fighting for the control of the ruling party.
The amendment by Saud states that a “political party member who contests in a political party primary, in order to obtain the said party’s ticket for an election held sanctioned by the Maldivian constitution and laws, must not stand in that election in any other capacity.”
If a candidate who contested a political party primary applies to contest elections in any other capacity, the elections commission must disqualify their candidacy, it states.
When losing candidates contest the elections independently or on the ticket of another party, it causes “anger between members of political parties, which then paves the way for chaos,” Saud said in his justification for the change.
The bill was introduced to the parliament on Wednesday, but is yet to be debated.
It is likely to pass as the ruling coalition holds a majority in the parliament.
The Gayoom faction have denounced the bill as unconstitutional, noting that Article 26 guarantees the right to run for public office to every Maldivian who is above 18 years of age.
In a statement on Saturday, Gayoom condemned the government’s “unlawful use of its parliamentary majority to deprive citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed rights”. The move constitutes interference in elections and demonstrates the government’s lack of respect for democracy, the statement added.
Abdul Aleem, the Gayoom faction’s secretary general, told local media earlier that several of the former president’s supporters have expressed interest in contesting the election as independents endorsed by Gayoom.
The elections commission has meanwhile drawn criticism by extending the deadline to submit candidacy papers by two weeks. The call was set to expire on November 15, but has now been pushed back to December 1.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has described the extension as “a favour to President Yameen” as the PPM is yet to hold primaries or choose candidates.
The MDP is the only party to hold primaries so far. It is contesting the election as part of the Maldives United Opposition, a broad coalition of opposition parties and representatives of former government officials.
The MDP’s primaries took place in the first week of November. Its ally, the Adhaalath Party, which was allocated some 50 of the 653 posts, said it did not have to hold primaries to select its candidates.
The Yameen faction is accepting applications from interested candidates until November 21.
MP Abdulla Khaleel, the Yameen faction’s secretary general, said that they plan to vet applicants and will only hold primaries in constituencies where there are more than two applicants who meet specific criteria.
The MUO is meanwhile urging voters to register to vote, saying low turnout will help the government to “steal the election”.
“[We] have to come out and vote, and say no to the government with this vote,” said Shifa Mohamed, a member of the Malé City council, who is planning to contest again.