The parliament today amended the Political Parties Act, mandating the state to allocate office space or plots of land to political parties with more than 20,000 members.
The bill submitted on behalf of the government, by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Azhan Fahmy was passed by 49 votes in favour, five against, and five abstentions.
Only the PPM and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are eligible to receive office space. The PPM has 36,236 members and the MDP has 46,608 members.
There are 15 parties registered in the Maldives. Many are dysfunctional.
According to the new changes to the Political Parties Act, the office space or land allocated under a lease agreement to political parties must not be smaller than 1,000 square feet.
Political parties will be financially responsible and liable for the plot of land. If a party’s membership drops below 20,000, the state has the authority to expel the party from the office space or land.
The bill also set a threshold of 10,000 registered members for political parties to be eligible for state funding.
Only the MDP, PPM, the Jumhooree Party and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) will now receive state funds.
The JP and the DRP have 13,990 members and 14,750 members, respectively.
The opposition Adhaalath Party and PPM’s coalition partner the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) will no longer be eligible for state funding. The Adhaalath Party has one MP in parliament and 9,009 members. The MDA controls five seats in the Majlis and has 7,666 members.
The political parties law states the state must allocate 0.1 – 0.2 percent of the budget for political parties. Funds must be disbursed within the first three months of the year according to the number of members in each party.
More than MVR20 million (US$1.3 million) was allocated for political party funding in the 2015 budget. The Elections Commission disbursed the funds in June with the MDP receiving MVR7 million (US$459,244).
The parties must submit an annual report and an audit report before funds can be disbursed.
Parties without 3,000 members will have three months to reach the mandatory minimum number, whilst parties that fail to register 3,000 members will be dissolved.
The Islamic Democratic Party, founded in 2007 by incumbent Home Minister Umar Naseer, will now be dissolved.
The Political Parties Act previously stipulated that parties must have a minimum of 10,000 members. However, the Supreme Court struck down the provision as unconstitutional in September 2013.