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Supreme Court ends saga of 12 unseated lawmakers

The opposition has gained a clear majority with the reinstatement of 12 ex-PPM MPs.



The Supreme Court has ended the long-running saga of a dozen former ruling party lawmakers who were deemed to have lost their seats for crossing the floor.

In separate judgments Tuesday, the apex court reinstated MPs Mohamed Musthafa, Ali Shah, Mohamed Abdulla and Hussain Shahudhy.

The Elections Commission misapplied the Supreme Court’s July 2017 anti-defection ruling to unseat the former Progressive Party of Maldives MPs, the full bench ruled unanimously.

According to the anti-defection ruling, MPs who were elected on political party tickets will forfeit their seats once the EC notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.

But the MPs resigned from the PPM before the July 13 ruling, which could not be applied retroactively, the court stressed.

The PPM disregarded resignation letters and expelled them after the anti-defection ruling came into force.

During the hearings at the Supreme Court, the state argued they remained PPM members until their names were removed from the registry maintained by the electoral body.

But the Supreme Court ruled that membership is relinquished once the party is informed of a member’s decision to leave, which was the process specified in the PPM’s charter.

The dozen ex-PPM MPs were stripped of their seats when they backed the speaker’s impeachment in July last year.

Their defection realigned the parliament majority in favour of the opposition.

But their contentious disqualification was used to quash the no-confidence motion against the speaker and restore the pro-government majority.

The EC also decided to hold by-elections as the constitution requires vacant seats to be filled within two months.

But the lawmakers challenged their removal at the Supreme Court, which the constitution says must settle disputes concerning “the removal, or vacating of seats, of a member of the People’s Majlis.”

With the apex court unable to reach a judgment since hearings began in August last year, 60,000 constituents were deprived of representation in parliament for 15 months.

The 12 MPs insisted they remained lawmakers until the court says otherwise, but soldiers and police officers barred their entry to the parliament house.

On Monday, the Supreme Court reinstated MPs Abdullah Sinan, Ilham Ahmed, Saudhulla Hilmy and Abdulla Ahmed.

Mohamed Ameeth, Abdul Latheef Mohamed, Saud Hussain and Mohamed Waheed, who were among the first to join the opposition, were reinstated earlier this month.

Bolstered by their return, the joint opposition now has a 45-seat majority in the 85-member house.

Along with five MPs from coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance, the PPM has 40 MPs.

However, the allegiance of some PPM MPs is uncertain as several have backed the impeachment of the speaker and the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition coalition’s legislative agenda includes the repeal of several laws pushed through by the former ruling party majority, including the anti-defamation and anti-defection laws.

President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the joint opposition’s parliamentary group leader, is due to take the oath of office on November 17.