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Supreme Court to rule on unseated lawmakers

A dozen lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats for crossing the floor. 



The Supreme Court is expected to settle in the coming days a protracted dispute over lawmakers deemed to have lost their seats for crossing the floor.

On Monday, the apex court resumed hearings in appeals filed by MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim and Saud Hussain challenging their disqualification by the Elections Commission in July last year.

Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi declared that judgments would be delivered soon at the next hearing but did not announce a date. Didi said Monday’s hearings were scheduled as a procedural matter as the five-judge Supreme Court bench had been reconstituted after hearings in the case were concluded last year.

He asked the lawmakers and lawyers representing the Elections Commission and the Attorney General’s office whether they wished to add to previous arguments. Both sides declined and asked the chief justice to deliver judgments as soon as possible.

Final hearings of appeals filed by MPs Abdul Latheef and Mohamed Ameeth are scheduled for Tuesday.

A dozen former ruling party lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats in July last year after defecting to hand the opposition a clear majority. Their contentious disqualification was used to quash a no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, a key ally of the president.

It came after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the Elections Commission notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.

But the MPs insisted that they were expelled from the Progressive Party of Maldives before the July 13 anti-defection ruling, which the apex court later clarified would not apply retroactively.

The constitution requires by-elections within two months to fill vacant seats but 60,000 constituents – nearly a quarter of the Maldivian electorate – have now been deprived of representation for more than a year.

The lawmakers insisted that they remained as members of parliament after the Supreme Court declared last July that separate rulings were needed to decide whether they have lost their seats.

The apex court is the constitutional authority on settling disputes concerning “the removal, or vacating of seats, of a member of the People’s Majlis.”

A final and binding judgment is needed, the lawmakers said, but police and soldiers continued to bar their entry to parliament.

With opposition lawmakers boycotting sittings in protest, the ruling party has pushed through several controversial pieces of legislation, invoking a “state of necessity” despite the lack of the constitutional quorum of 43 MPs needed to pass laws.