MPs Ali Shah, Hussain Manik Dhon Manik and Umar Hussain have joined the Jumhooree Party amid a recruiting spree by the second largest party in the ruling coalition.
With the new members, the JP has now added 12 MPs to its ranks since former president Abdulla Yameen’s election loss in September.
Shah and Hussain Manik, both of whom were former ruling party lawmakers, handed over their membership forms to JP leader Gasim Ibrahim at a ceremony Wednesday night.
Shah, MP for the Fuvahmulah North constituency, was among a dozen lawmakers who were reinstated last month after more than a year out of parliament. They were deemed to have lost their seats when they defected from the Progressive Party of Maldives in July last year.
Hussain Manik, who represents the Guraidhoo constituency in Thaa atoll, reportedly fell out with Yameen during the presidential campaign. He was removed from the PPM MPs’ Viber group in the wake of the president’s heavy defeat.
The signing of Umar Hussain, MP for the Noonu Manadhoo constituency from the Maldives Development Alliance, was announced Wednesday by JP deputy leader Abdulla Riyaz. He was one of five MPs of the MDA, the PPM’s partner in the former ruling coalition.
The JP now has 19 MPs, the same number as the Maldivian Democratic Party, the largest party in the coalition. Along with Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem and several independents aligned with former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the coalition controls a 46-seat majority.
The 85-member parliament has been reduced to 79 following the resignation of six MPs, including the president, vice president and four MDP MPs who resigned to join the cabinet.
Now in the minority as the main opposition party, the PPM retains has 29 MPs but their allegiances are uncertain. Several have voted with the ruling coalition since the election and transfer of power. Many PPM MPs backed the repeal of an anti-defection law that triggered disqualification of lawmakers who resign or get expelled from their party.
The JP is expected to award tickets to its new lawmakers without a primary.
However, it is unclear if they would be seeking re-election with the backing of the coalition. The four-party coalition remains undecided on a formula for jointly contesting the 2019 parliamentary elections.