MPs Mohamed Abdulla and Hussain Shahudhy are facing the loss of their parliament seats following their expulsion from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.
The PPM informed the Elections Commission of their expulsion on Tuesday after disciplinary proceedings by the party’s ethics committee, state media reported.
The EC previously decided that 10 ex-PPM MPs have been stripped of their seats because of a Supreme Court anti-defection ruling, which held that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the electoral body notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.
MPs Mohamed Abdulla ‘Muhamma’ and Hussain Shahudhy – who represent the Ihavandhoo and Hanimadhoo constituency in the northernmost Haa Alif and Haa Dhaal atolls – were among several MPs who left the PPM in early July after backing the impeachment of the speaker.
The disqualified MPs informed the PPM in writing of their decision to leave the party and sent copies to the EC days before the July 13 anti-defection ruling, which the apex court later clarified would not apply retroactively.
The MPs also asked the EC separately to remove them from the PPM membership roll, which the commission’s regulations state must be done within 15 days of a written request.
However, the EC kept them on the PPM registry after the party claimed disciplinary proceedings were underway against the renegade MPs.
The mass defections in July handed the opposition a clear majority for the first time but the contentious disqualification of four MPs was used to quash the no-confidence motion against the speaker.
Following the disqualification of three former ruling party lawmakers in late October, the opposition coalition called the move unconstitutional and an “egregiously partisan move designed to please President [Abdulla] Yameen.”
The opposition accused the EC of “working on the instruction of President Yameen” to maintain his “autocratic grip” on the 85-member legislature.
In late July, four ex-PPM MPs who were disqualified challenged the EC’s decision at the Supreme Court on the grounds that they were expelled in March and April. But during the hearings, the state attorney maintained that they remained on the PPM’s registry until the party formally requested their removal on July 18.
After hearing the case, the Supreme Court delivered an ambiguous ruling that saw both sides claim victory with opposing interpretations.
The apex court said there was no room to adjudicate the cases with reference to article 74 of the constitution, which requires it to determine “any question concerning the qualifications or removal or vacating of seats”.
The opposition insisted the ruling meant there was no dispute to resolve. The court was clear that MPs who left or were expelled from their parties before July 13 were safe, lawyers said.
The EC meanwhile said it has resumed preparations for by-elections because the Supreme Court did not overturn its July 19 decision to consider the seats vacant.
But the EC has yet to announce dates for by-elections or invite candidacy papers. The constitution, however, requires by-elections to be held within 60 days of the vacancy, a period that ended in late September.
Three months have also passed since the Supreme Court decision on the disputed disqualifications.
Some MVR26 million (US$1.7 million) was allocated for holding the by-elections in the supplementary budget passed in late October.
MPs Mohamed Abdulla and Hussain Shahudhy were elected on Jumhooree Party tickets but switched to the PPM from its former coalition partner respectively in July 2014 and January 2016. The former’s signing handed the PPM a 43-seat majority.