A dozen former ruling party lawmakers demanded Wednesday an explanation from President Abdulla Yameen for claiming he was responsible for stripping them of their seats.
Yameen declared during a campaign speech on Thinadhoo island that he had “worked the hardest” and played a “leading” role in disqualifying the lawmakers.
“The president does not have any legal authority to influence independent institutions,” MP Mohamed Ameeth told reporters at a press conference by eight of the 12 MPs. “We want to ask Yameen to clarify what law gave him the power and discretion to vacate the seats.”
The president’s admission vindicated the stance that their removal by the Elections Commissions in collusion with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives was “a huge atrocity,” Ameeth added, calling for a police probe.
Discussions were also under way with lawyers about a possible lawsuit, he said.
Others echoed Ameeth’s call for police investigations into the president’s recent remarks, including an admission of barring opposition leaders from contesting and a retracted claim that missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan was dead.
The president’s sanity should be evaluated, suggested Thinadhoo North MP Ahmed Abdulla, as Thinadhoo South MP Saudhulla Hilmy asked why defection was acceptable for the president when several opposition lawmakers joined the PPM.
Support has grown for the opposition in Thinadhoo since the president’s admission as many people were previously confused about the vacated seats, he added.
Yameen’s remarks were tantamount to an admission of exerting undue influence over institutions and courts, said Thulusdhoo MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim.
The 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.
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 insist they remain members of parliament as the Supreme Court declared in 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 say.
But police and soldiers have been barring 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.
In his Thinadhoo speech, Yameen condemned the renegade MPs for defecting and declared that they would never be forgiven for the damage done to the PPM under his leadership.
“For that reason, I did the leading work to unseat all the MPs who left our party and worked against it,” he said. “Allah gave me help. Their seats were vacated to unite the members who remain in Majlis from our party. That is to work with sincerity.”
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