Parliament has overruled President Mohamed Waheed’s veto on the political parties bill by a majority of 60 votes.
The political parties’ bill – which requires political parties to have a minimum 10,000 members before they are recognised as such, was passed by the parliament on December 2012.
However, President Mohamed Waheed – whose party Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) has a membership of just over 3,000 members – refused to ratify the bill and sent it back to parliament for reconsideration in January.
During Tuesday’s session, both parliament’s minority leader and majority leader unanimously supported to pass the bill without any amendments, forcing it through.
Out of the 67 members present during the vote, 60 voted in favor of the passage of the bill while six voted against the bill and one MP abstained.
During the debate on the matter, the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs both alleged that President Waheed had rejected the bill because it involved his personal interests and that his party GIP would be one of the first few parties to be dissolved after soon the law came into force.
However, Deputy Leader of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed spoke in favor of President Waheed’s decision to reject the bill, claiming that the top four parties are trying to destroy the remaining political parties operating in the country – including the DQP, of which Home Minister Mohamed Jameel and Waheed’s Special Advisor Hassan Saeed are members.
According to the constitution, if a bill sent back to parliament by the president is passed again without making any changes, the bill automatically becomes law without the need of a presidential ratification.
Upon ratification, the bill will provide a three month period for any political party with fewer than 10,000 members to reach the required amount or face being dissolved.
Article 11 of the bill states that at least 10,000 signatures would be needed to register a party at the Elections Commission (EC), which would be mandated to ensure that membership does not fall below the figure.
Parties unable to sign 10,000 members would be dissolved.
The legislation passed today also stipulates that the Male’ City Council (MCC) must provide a 1,000 square feet plot in the capital for parties with membership exceeding 20,000. The plot would be used as an administrative office or meeting hall, for which the party would be required to pay rent.
Earlier, an amendment proposed by MP Ibrahim Muttalib to lower the figure to 5,000 was defeated 59-6.
Of the 16 parties currently in existence, only five parties now have more than 10,000 registered members, including the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as well as the government-aligned parties DRP, PPM, Business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) and most recently, the religious conservative party Adhaalath Party (AP).
Following the passage of the bill, Adhaalath Party leaders claimed the legislation was a direct attempt to dissolve the party and in the long run “eradicate” Islamic ideology from Maldivian politics and “defeat” the party’s efforts to oppose alleged attempts to secularise the country.
“This is a big political and legal challenge [they] placed before Adhaalath Party. The way the political sphere in the country is shaped today, it is very important for a political party like Adhaalath Party to exist,” said its leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla at the time.
However, on Monday, the Elections Commission informed the party that it had attained the needed 10,000 members. The party had carried out a vigorous membership campaign during which slogans such as “sign for Adhaalath party for Islam” and “defend Islam” were used.
DQP Leader Hassan Saeed followed the Adhaalath Party in warning that he would seek to invalidate the bill through the Supreme Court if it was ratified. Latest statistics shows that the DQP’s membership currently stands less than 3,000 members.
“While it is a constitutional right for anybody to form political parties, I do also believe that a right could be limited through legislation. But such a limit should be placed in accordance to principles justified in other free and democratic societies. The current bill demanding a certain membership size in order for a political party to be registered is a big problem,” Saeed was quoted saying in local media.
Political parties were first authorised in the Maldives in May 2005 following an executive decree by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The regulation required 3,000 members for registration and did not stipulate whether parties with membership numbers falling below the figure would be dissolved.