The Elections Commission has ordered all political parties, except the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), to re-register any member who may have submitted membership forms without fingerprints.
The commission in a statement on Thursday said the 2013 Political Parties Act requires all political parties to submit fingerprints of members to register, and ordered all parties to submit membership forms with fingerprints by December 31.
The PPM, formed in 2011, is not required to re-register members as all of its membership forms held fingerprints. The EC had first established the requirement for fingerprints in 2010, and it was enshrined by law in 2013.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the first party to register in the Maldives in 2005, has claimed the move is designed to reduce its members.
With 46,608 members, MDP is the largest political party in the Maldives.
MDP spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the commission could not apply the law retroactively. “The MDP was formed before the new act. Back then, a fingerprint was not required, so the membership forms are valid,” he said.
He argued that article 8 (a) of the Political Party Act accepts any party with more than 3000 members before the law came into force as a registered political party. The requirement for fingerprints only applied to new membership forms.
“This is a clear obstruction of the people’s constitutional right to join political parties. It creates an unfair burden on political parties and is designed to reduce our numbers,” he added.
EC members were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
Ahmed Akram, an EC member, told newspaper Sun that any members who did not submit forms with fingerprints will be removed from the political party registry.
The PPM has 36,232 members. The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), from which the PPM emerged as a splinter faction, has 14,750 members. The Jumhooree Party has 13,990 members.
The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has 9009 members.
Political parties receive funds from the state budget every year. The amount depends on the size of the party membership.
The EC has previously said it receives complaints from the public about being registered to political parties without their knowledge or consent.
The commission has set up mechanisms to check party registration either through text messages or on the official website.
A text message sent to 1414 with PPR space followed by the national ID card number would show if the person is registered to a political party. Alternately, the EC website has an online database to check party registration by entering the ID card number.
The EC in 2014 fined the PPM, MDP, JP, Adhaalath Party and DRP for submitting fraudulent membership forms.
The commission in September 2014 fined the Jumhooree Party for a ninth time after it discovered repeated fingerprints by 36 people on some 258 new membership forms.
The PPM was also fined in March 2014, after it emerged that the ruling party had submitted forms on behalf of a dead man.
The Anti Corruption Commission in 2012 interviewed 100 members of then-President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) and alleged 85 percent of those polled had no knowledge of ever joining the party.