The Elections Commission (EC) has reinstated eight small political parties on the Supreme Court’s advice.
The commission had dissolved the eight parties in February as they did not have a membership of 3,000 as required by a Supreme Court modification of the Political Party Act.
However, the Supreme Court subsequently sacked Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz for disobedience to order and contempt of court.
The EC sought the apex court’s advice and following a letter on June 12, the EC has now decided to reinstate the Islamic Democratic Party, Maldivian Social Democratic Party, Social Liberal Party, People’s Party, Maldivian National Congress, People’s Alliance, Maldivian Labor Party and Dhivehi Qaumee Party.
The number of registered political parties in Maldives now stands at fourteen.
Political Parties Act
The People’s Majlis passed the Political Parties Act in December 2012. Article 11 of the act required a minimum of 10,000 members requests for party registration, while Article 8 (b) gave parties with less than 10,000 members a three month period to increase membership or face dissolution.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan – whose own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) was facing dissolution – refused to ratify the bill. But on March 5 2013, with unanimous support from both parliament’s minority leader and majority leader, the Majlis overruled the presidential veto and forced the the bill into law.
In the same month the Elections commission dissolved eleven registered political parties under the Act.
Within days Attorney General Azima Shakoor asked the Supreme Court to declare existing smaller political parties could not be dissolved. The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) also intervened in the case.
In September 2013, the SC voided articles 11 and 8 (b) of the Political Parties Act, declaring them to be in violation of Article 16 of the constitution which states that the People’s Majlis can only limit constitutional rights through legislation to an extent “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.
The SC claimed the Political Party Act narrowed the constitutional right to establish political parties and participate in political party activity.
The verdict, supported by the entire Supreme Court bench, also declared 3,000 members to be the minimum requirement for political party registration as per the political party regulation of 2005, until the parliament amended the Political Party Act in accordance with guidelines provided in the ruling.
In December 2013 Gaumee Ithihadh Party of former president Dr. Mohame Waheed and Maldives Reform Movement founded by former Attorney General and President of MDP Dr Mohamed Munavvar was voluntarily dissolved, leaving the number of parties in transition at nine.
On February 6, the Elections Commission dissolved eight political parties for not having a minimum of 3000 registered members and gave them a three month period to increase membership. The MDA with approximately eight thousand members survived the dissolution.
In the same month, the SC initiated a contempt of court charge against the EC under new suo moto regulations which allow the Supreme Court to initiate proceedings, prosecute and pass judgement. The five member bench accused the EC of disobeying orders in dissolving the eight parties.
SC reached a verdict in March 2014, stripping Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan of their membership in the commission and sentencing the former to a suspended prison term of six months.
In the controversial verdict, SC stated dissolving parties on the basis that a political party’s registry should include 3,000 members is be a violation of the constitution and the court’s previous verdict.