Monday’s general parliament session has been disrupted after opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members raised procedural issues regarding the election of new members to the Elections Commission (EC).
Opposition members voiced their objections when the new names submitted by President Abdulla Yameen were presented to the Majlis.
Two seats on the five-member commission has been vacant since the Supreme Court stripped former EC President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan of their membership in March.
In parliament today, MDP members maintained that the Supreme Court is not authorized to strip independent commission members of their membership, arguing the function falls within the parliament’s mandate.
Electing new members is against the spirit of the Maldives constitution, MDP MPs asserted.
“The circumstances under which EC members can be removed from their post is defined in the constitution,” MDP MP Ali Azim said today, quoting Article 177 of the Constitution.
Article 177 of the constitution says an EC member can only be removed from office on grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence, which must be accompanied by “a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis.
“While the constitution clearly states otherwise, neither the Supreme Court nor the President can remove any members from the EC,” Azim claimed.
Maradhoo consituency MP Ibrahim Shareef stated that the problem is that “an unconstitutional matter has been placed on the Majlis agenda”, adding that former Speaker Abdulla Shahid had refused to schedule the matter.
However, incumbent Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Maseeh insisted that the matters raised by the MDP cannot be accepted as procedural issues. He then proceeded to halt the Majlis session claiming it had become “impossible to conduct any form of productive work”.
During the 17th parliament, the parliament’s independent institutions oversight committee had claimed that Thowfeek and Fayaz remained in their posts despite the Supreme Court verdict to the contrary.
On March 10, the parliament also sent a letter to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Attorney General Mohamed Anil stating that the dismissals were in contrast to the constitutional procedures governing their appointment and dismissal, as well as the Elections Commission Act.
Senior leaders of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives criticised the letter even then, noting it did not represent a parliamentary decision and also that such statements were beyond the parliament’s remit.
The names submitted to parliament by President Abdulla Yameen to fill the posts at the EC are Mohamed Zahid, Malé Municipal Register number 1548; Ahmed Sulaiman of Endheri 7, Hulhumalé; Mohamed Shakeel of Bulbulaage from the island of Veyvah in Meemu atoll; and Fathimath Muna of Sanaroamaage from the island of Mahibadhoo in Alif Dhaal atoll.