President of the Elections Commission (EC), Fuad Thaufeeq has said regulation under which political parties operate in the Maldives is too vague, when it comes to their requirements of party activity and membership.
Thaufeeq told Minivan News that the commission has drafted and submitted a bill dictating the operation of political parties in the Maldives.
Thaufeeq highlighted loopholes in the existing regulation on political parties, originally introduced by presidential decree by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom in 2005.
The largest party in the Maldives is the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of former President Mohamed Nasheed, following an acrimonious split of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) in late 2010 and the formation of an offshoot party, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), by Gayoom the following year.
DRP remains the second largest party in the country, and has competed for members with the PPM. The remaining parties in the Maldives are relatively small, have little representation in parliament, and relatively small based around usually one particular political figure. An exception is the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party, which has no MPs and few island councillors, but has a strong voice through the Islamic scholars who make up its membership.
Parties require 3000 members to be created, but this number does not need to be maintained: “There is no stipulation in the regulation highlighting the requirement of 3000 members,” said Thaufeeq.
“The regulations are very vague, because you require 3000 members to form a political party but after formation what happens with smaller parties is that the membership drops tremendously,” he explained. “There are parties which have less than a thousand members, and some with less those than 2000.”
The regulation did not explicitly mention that parties needed to maintain this membership in order to continue to receive political party funding from the EC, Thaufeeq explained.
In an audit report on the elections commission, the Auditor General recently advised the commission not to grant funds to inactive political parties. However, “As a principle, we usually give funds to any parties which are active and follow our requirements, such as producing an annual audit report of the party every year.”
“Whenever we hold the funds, the parties take the issue to the court. When the court orders us to pay the money, we don’t have any option but to release the funds,” Thaufeeq explained.
Asked on what basis the court is making the decision, he said “The court in its order states that the elections commission does not have the authority to withhold the funds of political parties.
“But I believe the commission has the authority to hold funds when we are not certain of how the funds are being used. This is the money from the people that we are giving out to the parties, and it shouldn’t be misappropriated,” Thaufeeq said.
According to Thaufeeq, funds for six politicial parties in the 2012 budget were withheld initially, but were released after proper monitoring. Thaufeeq said funds for the remaining two political parties cannot be released because the parties had not adhered to the commission’s requirements.
The Maldives National Congress (MNC), a political party with a current membership of 1536, has sent a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid regarding the matter, asking parliament to look into it.
However, Thaufeeq said that he and the commission had high hopes for the proposed political parties’ bill which was drafted by the Attorney General’s office and the commission.
“I believe the political parties’ bill currently in parliament will be the solution. We have included a stipulation in the bill requiring the maintaining of party membership at 3000, but the figure might change,” He said.
“We were hoping the bill would pass by the end of last year but there came in other bills of higher priority. Many MPs have assured us that when the parliament starts this year, the bill will be given high priority,” he said.
The ousted MDP currently has the largest membership of all political parties with a membership of 47,614 members. The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) is the second largest political party in terms of membership with 29,143 members, followed by the newly formed Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) which has 14,271 members. President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s party has approximately
Current political party membership:
Party membership as of February 27:
MDP 47,614 (Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s party)
DRP 29,143 (Gayoom’s former party, now headed by Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. Speaker Abdulla Shahid is also a member)
AP 6070 (Adhaalath Party, headed by Sheikh Imran. Spokesperson is Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed)
IDP 3597 (Umar Naseer’s former party, prior to his move to the DRP and later PPM)
JP 5177 (Party of Gasim Ibrahim, resort tycoon, VTV television station owner and member of the Judicial Services Commission).
PA 2608 (Party of Gayoom’s haf brother, Abdulla Yameen, and Deputy Speaker Mohamed Nazim)
GI 2625 (President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s party)
DQP 2299 (President’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed’s party, also the party of Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel)
PPM 14271 (Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s party, split from the DRP. Vice President of the party is Umar Naseer)