Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has overtaken the membership of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), from which it split in 2011.
According to the latest political party membership statistics released on Tuesday by the Election Commission (EC), the PPM is now the second largest political party with 22,793 members, with 472 membership forms pending.
The DRP currently has a membership of 22,501 members.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of former President Mohamed Nasheed remains the largest political party by a substantial margin, with 46,321 members, with 1,234 membership applications are pending with the EC.
Business tycoon and presidential hopeful MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party is the fourth largest political party in the country with 11,139 members.
Meanwhile, the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party’s membership stands at 5,877 members.
President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s party Gaumee Ithihaadh Party (GIP)’s membership stands at just 3,217 members with 1,395 membership forms pending.
The Dhivehi Gaumee Party (DQP) membership has meanwhile fallen to 2099 members.
The recently established Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) led by tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun travel’ Shiyam has a membership of 3,441 with 161 new membership forms pending.
Following the release of party membership statistics, the government-aligned DRP expressed alleging that the Elections Commission was being politically influenced by fellow government party, the PPM.
Speaking to local media after a meeting with the commission, DRP Spokesperson Ali Solih said it was “very clear” that the Elections Commission was working in favor of PPM while verifying membership forms.
Solih alleged the decision by the elections commission to cease the practice of fingerprinting for membership forms was to enable the PPM to rapidly increase its membership. The decision was made by the Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee last November.
“Even if a committee decides on it, the Elections Commission should not stop the practice immediately. They have to check the forms that were submitted with fingerprints. But what we saw was when people from a specific party come to the Elections Commission, they stopped checking for fingerprints. This is something done to please a certain political party,” he said.
He further alleged that the EC had updated the party membership statistics ahead of PPM’s presidential primary, and suggested that something was taking place behind the scenes. He also claimed the commission had been negligent in assessing the membership forms from his own party.
“When we submit 800 forms, they don’t update them. But we see membership of parties that have not submitted any forms continuously updating. We have doubts over how the Elections Commission carries out the process,” he added.
Speaking to Minivan News, Vice President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz dismissed the allegations of party bias.
“We can assure that that Elections Commission is not working in favor of a certain group of people or certain political party,” he said.
Regarding the decision to not include fingerprints in membership forms, Fayaz said it was made by the parliamentary select committee and was not based on the request of a specific political party.
“When we make a decision, there will always be people who are not content with it. I believe that is the case with the DRP. They are expressing their views and we respect that,” he said.
Fayaz acknowledged that the commission had received complaints from the DRP regarding discrepancies in its membership forms submitted, and said the matter was being addressed.
“I do not deny the fact that there could be mistakes. We are all human beings. We use our human senses to verify membership forms, so it is subject to human error. It is also important to note we are not processing a few hundred forms, but thousands of forms from different parties. So there could possibly be errors,” he said.
According to Fayaz, if the current Political Parties bill in parliament becomes law, it would solve a lot of issues that the commission is currently facing. The bill was passed by parliament and sent for ratification, but was rejected by President Waheed claiming that it bill compromised the constitutional right of freedom of association, by requiring parties to have a minimum of 10,000 members.
The number of political parties in the country currently stands at 16. That is expected to increase in the days to come as yjr Elections Commission has granted permission for ex-servicemen and current Minister of State for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz to create a new political party, which the local media has identified as the ‘Maldives Industrial Alliance’.