Political parties bill passed with 10,000 member prerequisite

Parliament today passed the long-awaited political parties bill with a clause requiring a minimum of 10,000 members for registration.

Upon ratification, the bill will provide a three month period for any political party with fewer than 10,000 members to reach the required amount or face being dissolved.

The legislation was passed with 64 votes in favour and four against.

Article 11 of the bill states that at least 10,000 signatures would be needed to register a party at the Elections Commission (EC), which would be mandated to ensure that membership does not fall below the figure.

Parties unable to sign 10,000 members would be dissolved.

An amendment proposed by MP Ibrahim Muttalib to lower the figure to 5,000 was defeated 59-6 at today’s sitting of parliament.

Of the 16 parties currently in existence, only three have more than 10,000 registered members, including the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as well as the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

According to the latest figures from the EC, the MDP currently has 47,192 members, DRP has 25,190 members and PPM has 17,900 members.

Business magnate MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP) has 8,931 members with 5,149 pending membership forms.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) has 5,708 members, down from over 6,000 in February this year.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) has 3,427 members while the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) led by Dr Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed has 2,125 members.

Meanwhile, the legislation passed today also stipulates that the Male’ City Council (MCC) must provide a 1,000 square feet plot in the capital for parties with membership exceeding 20,000.  The plot would be used as an administrative office or meeting hall, for which the party would be required to pay rent.

Political parties were first authorised in the Maldives in May 2005 following an executive decree by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Prior to the passage of the landmark legislation today, political parties were governed by a regulation.

The regulation required 3,000 members for registration and did not stipulate that parties whose membership falls below the figure would be dissolved.

In March, EC Chair Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News that these regulations were “vague” as parties were not required to maintain 3,000 members.

The review of the political parties bill (Dhivehi) was meanwhile completed by the Independent Institutions Committee on December 10. Following a preliminary debate, it was sent to the committee on April 19, 2010.

Writing in his personal blog (Dhivehi) in October, the committee’s chair MP Nasheed revealed that “a clear majority” voted in favour of requiring parties to gain 5000 members before it can be officially registered, and 10,000 members before becoming eligible for state funds.

At the time, Nasheed expressed confidence that the committee’s decision would not be overturned on the Majlis floor when the bill was put up for a vote. He noted that the clauses for membership numbers were backed by the main political parties in parliament.

“When the law is passed, the current registered parties with less than 5,000 members would be given a six month period to reach the figure. If a party fails to reach that figure by the end of the period, the particular party would be dissolved,” Nasheed explained.

The minimum number of membership was later raised to 10,000 and the period shortened to three months before the draft legislation was presented to the Majlis floor for today’s vote.