Elections Commission calls for “changes” to party registration after “dead” members row

The president of the Elections Commission (EC) has hit back at criticism from the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) that suggested the independent body had failed to carry out its duty after it removed deceased members from the party’s registry, by claiming the entire political membership system requires legislative “changes”.

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that it had acted on “information supplied by Island Officers” on December 2 this year, which found that six people on the DQP’s membership registry had died during 2010, requiring their removal under the commission’s regulations. He claimed that new regulations currently awaiting approval in the Majlis are expected to remove similar confusion and “concerns” in the future over remaining a member of a political party after death.

Thaufeeq was responding in particular to criticism of the EC made this week by the DQP, with the party alleging in a statement that 32 of its members had been removed from registration within the party after they were found to be deceased.

The DQP is now reportedly set to file charges against the EC, which the party claimed needed to be “stronger and more careful in order to achieve democracy” or risk losing the public trust.

“Because Elections Commission has neglected its duty, DQP has decided to file charges against the Elections Commission. It has been decided to request the court to recheck the cases of all the members who were removed from the party’s registry,” the party reportedly stated, according to Haveeru.  The DQP was unable to respond to Minivan News at the time of going to press.

However, Thaufeeq said he was unsure why the DQP had stated that 32 of its members had been removed from its registry, with the EC having removed just six party members that were found to have died between January 1, 2010 and early December 2, this year.

“I don’t understand what is behind the issue,” he said. “When we notified the party earlier this month [of the six membership removals], we asked them to inform us of any objections [the DQP] had – they have been silent.”

Beyond the current DQP criticisms of the EC, Thaufeeq claimed that political party members were required to be removed from a registry once they had left the organisation or died; a rule he said was important to ensure that political funding allocated to parties on the basis of their membership size was correct.

The EC President added that he believed that for a number of the country’s political organisations -including the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the opposition Dhivehi Rayytithunge Party (DRP) – there appeared to be reluctance to update memberships.

“They are very keen to add membership, but not so concerned about reducing their numbers,” he said.  “Initially we expected all these areas [informing the EC of members who have left a political party or died] to be carried out by the parties themselves,” Thaufeeq said. “When we started getting many complaints from former members that their parties were not removing their registrations, we started acting on the issue ourselves.”

Multi-party “problem”

Thaufeeq claimed that updating member registries has become a problem common among “almost every political party in the Maldives”, with the EC acting to remove any members that it can verify to have died or left a particular part.

The commission said that it uses information sourced from a number of bodies like Island Officers, the Ministry of Health, the Department of National Statistics or confirmation by the deceased’s family to verify its records.

“We don’t think the DQP case is too significant,” he said. “This is a straight forward case; when a person is dead they cannot remain a member.”

According to Thaufeeq, the EC is looking for the approval of new legislation in parliament that will “outline changes we want to bring to the registration system.” “These laws have been sent to parliament for approval, which we believe will provide solutions to the current problems [of membership registries],” he claimed.

Membership benefits

Thaufeeq put forward a number of suggestions to what he believed may indicate why the issue of registered party members appeared to be a concern for political organisations.

Primarily, he claimed that under current government funding agreements for registered political parties, 40 percent of allocated expenditure was divided equally among the group. The additional 60 percent was then rewarded on the basis of parties with the highest memberships, Thaufeeq claimed.

“Also, a group wishing to register as a political party must initially have more than 3000 registered members to qualify. After that, there is no regulation or rule that would change back their status if they fall below this figure,” he added. “There are political parties with less than 3000 members.”