The Elections Commission on Sunday night announced parliamentary by-elections for the disputed constituencies, while both the opposition and the government supporters celebrated Maldives’ top court’s decision.
In an ambiguous verdict that was released by the Supreme Court late on Sunday evening, the court had stated that there is “nothing more to decide” regarding the four parliamentarians who were contesting their disqualification.
The four parliamentarians whose seats were challenged are: Villingili MP Saud Hussain, Dhidhoo MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed, Madduvvari MP Mohamed Ameeth and Thulusdhoo MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim.
The court had not explicitly stated that the members had been disqualified; it simply referred to its earlier verdict and stated that it maintained its previous decision.
The decision was deemed conspicuous and different legal experts had interpreted the verdict to suit their ideology.
Shortly after the apex court’s decision, the Elections Commission (EC) announced that it will continue with the preparations for by-elections in accordance with the court’s anti-defecting ruling on July 13, as the court did not overturn the decision to hold by-elections in its later verdict.
On July 13, the Supreme Court issued a ruling which stated that any parliamentarian that resigns or is expelled from the political party they were registered to at the time of election, or shifts to another party, will lose their seat in the parliament. The apex court had clarified its ruling just two days later on July 16 and held that the ruling could not be applied retroactively.
Maldivian Constitution already lists the conditions under which parliamentarians would lose their seats, which includes failure to pay a decreed debt, criminal convictions entailing jail sentences of over 12 months, or being part of the judiciary. The Constitution does not specify leaving or expulsion from political parties or floor-crossing as conditions to oust lawmakers.
EC’s statement said that it had temporarily halted all preparations for by-elections as the case had not been officially closed.
The EC announced that it will also be resuming preparations for parliamentary by-elections for Machangoalhi-South MP Abdullah Sinan and Dhangethi MP Ilham Ahmed.
However, EC did not officially announce whether the two MPs have officially lost their seats – MP Ilham had even filed a complaint to the parliament after its secretary-general cut-off his parliamentary privileges, as he had not been informed of his expulsion.
MP Ilham had asked the parliament to clarify whether he is still a member of the parliament, and to specify the clause in the Constitution under which he had lost his seat. He had even asked the parliament to show any subpoenas it may have received, ordering his removal.
The two MPs were allegedly dismissed from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) after the apex court’s anti-defection ruling – therefore in accordance with the apex court’s ruling, they would have lost their seats in the parliament for crossing the floor.
If there are any doubts about the legitimacy of an MP’s seat in the parliament, the Constitution states that only the Supreme Court holds the authority to make a final decision regarding the validity of their seat.