The Elections Commission declared Monday that the Supreme Court’s verdict last week, which declared the recently passed Anti-Defection Bill lawful, eliminates all disputes regarding the disqualification of 12 lawmakers who were ousted last year for floor-crossing.
After the parliament passed the Anti-Defection Bill which states that floor-crossing parliamentarians would be unseated, opposition parties had filed at the apex court seeking a ruling to decide that the legislation had been approved unconstitutionally. However, the Supreme Court had decided against annulling the Anti-Defection Act, stating that the newly passed law was legitimate.
With the verdict, the EC has concluded that its decision to disqualify the 12 legislators, formerly of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was lawful and in effect. Subsequently, the commission has requested MVR 14 million from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to hold by-elections for the now vacant constituencies.
Though the EC has commenced preparations to hold by-elections, the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling issued on February 1 ordered to reinstate the unseated legislators. Along with the order to free nine high profile political prisoners, the verdict annulled the court’s previous ruling on July 2017 to disqualify floor-crossing MPs. The verdict had effectively overturned the Elections Commission’s decision to oust the 12 lawmakers.
The Attorney General had subsequently filed at the Supreme Court to annul the order to reinstate the MPs. However the top court did not rescind its decision on the unseated MPs, even in the verdict it later issued on February 16 to annul the order to free political prisoners. Instead the court had issued a temporary stay order on reinstating the lawmakers until the issue was concluded.
However the Supreme Court is still yet to announce a decision regarding the case though the hearings have ended.
In response to our inquiry as to why the EC is proceeding with the by-elections despite the unfinished case at the Supreme Court, EC member Ahmed Akram explained that the court’s latest verdict deeming the Anti-Defection Bill legitimate has been perceived by the EC’s legal team as a green light to go ahead with the by-elections. He added that, with the new law, the EC recognizes that the 12 lawmakers have been removed from parliament.