Maldives parliament repeals anti-defection law

Maldives parliament repeals anti-defection law

Male, November 4 (Maldives Independent): The Maldivian parliament Thursday night passed the repeal of the anti-defection law that penalizes floor crossing by stripping lawmakers of their seats.

Thirty-seven MPs voted in favor of abolishing the law, 17 voted against, and five abstained. The Maldivian parliament has 85 members.

The anti-defection law effectively gave political parties the power to unseat lawmakers. It triggered the automatic removal of MPs who got expelled or resigned from their party.

The bill to repeal was proposed by MP Riyaz Rasheed, the Deputy Parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, who was among pro-government lawmakers who voted to pass the anti-defection law in March.

Introducing the bill to the parliament floor last week, Riyaz called his vote the most “regrettable” decision of his career.

Most MPs supported the repeal during the debate at Wednesday’s sitting, with many describing the provisions on disqualification as unconstitutional.

But ruling party MPs who backed the law argued it is necessary to close the “transfer market” of lawmakers who switch parties.

In July last year, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that penalized floor crossing until parliament could pass an anti-defection law.

The law was used  to unseat 12 former Progressive Party of Maldives MPs – all of whom have been reinstated after they backed the opposition’s bid to impeach the Speaker.

The Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling on the day the opposition coalition secured a clear majority.

The disqualification of the dozen defectors was used to restore the pro-government majority.

When the anti-defection law was passed in March this year, the opposition challenged its legality on the grounds that it was voted through without the constitutional quorum needed to pass laws.

More than half the 85-member house must be present for voting on “any matter requiring compliance by citizens” but only 39 lawmakers attended the March 13 sitting.

Asked to strike down the law, the Supreme Court ruled that arguments made by state attorneys about a “doctrine of necessity”overruled the need to follow a constitutional requirement.

The opposition’s parliament boycott posed “obstacles to calling votes on crucial matters” of economic and social welfare, state attorneys had contended.


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