With the start of the processing
of the registration of the political parties, Bhutan remains the
only country in South Asia where political parties are not allowed
to register. However, Bhutan has also been in the process of drafting
On 20 May 2005 President
Gayyoom decided to introduce, in the second session of Peoples’
Majlis (parliament) beginning on 2 June 2005, a request for revision
of a previous house-opinion against the formation of political parties
in the Maldives. On 2 June 2005, the Majlis voted unanimously
to overturn the opinion on banning political parties. It was a historic
day but celebration was spoilt by the arbitrary arrest of the leader
of the Maldivian Democratic Party, Mohamed Nasheed and his
Governing Council colleagues Ahmed Abbas, Susan Ibrahim Fulhu, the
party’s top Administration Executive Shuaib Ali and party activist
Ibrahim Shiham. They had gathered to lend
support to the members of the Majlis and were released on the same
Political parties registration regulation:
The Maldives government subsequently promulgated the rules for registration
of political parties. The new regulations would be in force until
they can be embodied by proper legislation.
The new rules allow Maldivians over 21 years of age to become members
of a political party. However, the Commissioner of Elections, Auditor
General, Judges and Magistrates, Members of the Human Rights Commission,
and specified levels of government posts cannot become members of
the political parties and therefore cannot contest elections.
The proposed interim measures also provide for the government to
provide grants for political parties. The other main sources of
income can be membership fees and donations of money and/or property.
But, contributions from foreign sources is prohibited.
Attorney General, Dr. Hassan Saeed stated that once
political parties begin functioning it has been decided to allot
5-10 million Rufiyaa from the annual budget of the state. The money
allocated to different parties might differ based on the strength
of membership of each party.
While equitable State funding is important, the fear that political
parties close to Gayoom using the state fund to solidify their support
base cannot be discounted. There is need to keep the State funding at minimum
to ensure that State funds cannot be misused by the ruling parties.
Need for full
While Gayoom may receive
kudos for initiating refroms, there was as such no law which banned
registration of political parties in the Maldives. Rather Article
27 of the Constitution of Maldives recognises the freedom of association
and assembly. Yet, the Peoples Majlis gave an illegal opinion to
ban the political parties. In any democratic country, such a bizarre
opinion would have been subjected to judicial scrutiny. However,
with President Gayoom serving as the Chief of the judiciary, there
was no such possibility. Therefore, the proposal of President Gayoom
of 14 February 2005 to separate judiciary is welcome.
President Gayoom is on the
threshold of making history. He could easily go down in history
as another dictator who just addressed the increasing democratic
protests. He can also decide to immortalise himself as a genuine
democratic reformer to make the Maldives as a model democracy in
If President Gayoom does
not wish to be condemned for half-hearted measures, he must dissolve
the Peoples Majlis which was elected in January 2005 and call for
fresh elections once the initial registration of political parties
is complete. There are many Members in the
People’s Majlis who were elected in January 2005 while serving with
government employment. With the enforcement of the regulation for
registration of political parties that bars the Commissioner
of Elections, Auditor General, Judges and Magistrates, Members of
the Human Rights Commission, and specified levels of government
posts from becoming members of the political parties, the role of these government servants cum Members
of Majlis has become simply untenable. This particular provision
shows the genuineness to institutionalise democracy and President
Gayoom can give further push.
However, if President Gayoom continues with the current
Peoples Majlis, it would basically imply postponing the reform process
for another five years – which is scandalous by any yardstick! The
question would arise as to whether President Gayoom is attempting
to buy five years rule by doling out 5 to 10 million Rufiyaa from
the annual budget of the state to the political parties.
The Peoples Majlis also needs to be dissolved to give
credibility to the process of drafting the new constitution including
the proposals given by President Gayoom on 14 February 2005. It
would be equally scandalous if political parties are not allowed
to participate in the drafting of the new constitution and instead,
the bureaucrats cum members of the Peoples Majlis are allowed to
draft the new constitution. The Peoples Special Majlis which is
mandated to draft the new constitution should also be done away
as it has many unelected Ministers, bureaucrats etc as members.
For a country of 300,000 populations, 50 members of the Peoples
Majlis to be elected in a fresh election after dissolution of the
current one will be genuine representatives to draft a new constitution.
On their part, political parties should assure President
Gayoom that he should complete his existing term to continue the
The donors including the European Commission and the
United States should provide financial assistance to hold first
multi-party elections in the Maldives should President Gayoom dissolves
the current Peoples Majlis.