PNC alleges malicious intent behind EC delays

Peoples National Congress (PNC) will be submitting a complaint at the Committee on Independent Institutions of the Parliament regarding the Elections Commission (EC).

Parliamentary Group leader of PNC's parent party, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Nihan accused on Wednesday that the official electoral body of the Maldives is delaying the registration of the new party.

Speaking to AVAS, Nihan alleged that the Elections Commission was prejudiced against PNC, and were deliberately delaying the registration of former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's new party.

PNC submitted 4000 membership forms to the Elections COmmission to register the party two weeks back. However, almost half of the forms were rejected by the commission, citing different application errors, with only 1945 forms being validated. After failing their first attempt to meet the minimum requirement of 3000 membership forms, 1100 additional forms were submitted again sometime this week. According to party founder MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, only 300 forms were validated from the newly submitted forms. Therefore, only 2300 forms were validated from the total of 5100 forms submitted.

In a press conference held on Wednesday jointly by PPM and PNC, Abdul Raheem stated that 15 days has passed since their initial submission of forms. He noted that the newly registered political party, Maldives Third-Way Democrats (MTD) had sumitted their required 3000 membership forms on the morning of 18th December, which was then validated within 24 hours. The lawmaker alleges that the elections commission is being intentionally discriminatory against PNC as 5100 forms could not be processed for approval over a 15-day period. Abrul Raheem believes it is a vindictive attempt by the EC to delay the party's registration ahead of the parliamentary elections in April.

EC member Ahmed Akram however, denied the allegations insisting that the commission would not impede the rights of any party.

"This commission won't violate the rights or anyone. Or deliberately delay anything. We're not plotting anything heinous," Akram said.

He also said the commission was in the process of validating the membership forms.

"We are validating the forms as quickly as possible. We're not discriminating PNC," he stressed.

There are some serious challenges and concerns for PNC in preparing for the upcoming parliamentary election due to delays in registering the party. The Elections Commission has instructed to conclude all party primaries for the upcoming parliamentary elections by 26th January.

Abdul Raheem said the party has a contingency plan in place in the event that the Elections Commission refuses to register the party. Contestants may run as independent candidates if the party remains unregistered. In any case, the party will present the commission members to the Committee Investigating Independent Institutions and hold them accountable for their actions.

Former president, Yameen had moved to register a new political party as the dispute over the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leadership drags on.

Speaking to local reporters late last month, Yameen had said the move to form a new party was with his "blessing."

"We can't head to an election with the party's future shrouded in uncertainty. Supreme Court is in recess. We don't when or how the verdict would come. So we can't take any chances," Yameen explained the reasons behind the bid to form a new party.

The former president also urged his supporters to immediately switch to the party if and when the time comes.

The Civil Court in 2016 found former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom guilty of violating the constitution, party charter and the political party law and handed-over party control to half brother and the then president Yameen.

Gayoom however was unceremoniously ousted from the party after falling-out with his half brother Yameen.

However, a lawsuit was filed challenging the legality of the PPM leadership and asking the Civil Court to handover party reins to the elder Gayoom. But before a single hearing could be held, the Supreme Court had taken over the case.