Top court rules PPM congress to be valid

Apex court of Maldives on Wednesday ruled Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)'s extraordinary congress held last year to be valid.

The Supreme Court of Maldives issued the verdict supporting the High Court verdict declaring the congress held by PPM following the 2018 presidential election as valid.

PPM had claimed that president Yameen who suffered a rather embarrassing defeat to the opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September's presidential elections was voted in as the new leader unanimously by congress members.

However, the members of the Elections Commission had refused to endorse the congress citing procedural violations.

The first appellate court ruled in favour of PPM and ordered the elections commission to recognize the leadership elected during the congress within 24 hours.

The Elections Commission then contested the High Court decision with the Supreme Court. A single hearing was held at the Supreme Court regarding the case, where PPM continued to insist the validity of their congress while EC was adamant that several violations had taken place during the congress that would deem it as invalid.

However, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court supported the High Court's verdict, and ruled that PPM's congress was valid, with the unanimous agreement of all five judges on the bench, as the Elections Commission had failed to successfully prove the claims they were making.

The development comes as major boost for Yameen who was facing a battle to hold onto the party in his bid to remain as the country's new opposition leader. Yameen's leadership has now been assured.

The party's last congress was held in 2013 to elect former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as the party president. Gayoom however was unceremoniously ousted from the party after falling-out with his half brother Yameen and was jailed over the alleged plot to overthrow the government in February, although he has now been released.

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

Former president, Yameen had moved to register a new political party, Peoples National Congress (PNC) as the dispute over the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leadership was dragging 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.

President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has not revealed what his plans for the party are or what would happen to PNC, now that PPM leadership has been assured to the former president.