The General Purpose Committee of Parliament has revised the rules regarding the calculation of the total number of Members of Parliament (MPs) for parliamentary proceedings.

This revision comes against the backdrop of a constitutional challenge by Attorney General Ahmed Usham, which questioned the validity of prior amendments that potentially allow for the easier impeachment of the President and Vice-President, given the opposition’s absolute majority in parliament.

The constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote from the total 87-member parliament. The current dilemma arose when several PPM/PNC lawmakers resigned to accept senior governmental positions after the presidential elections, leaving seven seats vacant with no opportunity for by-elections before the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

The main opposition MDP, leveraging its majority, initiated an amendment to the parliamentary rules to calculate the quorum based on sitting members instead of the total constitutionally mandated seats. This amendment aimed to navigate the challenges posed by the sudden vacancies and the timing of the electoral cycle.

The Supreme Court’s involvement was prompted by Attorney General Ahmed Usham’s appeal on 28 December, seeking to annul these amendments on constitutional grounds. With the Supreme Court set to begin hearing the case on 25 February, the General Purpose Committee acted promptly to withdraw the controversial amendments.

The committee’s revised provision now specifies that for the purpose of roll calls and parliamentary quorums, the total strength of parliament will exclude vacant seats if a by-election cannot be held due to proximity to general elections. More specifically, if a seat becomes vacant less than six months before a scheduled general election, it will not be counted in the total number of MPs for parliamentary roll calls.