The Parliament voted on Tuesday to disregard a Supreme Court ruling concerning the counting of parliamentary seats. The controversy centres on how the total number of parliamentarians should be tallied, particularly regarding seats that have become vacant.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled on 29 February that the Parliament’s practice of not including vacated seats in the total count contravened the Constitution. This judgement was intended to rectify the Parliament’s amendment to its Standing Orders, which excluded such seats from the total count, thereby reducing the number of seats considered from 87 to 80.

Despite this, a proposal, led by Saudh Hussain, MP for the Villin’gili constituency from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was put forward suggesting that the Parliament should not comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. This proposal gained support and was seconded by Eva Abdulla, MP for Galolhu North from The Democrats, leading to its passage with 25 votes in favour and only 2 against.

Following the vote, Speaker Mohamed Aslam declared that henceforth the Parliament would consider the total number of seats as 80, disregarding the seven seats vacated in November last year. The seats became vacant when seven lawmakers resigned to take up positions within President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s administration, and the Election Commission subsequently decided against holding by-elections due to the proximity to the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Opening the sitting on Tuesday, Speaker Aslam declared that the total tally of the parliament would be 87, in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling, and asked parliamentarians to repeal the contradictory article in its Standing Orders. 

The ruling, which mandates the inclusion of vacated seats in the total count of parliamentarians, led to Aslam’s announcement that the Parliament should consider all 87 seats, thereby requiring a quorum of 22 members for proceedings.

The decision by the Speaker to acknowledge the Supreme Court ruling and propose the repeal of the conflicting amendment caused a rift within the Parliament, especially among members of his own party. Key figures within the MDP, including Parliamentary Group Leader Mohamed Rasheed Hussain and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Saleem, voiced their dissent. 

The disagreement highlights a significant clash between the judiciary and the legislature, with Parliament asserting its authority to legislate, even in opposition to the judiciary’s interpretations. This move raises questions about the balance of powers and the constitutional framework governing the Maldives, particularly in relation to the judiciary’s role in reviewing and interpreting legislation.