Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that the delay in President Mohamed Muizzu’s ratification of the Anti-Defection bill is an obstacle to democracy. The bill, which passed parliament on 1 April with 33 votes for—mostly from both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats—and six against, dictates that Members of Parliament (MPs) have to resign should they leave the party under which they were elected for their parliamentary term.

Solih, while campaigning for the MDP’s parliamentary elections in Maamendhoo Island, in Gaafu Alifu (GA) Atoll, assured the people that the MDP candidate for the Kolamaafushi constituency, which includes Maamendhoo, will not switch parties.

While Parliament has now passed an anti-defection bill to eliminate floor-crossing, President Muizzu is withholding the bill from becoming law, he said.

“I would say that he is openly obstructing democracy by not gazetting such an important law at such an important time,” Solih said.

While there are reports that President Muizzu will send the bill back to parliament, even if he does, the MDP-majority parliament will pass the bill into law, he said.

“The legal assurance that a candidate you elect will remain in the party you elect for five years will hopefully be resolved through the law,” he said.

The Constitution requires the President to decide on the ratification of a bill within 15 days of its passage in parliament with the deadline for the anti-defection bill expiring Tuesday, 16 April 2024.

West Maafannu MP Mohamed Falah had previously alleged that Muizzu was delaying the ratification of the in order to “buy” MPs. About 13 MDP MPs have gone to the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) through acts of bribery, Falah alleged.

The bill reflects a growing demand for political fidelity, underscored by a Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) survey revealing that 73 percent of respondents advocated for disqualification of MPs crossing the floor.