President Dr Mohamed Muizzu is delaying the ratification of the Anti-Defection Bill to “buy” MPs, Maafannu Hulhangu MP Mohamed Falah has alleged. 

Passed on 1 April with 33 votes—garnered from both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats—the bill now hangs in balance, awaiting presidential action within the constitutional deadline of 15 days from its receipt at the President’s Office.

Falah’s allegations come at a critical juncture, with public concerns mounting over MPs defecting post-election, an issue that has plagued the integrity and stability of the nation’s parliamentary system. 

This anxiety is compounded by fears that the government might attempt to coerce MDP MPs into defection, mirroring past instances where, according to Falah, “about 13 of them have gone to the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC)” through acts of “bribery.”

The Anti-Defection Bill, part of the MDP’s legislative agenda, aims to fortify the parliamentary framework by mandating MPs who switch political affiliations or are expelled for violating party whips to resign, with an option to challenge the decision in court within seven days.

This legislative effort reflects a growing demand for political fidelity, underscored by a Human Rights Commission of Maldives survey revealing that 73 percent of respondents advocate for disqualification of MPs crossing the floor.

This episode is not isolated in the annals of Maldivian politics. The country revisits a tumultuous history of legal battles and Supreme Court interventions surrounding anti-defection, dating back to 2017 when the defection of twelve MPs catalysed a constitutional crisis. 

Despite legislative attempts to address this through the Anti-Defection Act of 2018—later repealed—the legal and moral quandaries of retrospective law application and the unseating of MPs have remained unresolved, leaving a void in the legal framework governing political allegiance.

The present controversy not only underscores the pressing need for clear anti-defection laws but also highlights the delicate balance between enforcing party discipline and upholding democratic principles enshrined in the constitution. 

With the elections looming and the integrity of the parliamentary process at stake, the resolution of this standoff is critical. The allegations against President Muizzu, if substantiated, pose serious questions about the use of political power and financial influence to undermine democratic processes, demanding rigorous scrutiny and a collective call for transparency, accountability, and adherence to the rule of law.