Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has urged the incumbent parliament to expedite the passage of a crucial bill aimed at curbing political defection. The legislation, drafted by Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was introduced to the parliament on 22 February by Ahmed Abdulla, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Baarah.

Solih’s appeal was made during Monday’s official launch of the MDP’s parliamentary campaign. The party, which has fielded 90 candidates in the 93-seat parliamentary race, is running its campaign under the banner ‘Misraabu hama magah!’, a phrase that translates to ‘steering towards the just path’.

At the event, MDP candidates made a public commitment not to defect if elected in the upcoming election. Solih urged them to honour this pledge and emphasised that the party had fielded a diverse group of candidates with expertise spanning various fields. He also implored the candidates to fulfil their responsibilities and meet the expectations of the party members.

“Fundamental and indispensable rights must be ensured. There must not be any encroachment on the right to freedom of expression. These liberties must not be obstructed. Any endeavour to impede these rights through legislative amendments must be counteracted if you’re in [parliament]. The freedom of the press must be preserved. Employment rights must be safeguarded. You must also pledge to maintain unwavering allegiance to the party,” Solih articulated, addressing the MDP’s candidates, a group of six women and 84 men.

“My appeal to the outgoing parliament is to hasten the passage of the [anti-defection] bill before the culmination of its term. Provide assurance [that the MPs would not defect] to the party members. Otherwise, the nation would descend into an entirely disparate scenario. We would again deviate from the path of justice,” he added.

Solih also assured party members of his continued involvement in the party’s leadership despite not vying for the most senior position within the party, the party presidency. He reasoned that his decision not to contest for the party presidency was driven by his desire to enable a broader spectrum of individuals to assume key positions within the party. Abdulla Shahid, who held the Foreign Affairs portfolio in the Solih administration, was elected to the position uncontested.