Parliament in session. Photo/Parliament

Parliament adopts resolution seeking Oct system referendum

The resolution was passed in the chamber with the unanimous backing of 35 MPs.

20 September 2023

By Mariyam Umna Ismail

Parliament on Wednesday passed a resolution seeking a referendum on the system of governance in Maldives by October 30.

The Democrats, led by speaker Mohamed Nasheed who has always advocated for a parliamentary system, submitted the resolution to the parliament seeking a referendum before October 30 on the choice of governance system.

When the resolution was first tabled in parliament, the vote was proposed for November 30. However, Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb, while debating the resolution in Tuesday's meeting, proposed that the vote be taken before October 30 instead of November. Following Ilyas's amendment, the resolution on the parliament's website was amended to strike out "November" from the text and write "October" instead. 

However, the interim council of the Democrats to which Ilyas belongs passed a motion on Monday to condition an alliance with the ruling MDP in the presidential runoff slated for September 30 on holding a referendum on the choice of governance system before September 29. 

On Wednesday, the parliament's committee of the whole house initially adopted Ilyas's resolution with an amendment proposed by Ilyas. 

Ilyas proposed the resolution be amended to allow the parliament to directly ask the Elections Commission to hold the referendum. The committee passed with resolution with Ilyas's amendment with the unanimous backing of 35 MPs.

As no MP wanted to debate on the resolution after the committee's approval, speaker Nasheed called a vote on the resolution. The resolution was passed in the chamber with the unanimous backing of 35 MPs.

However, President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih believes:

  • Referendum on governance system can be taken only after the parliament passes a motion by a three-fourth majority or with the backing of 66 out of the 87 MPs, sends motion to him, following which he can request the Elections Commission to hold a referendum 

  • If the resolution is passed by the parliament and sent to him, he will request the Elections Commission to take the vote before October 30, as per Ilyas's resolution, before the presidential runoff

However, Article 70 of the constitution gives parliament the power to decide to hold a referendum on important matters affecting the people.