MP Imthiyaz Fahumy speaking at a press conference. Dhauru Photo/Hussain Sunain

Bill seeks to allow system change with 1 referendum

The first reading of the amendment is included in the agenda of Monday's sitting.

1 October 2023

By Fathmath Ahmed Shareef

The Democrats has submitted a constitutional amendment to the parliament to eliminate the need to hold a second referendum on the constitutional proposals if the people vote in favour of a parliamentary system in the proposed initial referendum on changing the system of governance. 

Parliament had in late September sent to the Elections Commission a resolution seeking a referendum on the system of governance in Maldives by October 30. 

The Elections Commission (EC), which has tentatively set October 29 as the date for the referendum, has since requested the parliament to determine and provide the question to be asked of the people in the public referendum seeking views on changing the country's governance system.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, a long-time advocate of changing the existing presidential system to a parliamentary system, was set to submit a proposal to the parliament last week to determine the wording on the ballot paper to be used in the referendum on the governance system in Maldives, as well as a paper on the proposed system of governance. 

However, the sitting was called off after the parliament failed to meet the quorum. 

The Democrats' Maafannu North MP Imthiyaz Fahumy has moved an amendment to the constitution. With the amendment, the Parliament has now decided to hold a sitting on Monday to discuss it.

The proposed amendment is to Article 262 of the Constitution, which currently states that a bill amending the constitution passed by parliament shall come into force upon obtaining the written assent of the president. 

However, the article states that the pesident shall give written assent to any amendments made by the parliament to the following provisions of the Constitution only after a public referendum decides so by a majority of the votes cast:

  • Any of the provisions contained in Chapter II (The Maldivian charter of rights and freedoms) 

  • 2. Article 79(a) (Term of the parliament)

  • Article 107 (Term of office), and Article 108 (Presidential election)

The article states that where the amendment does not receive a majority approval in the public referendum, it shall be deemed to have been defeated.

Imthiyaz has proposed to add a notation after Article 262 of the constitution. It contains:

"Notwithstanding that section, a bill passed by parliament to amend the constitution contains a public referendum on a matter of importance to the people within the general legislative powers conferred on parliament under Article 70(sh) of this constitution; If a further amendment has been made in connection with a matter, there will be no public referendum to determine whether the bill has the consent of the people." 

The first reading of the amendment is included in the agenda of Monday's sitting.