Parliament asks EC to hold system change referendum

Elections Commission (EC)'s chairman Fuad Thaufeeq (C) speaks to press on July 12, 2023. (Sun Photo/Mohamed Shathiu Abdulla)

The Parliament has shared the resolution it passed on Wednesday, seeking a constitutional referendum on changing the system of governance in Maldives before November, to the Elections Commission (EC).

EC’s vice chairman Ismail Habeeb said the commission received formal notification from the Parliament regarding the resolution on Thursday.

Habeeb said the commission is seeking legal counsel on how to proceed, and declined to make any further comment, at this time.

Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb, a member of the Democrats, had submitted the resolution, which calls for a constitutional referendum to decide on changing the system of governance in Maldives, from a presidential system to a parliamentary system, on September 12.

It originally called for a referendum to be held before November 30, but Ilyas later amended the resolution to change the deadline to October 30.

The Parliament voted to pass the resolution with the unanimous vote of 35 MPs, including some from the ruling MDP, on Wednesday afternoon.

The General Elections Act stipulates that the EC must receive 30-45 days to hold an election.

The commission has stated that it needs to meet certain legal obligations, such as giving time for voters to re-register, and time to submit complaints to the voter’s list.

The commission estimates it will take between MVR 40-50 million to hold the referendum.

So far, the Democrats are the only political party pushing for a shift to a parliamentary system. Other parties have stated they are happy with the current presidential system.

However, during negotiations with Democrats for a potential coalition deal after the first round of voting in the presidential election on September 9, both the MDP and PPM-PNC said it was not opposed to a referendum, but only after the election runoff.