Azima questions Qasim’s eligibility as Speaker of People’s Majlis

Qasim Ibrahim, leader of JP and Speaker of People's Majlis. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Aishath Azima Shakoor, former Attorney General and current Minister of Legal Affairs at President’s Office, has questioned the eligibility of the recently elected Speaker of People’s Majlis, Qasim Ibrahim.

Qasim, the leader of Jumhoory Party (JP) and Maamingili MP, was elected the Speaker of People’s Majlis with an overwhelming majority of votes last Thursday night.

Azima wrote a post on her official Facebook account in which she questioned the eligibility of Qasim as Speaker last Saturday night.

She referenced two provisions in the Maldivian Constitution: Article 124 (b) which says the Speaker of Parliament needs to hold office in a circumstance where the President and the Vice President are disabled from holding office, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, if the Speaker is also disabled from holding office; and Article 124 (c) which says any person holding office of the President, even temporarily, needs to have all the qualifications of a President.

The People’s Majlis amended the Maldivian Constitution in 2015 to add an age limit for eligibility as President. The new qualification is that a President must be between the ages of 30-65 years.

Azima argued that Qasim is above 65 years of age, which means he is not eligible for presidency, even temporarily, and by default – not eligible for speakership.

Minister of Legal Affairs at President’s Office, Aishath Azima Shakoor. (File Photo/President's Office)

“The Constitution does not in writing give any specific requirements to hold the office of the Speaker other than to be a member of Parliament,” noted Azima. “The debate today by a lot of people is whether, in this circumstance, whether the Speaker is eligible to hold the office of Speaker. Those who go by this argument say that the Speaker has to be able to hold office of the Head of State where required. Then this begs the question whether Article 123 n 124 is by default imposing a new qualification on the Speaker.”

She noted that there are those who believe Qasim can still hold office as Speaker because the Constitution does not specifically say the Speaker has to have the qualifications required to hold the office of the President. And because the Deputy Speaker can take over the office of the President if necessary under Article 124 and Article 125 of the Maldivian Constitution while the Speaker is still in office.

She said that that again posed another question.

“Then this begs the question whether the Deputy Speaker in this circumstance is more senior in terms of the State? Or whether the provision for the Speaker is there only if there is no Speaker in office?” said Azima.

Azima said in a separate post that it wasn’t her personal opinion on the matter, but a presentation of arguments and legal questions in the issue.

She said the Counsel-General of People’s Majlis needs to clarify the matter and answer the legal question of whether Article 123 and Article 124 of the Maldivian Constitution imposes an additional qualification for Speaker of People’s Majlis or whether the Deputy Speaker of People’s Majlis with take office of the President if required.