President ratifies key bill, extending term of incumbent councilors

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (File Photo/President's Office)

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on Tuesday, ratified a constitutional amendment designed to extend the term of incumbent councilors until such time as the coronavirus situation in the country improves enough to hold the local council elections to elect new councilors.

The amendment was passed with the unanimous consensus of 74 parliamentarians during a parliamentary sitting held at 01:30 am. It had come less than one day before the term of incumbent councilors expires on Wednesday, something which would have plunged the country into a legal vacuum.

Maldives was scheduled to hold the local council elections on April 4 but was forced to postpone the elections due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent councilors, submitted on behalf of the government by Biledhdhoo MP Ahmed Haleem, is designed to work alongside a sunset law to postpone the local council elections as late as January 6 next year which was passed in late April.

The constitutional amendment was reviewed by the Whole House Sub Committee, which on Friday, voted in favor of removing the first article of the bill and adding two clauses to Article 231 of the Constitution.

The two changes were proposed by the parliamentary group leader of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Central Henveyru MP Ali Azim.

Article 231 (f) will see incumbent councilors remain in power until new ones are elected to the post if their term expires before the local council elections are held., while Article 231 (g) will see councilors remain in their posts are to carry out their duties under a transitional policy through an Act to be enacted by the Parliament.

The Parliament on Tuesday also passed a sunset law submitted by West Henveyru MP Hassan Latheef on ensuring the smooth running of the administrative districts of the country, which will significantly limit the powers of interim councilors until a fresh election is held.