MDP agrees to expedite debate on referendum motion

MDP Parliamentary Group Leader, North Hithadhoo MP Mohamed Aslam (L) and then-MDP Leader, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed (R) . (Sun Photo/Ahmed Aushan Ilyas)

Parliament speaker, former president Mohamed Nasheed says the MDP, which holds a supermajority at the Parliament, has agreed to fast-track the resolution submitted by the Democrats, which calls for a constitutional referendum to decide on changing the system of governance in Maldives from a presidential system to a parliamentary system, before the end of September.

The resolution was submitted by Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb on September 12.

It calls for a referendum to be held before September 30 – which is when the second round of voting in the presidential election is slated for.

Ilyas said he decided to submit the resolution based on the experience from the administrations that have come since 2008. He said that the time has come to put the question of a system change before the people.

At Monday’s parliamentary sitting, Nasheed, who himself is a member of the Democrats, said the MDP’s parliamentary group leader, North Hithadhoo MP Mohamed Aslam had agreed to expedite the debate on the resolution.

He said that Aslam made the decision based on a request from the Democrats’ parliamentary group leader, Central Henveiru MP Ali Azim.

“The Democrats’ parliamentary group leader has said that the majority leader has agreed to fast-track this. So, we will conduct this as soon as possible,” he said.

He said that the preliminary debate on the resolution will be scheduled “soon.”

Azim told Sun that resolutions submitted to the Parliament can be expedited, if both the majority leader and the minority leader are in agreement.

He said that both parties have come to an agreement to expedite the debate.

“They agreed to expedite the debate. They did not agree to support the resolution,” he said.

Democrats, which placed third in the first round of the presidential election with seven percent of votes, has been courted by both the MDP and the opposition PPM-PNC for a potential coalition deal for the runoff.

But the Democrats set a key condition for any deal; support for a constitutional referendum to change the system of governance in Maldives from the current presidential system, to a parliamentary system.

Democrats want the referendum held before September 25th.

Maldives held a constitutional referendum on a system change in 2007. The majority decided to stick with the presidential system. Former president Nasheed and Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had advocated for a parliamentary system, back when the vote was held.

Differences in opinion regarding a system change had been the main point of conflict between Nasheed and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, which led to members loyal to Nasheed leaving the MDP to form the Democrats.