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Parliament approves October 30 for referendum with MDP backing

Mohamed Rehan
20 September 2023, MVT 17:32
Majlis emergency sitting
Mohamed Rehan
20 September 2023, MVT 17:32

Parliament on Wednesday, September 20 has approved the referendum resolution to directly inform Elections Commission (EC) to hold voting on October 30.

The resolution was submitted by The Democrats' presidential candidate and Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb earlier with a key amendment.

He revised the resolution to schedule the referendum on October 30, which should be instructed to the EC directly by the parliament.

With the revision, the resolution was approved at Wednesday's sitting with 31 votes; and with the backing of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which holds parliament majority.

When Wednesday sitting's chair opened the floor to debate over the resolution, none of the MPs present in the chambers stepped forward.

The parliament has bypassed the President to seek a referendum according to Article 70 of the Maldives Constitution, of which Section (b)(6) states that the parliament has authority on "holding of public referendums on issues of public importance."

However, there were dissenting voices from some members of the ruling party. Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef was among those who contended that a referendum via a parliamentary resolution was not feasible.

MP Shareef also said that instead of seeking the referendum through Article 70(b)(6), it can be sought only according to Article 262 which states the discretion is with the president.

Article 262(b) states that the President shall "give written assent to any amendments made by the parliament" on provisions contained under The Maldivian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the Maldives Constitution and Article 79(a) which constitutes the Term of parliament, "only after a public referendum decides so by a majority of the votes cast."

Despite this, the majority of MDP members supported the resolution. Although the resolution secured committee approval, it can only be passed with the subsequent approval from the parliament.

While the parliament has approved to bypass the president and directly instruct EC to hold the referendum on October 30, The Democrats' interim council earlier demanded to hold the voting on September 28.

Although MDP has conceded to The Democrats' condition of holding a public referendum, it remains uncertain whether the recently established political party founded by Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed will form an alliance with the ruling party in the runoff polls of the presidential election, set for September 30.

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