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20th parliament: Hope for a restoration of faith

Covering key pledges made towards legal reformation and developmental aims, this article paints a vivid picture of electorate expectations for the 20th parliament in restoring faith in the legislature, now fractured due to repeated instances of past setbacks.

Aishath Shuba Solih
27 May 2024, MVT 10:16
People's Majlis during the Presidential Address in February.
Aishath Shuba Solih
27 May 2024, MVT 10:16

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, with great conviction, had pledged to drive his government under two key fundamentals; restoring balance within the economy and shielding the independent three powers of the State — the executive, judiciary and legislature.

Under efforts to demonstrate this ambitious drive, multiple plans were proposed to lead the people and the country towards this conclusion not long after his administration came into power. Strategizing over 300 schemes for this aim during the presidential campaign alone, this government has fervently vowed to uphold their pledges all while reiterating that their foremost priorities are the nation and its people.

With such grand ambitions for the country’s development, government had stressed time and time again that acquiring the majority of the coming new parliament is essential to fulfilling these vows.

"The path the government will need to proceed on will be determined based on your decision there [in the parliamentary election]," the President Dr Mohamed Muizzu had previously stated during his trip across Haa Alif atoll.

Their hopes for a better future renewed with a fresh executive, the electorate conferred the ruling party with a shattering majority powerful enough to allow significant alterations to the constitution itself.

“The 20th parliament will prove to be different.”

A commitment casually thrown around that, due to recurring instances of unfulfilled promises, has grown repetitive with the faith of the constituents [in the parliament] now gradually diminished.

Despite all the honeyed promises and persuasive assurances, fulfillment of all pledges made to the people and a lack of excuses wearingly repeated in the past remains yet to be seen.

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu delivering his first Presidential Address at the parliament in February.-- Photo: Majlis Secretariat

Restoring the lost faith

In scrutiny of past compositions of the country’s legislature, parliamentarians have displayed less than graceful behavior inside the very chambers of their mandate. Frequent display of conflicts that escalate to comical exhibitions of dissatisfaction with inter chamber procedures and conflicted political interests have contributed vastly to the fractured reputation it has reluctantly claimed over the years.

Addressing this, nominee for the Deputy Speaker of the 20th parliament term, Ahmed Nazim expressed that national interests had been neglected through political unrest and discord, attributing this as the reason for parliamentary setbacks in the past. He remained confident that no such displays would be observed during this term and procedures will be carried out with refinement.

Nominated speaker of the 20th parliament, Abdul Raheem had further solidified this conviction, easily dismissing any notions that political antics and other such disruptions will be displayed during this term.

The President himself had previously ensured such actions would never be endorsed by him, recalling his pledge to rid the country of its conventional spirit for political revenge.

Recurrent behavior of Presidents — although elected to illustrate the promising pledges they had campaigned for — in veering off the virtuous path severely had also damaged the reputation of a government-controlled legislature.

Upon assuming his position in November 2023, the President had vowed to steer clear of all actions that splintered the electorate’s faith in State leaders and legislators such as commanding State institutions, enforcing subservience towards personal agendas and extravagant retaliation towards the opposition.

Nominee for the Deputy Speaker of the 20th parliament term, Ahmed Nazim during an interview with Mihaaru News. -- Photo: Fayaz Moosa / Mihaaru News

The Deputy Speaker nominated for the 20th parliament had assured that the members aim to employ equity and impartiality during the legislature operations. He ensured the few opposition parliamentarians of the 20th term will be granted proper opportunities to fulfil their role as opposition in holding the government accountable.

However, the question remains if such a vast majority conferred to the ruling party can avoid disproportionate allegiances to the government and fulfil one of their key mandates of enforcing government accountability.

Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam had previously emphasized the necessity for the parliament to extend essential cooperation to the administration while also recalling the key role of parliamentarians in government operations ascribing to their mandate of ensuring accountability of the executive.

A fine line lies between these two delicate mandates, and a strong balance between the two must be upheld to restore faith in the parliament.

The crucial role of parliament in setting an exemplar example of integrity, effective accountability held over the government and effective communications sustained with constituents is integral to proceed a functional parliament worthy of the people’s trust.

The government and its new parliament remain given a chance to restore this faith and administer positive changes throughout the country through a collaborative executive and a functional legislature.

Ambitions to propel the future

“The rulers must be compassionate to the people. They must honor their promises," said President Dr Mohamed Muizzu on January 1, 2024 in his address to the people on occasion of the new year.

With the recent government stepping down with a vast number of unfulfilled promised despite a compelling super majority conferred to the ruling party back then, constituents are expectant yet uncertain of the current administration’s ability to honor their pledges.

Earlier in April, the President had revealed that over 200 bills need to be passed through the parliament to realize the many vows made to the constituents. Among these were new bills on land conveyance and expansion of real estate business that required enactment to arrange procedures as development advances in addition to amending existing laws.

Ensuring a total housing solution by distributing 70,000 housing units or land plots for each eligible Maldivian citizen above the age of 18 was the foremost agenda of President Muizzu’s presidential campaign. To facilitate this, a new housing regulation is set to be enacted to end political influence over housing while ensuring equal housing opportunities for all citizens.

The bill further includes a mandate to contract housing schemes to private companies in order to allow procession in conformity of the written guidelines. Moreover, housing categories alongside fundamental characteristics of social housing and affordable housing schemes are also stipulated in this bill.

A 20-year masterplan that will purportedly integrate the true progressive vision of the people and achieve sustainable development for all islands in the country was also pledged during President Muizzu's presidential campaign last year.

This regional development concept had aimed to deliver all essential developmental projects to each island accordingly with their individual needs and is set to be preserved by a law which once again requires parliament synergy.

People's Majlis.

More parliament dependent plans include enactment of a bill to implement cybersecurity in a bid to introduce international payment platforms to the country, amendments to the law pertaining council member stipends to introduce better prospects for educated staff and strengthening the copyright legislation to secure property rights of creative persons.

While the parliament's role in this government’s developmental aims remain indisputably significant in light of the dependency on parliaments to proceed such paramount priorities, legal and judicial reformation of select State agencies, institutions and governing bodies remains another key pledge of this administration that is heavily reliant on the legislature.

In addition to amendments to rectifying the number of parliamentarians in the legislature and altering the criteria for parliament membership, one of the principal vows embodied within this was refining the composition of Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address loopholes allowing political influence.

Moreover, amendment to the Maldives Police Service Act was also pledged to ensure a just and independent institution.

The President had also revealed his commitment to enacting an act to claim compensation in instances of wrongful prosecution, detention or conviction alongside multiple other initiatives pursuing reformation of the criminal and legal system in the country. Additional reforms pledged under this agenda include revisions to the current system that considers criminal offences of minors for employment purposes, amendments to the law to end prolonged detainment for distinct crimes and amendments to the Drug Act to establish a sustainable and efficient rehabilitation system.

Implementing the promised difference

While a stack of additional bills pertaining pledged development and reformation for both the nation and its individual communities remains reliant on legislation through the parliament, the super majority obtained by the ruling faction not only serves as a hopeful testament to the assured developments but also a bridge towards ensuring the annual state budget is passed to facilitate all developments sought by the government.

The optimistic nature of the people has come to light with their choice to relinquish trust in a new government despite repeated instances of past setbacks.

A functional parliament devoid of former setbacks, incomplete pledges, needless altercations, conduct benefiting political agendas and exploitation of power needs to be seen to return the trust confided by the electorate. Lawmakers needs to sustain effective communication with their constituents to deliver their mandate of serving their needs while also remaining dedicated in their oath to utilize the legislature to interpose the progress sought by the constituents and the administration.

While the electorate has displayed an optimistic anticipation for a restoration of faith in the legislature, the mantle now remains conferred to the lawmakers of the 20th parliament term to demonstrate beyond doubt that the new parliament is indeed different.

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