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20th Parliament – Navigating growth with a supermajority

The 20th session of the Maldives' Parliament is set to begin tomorrow with the ruling PNC and affiliated parties holding a combined strength of 79 seats out of the total 93 constituencies.

Malika Shahid
27 May 2024, MVT 14:16
Maldives Parliament
Malika Shahid
27 May 2024, MVT 14:16

As the Maldives' 20th Parliament session begins tomorrow, the political scene looks to be substantially different from previous terms. The ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) holds a supermajority with 75 seats, and with the support of affiliated parties, their strength rises to an unprecedented 79 seats. This supermajority, along with President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu's ambitious agenda, is set to significantly shape the Maldives socio-economic landscape.

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu took office as the 8th President of Maldives on November 17 last year with a hefty mandate. He has outlined multiple pledges aimed at transforming various aspects of the Maldivian economy and fostering sustainable growth. Some of his visions include significant legal reforms and expansive infrastructural development aimed at boosting the economy, increasing investor confidence and stimulating growth.

Economic initiatives and potential impact

Economic revitalization is the core of President Muizzu's agenda. One of the most significant initiatives is the expansion of the cargo terminal at Velana International Airport. The terminal's capacity is set to increase from 50,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes initially, with plans to further extend it to 300,000 tonnes. This expansion is crucial for boosting the Maldives' export capabilities and reducing trade deficit, which currently stands at MVR 3.48 billion in imports and MVR 300 million in exports.

Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed said that this expansion is part of a broader vision to double the Maldives GDP from MVR 6 billion to MVR 12 billion. "The President's vision is to commence work immediately and extend the terminal's capacity to 300,000 tonnes. Not just physical infrastructure. Promoting air cargo arrivals here is an effort we must undertake together," Minister Saeed said.

Moreover, the introduction of bunkering services in Haa Alif atoll, expected to commence by August, is set to bolster the Maldives' position as a key maritime hub. The President described this project, Maldives Economic Gateway, as the largest economic project that is being undertaken in the Maldives.

Unified Parliament, constructive governance

With the PNC's supermajority in the 20th Parliament, the legislative process is expected to be more efficient. President Muizzu has indicated that over 200 bills need to be passed to fulfill his administration’s pledges, and this supermajority will facilitate the swift passage of important bills submitted to the Parliament.

Ahmed Nazim, MP-elect of the Dhiggaru constituency, has been nominated as Deputy Speaker of the 20th Parliament. Returning to the political scene after a long hiatus, Nazim expressed confidence in the new parliament's efficiency and unity.

"My aim, too, is to resolve issues and to take Maldives to a better place, with a more stable economy," Nazim said in an earlier interview on May 25.

He highlighted that social issues, healthcare, and even the judiciary require significant reforms.

"We have to accept the reality, accept that these issues exist. Our economy does not have the depth or strength to experience any further shocks. We must work to guide the government to reform Aasandha, to find a solution to the drug issues," Nazim explained.

Nazim added that as Deputy Speaker, he would ensure that proper opportunities are granted even to the few opposition parliamentarians, without allowing any instance where even they could raise complaints about the Speakers.

"The first thing the President asked of us is to ensure this Parliament sets an example. To make sure that events that occurred in previous parliaments do not recur. That the Parliament sittings should be safe for viewing in homes by families gathered together."

The significant supermajority achieved by PNC in parliamentary election lays a clear path for President Muizzu's administration to advance its ambitious legislative agenda.

Abdul Raheem Abdulla, MP elect for Fonadhoo constituency in his first interview to the press after President Muizzu nominated his for Speaker of Parliament, said that the mandate given by the people is a testament to their desire for stability and progress. "Who is President is not important to the people. What the people want from a leader they have elected is for their needs to be fulfilled. To fulfill these, the people have given the President an overwhelmingly large majority in parliament as has never been given before to any other leader," he added.

The supermajority in parliament is expected to facilitate smooth and efficient governance, minimizing political discord and ensuring that critical legislation is passed without significant delays.

Abdul Raheem assured that the 20th Parliament will operate differently from previous terms, focusing on collaboration and constructive governance. "I can say today with confidence that you will see the 20th Parliament is different from those that came before," he added.

Challenges and prospects

Despite the optimistic outlook, the new administration faces significant challenges. The Maldives' economy, while poised for growth, remains vulnerable to external shocks. Ensuring that economic reforms translate into tangible benefits for the people will be crucial and effective implementation will require planning and coordination among various government agencies.

Public trust in political institutions has been eroded by years of political instability. Rebuilding this trust will necessitate a transparent and accountable government. The new parliament's ability to operate cohesively and address pressing national issues will be a critical test of the 20th Parliament’s success.

The PNC’s supermajority provides a unique opportunity to implement these reforms efficiently. However, the real measure of success will be the tangible improvements in the lives of Maldivian citizens. The coming years will reveal how effectively the 20th Parliament can harness it powers to fulfill the aspirations of the Maldivian people and deliver on the promises made.

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