Parliament eases concerns over Gasim's speaker eligibility

Parliament on Sunday moved quickly to address concerns over Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim's eligibility to be the country's new Speaker.

Maldives parliament late Thursday voted to elect the business tycoon and Maamigili lawmaker Gasim as the new speaker.

However, several people had raised question marks over Gasim's eligibility as the parliament speaker remains second in line to take over the presidency if the president and vice president resign, or are removed or are incapacitated.

Many believe that the speaker must meet the same qualifications as the president and vice president which includes the constitutional amendment which was brought in to limit the age of the president to 65 years.

The then ruling coalition with the support of some opposition lawmakers in 2015 had amended the constitution to put the age limit on presidential candidates largely designed to bar former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 80 and Gasim Ibrahim, 68 from contesting for the presidency.

In response to the concerns, parliament secretariat in a statement insisted that the constitution only specifies a person to be the age of 18 to qualify as a member of parliament while Article 82 clearly states that any lawmaker can become the speaker.

The resounding victory for Gasim marked a significant shift in parliament majority since the opposition alliance's victory in the presidential elections in September.

Parliament had scheduled a sitting to elect a new speaker, hours after speaker Abdulla Maseeh stepped down ahead of a no-confidence vote which had been scheduled for Thursday evening.