Parliament debates on issue of incumbent councillors' term

The parliament has debated if the President could appoint councillors once the current term of incumbent councillors ends on June 3.

Following the declaration of a public health emergency after the detection of to the COVID-19 in the Maldives, the local council election that was slated for April 4 has been postponed indefinitely.

Meanwhile, a bill to amend the constitution and a special provisional bill required to postpone the election further has been submitted to the parliament. The local council election has already been postponed to the maximum duration that the Elections Act allows.

However, some members of the main ruling party, Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) are against amending the constitution in the current context.

Parliament’s Councilor General Fathimath Filza has advised that there is no constitutional obstruction in amending the constitution. The Attorney General, Ibrahim Riffath has also stated that there is no legal issue in amending the constitution. Despite having received legal advice that constitution may be amended, the Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed decided to debate on the issue among the parliament members and to move forward with the decision of the members.

In the parliament meeting held Tuesday, the members debated about other options instead of extending the term of the existing councillors. Some members have stated the president has the authority to appoint councillors to administer the islands.

MP of Maafannu Uthuru, Imthiyaz Fahmy said once the term of the current councillors end, they will no longer be elected officials, even if their term is extended.

“Extending the term of incumbent councillors after amending the constitution will not make them elected officials; this will also be the case if the president elects them after their term ends”, said the MP.

MP of Kanditheem, Abdulla Shaheem supported MP Imthiyaz's opinion and said extending the councillors' elected term is not a democratic policy. Milandhoo MP Ali Riza said while MDP holds parliament majority, amending the constitution will be easier for the main ruling party However, the consequences of such actions will be dire, he said, adding that extending the term of the incumbent councillors by amending the constitution is not a solution.

Riza further said the president can decide what shall be done using the authority empowered to him by the constitution. He added that if it is not appropriate for the president to appoint councillors, the Secretary-General who will be assigned as a civil service employee could administer the councils temporarily.

Some other members of MDP supported Riza’s proposal to assign Secretary-General with the responsibility of administrating the council until a new council is appointed.