The Democrats have submitted a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at eliminating the need for a second referendum on changes to the country’s system of governance. This comes even as the parliament fails to meet quorum for the second week in a row, leaving Speaker Mohamed Nasheed baffled and concerned.

The amendment, moved by The Democrats’ Maafannu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, aims to alter Article 262 of the Maldivian Constitution. Under the existing rules, constitutional amendments require the written assent of the president, especially when they pertain to specific articles, including those related to term lengths and elections. These require approval in a public referendum.

Fahmy’s proposed notation after Article 262 suggests that if a bill amending the constitution is passed by parliament and contains a matter of “importance to the people,” a second public referendum to confirm the bill’s consent would not be necessary.

The proposed amendment was on the agenda for discussion in Monday’s parliament sitting, but the sitting was cancelled due to the lack of the required 22 MPs needed for quorum. This marks the second time the issue has prevented parliamentary action, leading Speaker Nasheed, a long-time advocate for changing from a presidential to a parliamentary system, to express his bewilderment.

Nasheed was due to submit a proposal last week detailing the wording for the ballot paper to be used in the upcoming referendum on the Maldives’ governance system. However, that sitting, too, failed to meet quorum.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission (EC) is awaiting further instructions from parliament for conducting the referendum. The commission had initially set 29 October as the tentative date for the referendum, after receiving a resolution from parliament in late September. The EC has since called for clarification on the question to be asked in the public referendum.