Political parties in the Maldives are presently engaged in a series of negotiations concerning a monumental shift in the country’s governance structure—transitioning from a presidential to a parliamentary system. The Democrats have been actively pursuing this agenda and have proposed a specific timeline for a referendum on the matter.

Hassan Latheef, the interim chairperson for The Democrats and the Member of Parliament for Henveiru West, disclosed to the media that the party has formally submitted a proposal to both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the main opposition, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The Democrats’ plan outlines a referendum to be held on 25 September, just days ahead of the presidential elections’ second round slated for 30th September.

Though discussions with the MDP are ongoing, the party has neither accepted nor rejected the proposal outright. On the other hand, the PPM has shown resistance, stalling any progress in negotiations due to their reluctance to formalise an agreement in writing.

Latheef expressed frustration over the challenges posed by the PPM’s refusal to engage in a binding agreement. He noted that without a signed document, it would be difficult for any resolution to gain public legitimacy, irrespective of verbal agreements.

The Democrats have been vocal about the need to overhaul the current presidential system, citing recurring challenges and inherent flaws. Latheef highlighted the results of the first round of the Presidential Elections where no single party managed to secure an absolute majority, requiring the need for coalitions, a concept best practiced under a parliamentary system. 

According to Latheef, this repetitive issue was not unique to this election year but had also been evident in the elections of 2008, 2013, and 2018. The Democrats assert that a parliamentary system would be a more effective mode of governance, as the existing presidential system has repeatedly shown its limitations.

MDP, the ruling party, has the most significant opportunity to initiate this change, especially given their parliamentary majority constitutional amendments and initiating a referendum while still in power, said Latheef. 

He further indicated that the present governance structure harbours systemic corruption, with a chance for reform squarely in the hands of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.