The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has delivered a decisive blow to ongoing efforts aimed at changing the country’s governance system from a presidential to a parliamentary model. The decision was made during a meeting of the MDP’s National Council, with all 90 members present voting against the proposed change.

The party’s top leader, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who recently lost in the presidential elections, made his personal endorsement clear, stating that he would actively work to maintain the presidential system should the matter go to a referendum.

“I believe both systems have their pros and cons. But I believe the presidential system is best suited for the Maldives, and with that, it has my endorsement as well,” President Solih announced during the council meeting. He further committed himself to the cause, saying, “I would like to announce that I will officially start working to maintain the presidential system if we proceed for a referendum.”

Several other high-ranking members of the party shared President Solih’s sentiment. Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid underscored that the MDP had always been a responsible opposition and that intervening in their opponent’s presidential administration would be against the party’s principles. 

Minister of Housing Mohamed Aslam emphasised the importance of obeying the majority’s sentiments in a functioning democracy and stated he would not support overturning a decision made by the public majority.

This marks a significant setback for the Democrats, led by Parliament Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed, who have been the chief advocates for the transition. 

The meeting took place at Imaaduddin School hall and directed heavy criticism against Nasheed and his Democrats. Council members expressed a desire for “a choice other than Nasheed, a choice other than parliamentary.”

MDP Deputy Chairperson Ibrahim Waheed was vocal in his criticism of the Democrats and their founder, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed. Waheed accused Nasheed and his supporters of seeking an alternative to President Solih, thereby prompting the MDP to reject a shift to a parliamentary system.

The shift in stance comes after the Parliament had passed a resolution, largely supported by MDP members, that called for a public referendum on the governance model to be held before 30 October. 

The timing was set between the two rounds of the presidential election, and the Democrats had been in negotiations with MDP for their support in the runoff. However, the Democrats later pulled their support for either side in the runoff election.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission (EC) had initially indicated that a constitutional vote could take place on 29 October. However, the commission has since informed Parliament that such a vote is no longer possible on that date. Consequently, the Democrats have proposed postponing the vote.