Nasheed, The Democrats Take Another Stab at Ushering in Westminster System
With the Democrats coming in a distant third, garnering a mere seven percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections held on 9 September, the party’s instigator, former President and current Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, has renewed talks to shift the nation’s system of governance to a parliamentary system, as opposed to the current presidential system.
Under usual circumstances, a single-digit percentage of votes would not significantly matter. However, as Malé Mayor Mohamed Muizzu, the Progressive Party of the Maldives endorsed People’s National Congress (PPM/PNC) candidate, and incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate, head into the two candidate second-round run-off of the presidential elections, Muizzu had led Solih also by seven percent in the first round.
The Maldives National Party (MNP) candidate, Mohamed Nazim, garnered just one percent of the vote and has pledged his support to Muizzu, while Jumhooree Party’s (JP) Qasim Ibrahim, who won three percent, has refused to throw party support behind any of the run-off candidates. As such, any voting block that approaches, or exceeds, the coveted seven percent equivalent still holds a measure of bargaining promise, and Nasheed and The Democrats have been keen on using their position as leverage to renew the governance shift conversation once again.
Nasheed said political parties are forced to form an alliance every time because no candidate gets a clear majority of more than 50 percent in the first round of the presidential election. However, these coalitions are not a legally recognised construct in light of the current Constitution whereby when such a partnership falls apart there aren’t any constitutional remedies, he said.
As a solution, The Democrats are proposing a switch to the parliamentary system. The party has proposed that a referendum be held on 25 September.
The Maldives has already once, in 2007, held a constitutional referendum on whether the country should move forward with a presidential system or a parliamentary system. The then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had supported a presidential system with Nasheed – who at the time led the opposition MDP – pushing for a parliamentary system. Over 60 percent of the public had supported a presidential system of governance and, even as MDP alleged that the referendum was rigged, this was written into law under the 2008 constitution.
The Democrats have submitted their proposal to PPM and MDP, and Speaker Nasheed has said he would look to meet former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in Maafushi Prison to seek his agreement on changing the system.
Nasheed has also called on President Solih to work towards a system change instead of seeking to secure a second-round win.
“It is very important for the nation that President Solih realises he cannot win. The number of votes he needs is too large. The gap is too vast,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed has urged the MDP to work with The Democrats for a parliamentary system by bringing the necessary amendments to the Constitution – he is seen as an ardent supporter of the Westminster model and according to observers the initial rift between him and the President stemmed from Solih’s refusal to commit to a referendum.
Meanwhile the opposition PPM and JP have been unwilling to entertain a constitutional switch, seemingly remaining in favour of a presidential system.
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