The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has scheduled an extraordinary national council meeting for Tuesday to decide on the party’s stand over the proposed referendum on a change from a presidential to a parliamentary system of governance.

MDP’s breakaway faction The Democrats – led by Parliament Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed – successfully passed a parliamentary resolution asking the Elections Commission (EC) to hold a referendum on the matter before 30 October. Passed during the campaign for the runoff, the resolution initially received backing from MDP members hoping to bring in The Democrats as an ally for the runoff.

The EC has tentatively set 29 October as the date for this pivotal referendum.

However, in the wake of the run-off loss, Party Chairman Fayyaz Ismail and Deputy Chairman Ibrahim Waheed have both publicly expressed reservations about the proposed change.

In a message to a WhatsApp group of MDP’s national council members, Fayyaz stated that the party should respect the will of the Maldivian people, who have recently elected their leader for the next five years in accordance with democratic principles. 

He stated that newly elected President Dr Mohamed Muizzu should be given a chance to serve his full term without a switch to a parliamentary system. “The people’s decision should not be ignored in the name of (changing to) a parliamentary system. No to parliamentary,” Fayyaz’s message read.

Ibrahim Waheed, Deputy Chairman of MDP, confirmed a meeting to be held on Tuesday to determine the party’s stand on the issue. Echoing Fayyaz Ismail’s sentiments, he argued that it would be a violation of democratic principles to change the system of governance after an election.

Adding to the complexity, Speaker Nasheed has offered to rejoin the party. Nasheed has long been a proponent of transitioning to a parliamentary system. His proposal to rejoin the party comes with the condition that half of the party’s national council members approve his return.