The Parliament General Purpose Committee has endorsed a series of amendments on calculating the number of active parliamentary seats, a change that could potentially reshape the impeachment process of the nation’s President and Vice President. 

This move was initiated by members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in response to the standstill on recent parliamentary impeachment proceedings and comes on the heels of a judicial intervention via a Supreme Court verdict. 

The proposed amendments primarily focus on modifying the calculation of the parliamentary majority required for relevant proceedings. Traditionally, the total number of parliament seats (87 in the 19th parliament) formed the basis for calculating the necessary two-thirds majority. However, recent resignations of seven members to join President Mohamed Muizzu’s new government have led to a re-evaluation of this approach. Under the new proposal, only the current number of serving parliamentarians would be considered, effectively lowering the threshold for impeachment.

Ihavandhoo MP Mohamed Shifau, who proposed the amendments, argues that this adjustment aligns with the current composition of the parliament, wherein the opposition MDP holds a significant majority. The new calculation method would require only 54 votes for an impeachment motion to pass, a number comfortably within the MDP’s reach, as they currently have over 55 members.

The amendments deliberated at the committee also included procedural changes to the impeachment process, proposed by The Democrats MP Ali Azim. These include a mandatory 14-day notice period to the President or Vice President upon the submission of an impeachment motion, and a stipulation that the ensuing debate in parliament would last a maximum of three hours, excluding a 30-minute defence presentation by the impeached official. Notably, the composition of the committee handling the impeachment motion would be reduced from 11 to four members, and the requirement for representation from all political parties has been removed.

These amendments have not been without controversy. Fisheries Minister and former parliamentarian Ahmed Shiyam has criticised the move as unlawful, citing constitutional provisions. Shiyam’s concerns highlight a broader debate about the balance of power and the procedures for high-level political accountability in the Maldives.

Central Henveiru MP Ali Azim insists that the intent behind these changes is not the immediate impeachment of the current President. Instead, Azim emphasises the need for broader reforms in both parliament regulations and the constitution, suggesting that these amendments are part of a larger effort to streamline and update the parliamentary process.