Uncertainty surrounds the proposed referendum on changing the governance system in the Maldives, as lawmakers and the Elections Commission (EC) grapple with timelines, public awareness, and logistical issues.

Initially, the EC had tentatively set 29 October as the date for a public referendum that aims to change the Maldives’ governance system from a presidential to a parliamentary model. 

However, the commission has recently informed parliament that more time is needed for public awareness, voter registry compilation, and complaint mechanisms. This announcement further delays an already contentious issue, with the earliest possible date for the referendum yet to be determined.

West Henveiru MP Hassan Latheef, interim chairperson of the Democrats, and Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla have both questioned the feasibility of holding a referendum by the end of October, citing a lack of sufficient public awareness efforts. This stance is a complete reversal of their previous position as The Democrats have been the primary advocates for the transition to a parliamentary system.

Additionally, Parliament Majority Leader and North Hithadhoo MP Mohamed Aslam has warned against rushing constitutional changes simply because of a parliamentary majority. He argues that the country’s governing system should only be changed after the constitution is amended and suggests that the advice of all parties concerned should be sought through a standing committee.

Complicating matters, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed has expressed frustration over the inability of the parliament to meet quorum for the past two weeks. This has delayed discussions on the proposed constitutional amendment by The Democrats that would eliminate the need for a second referendum on the governance system.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) seems to be in internal discord over the issue. While the party initially supported The Democrats’ call for the referendum, MDP leader and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that a staggering 99% of MDP members are against both the referendum and the move to a parliamentary system.

With questions over the timeline and the level of public understanding, along with parliamentary logistical issues and internal political disagreements, the future of the proposed governance system change in the Maldives remains uncertain.

Speaker Nasheed remains optimistic, stating that he believes the Elections Commission will set a date once parliament completes its necessary work, but with so many hurdles yet to be overcome, the path to the proposed referendum is looking increasingly complicated.