Comment: Where do you draw the line?

Where does one draw the line?

In a referendum held on August 18, 2007, 60 percent of the people of the Maldives overwhelmingly decided on a Presidential system of government.

In 2008 a new Constitution came into force, taking into consideration the doctrine of the separation of powers and incorporating the ideas of checks and balances.

The executive branch separated from the legislative, and the judiciary began working independently. The Constitution is clear about the extent of the powers of each entity, the demarcations clearly drawn.

The powers and duties of the President, elected directly by the people, are clearly defined by the Constitution. There is a clear demarcation line drawn between the two spheres of influence: the legislative branch and the executive. It allows the separate powers to act independently while understanding the need for co-operation between these entities.

The legislature, staffed by members directly elected by the people, is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend and repeal laws. Article 5 of the Constitution vests the Peoples’ Majlis with all the power to enact necessary legislation.

In addition, the legislature has the authority to pass bills related to the lowering or raising of taxes, adopting the national budget and related money bills.

The executive branch is unipersonal, meaning that all executive power lies with the President. Members of the Cabinet are appointed by the President, held legally responsible, and are expected to implement the policies of the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of the government. It is the President’s prerogative under the Presidential system to direct members of the Cabinet, the military or any officer or employees of the executive branch.

The President’s power, however, does not extend into the domain of the judiciary: he generally has no power to dismiss or pass orders to judges.

The fact that a Presidential system seperates the executive from the legislature is sometimes held up as an advantage, in that each branch may scrutinize the actions of the other.

The question we are grappling with here is whether the legislature has the power under the Constitution to announce for applicants, interview, shortlist and hire members into State institutions.

While the Presidential system empowers legislative approval of Presidential nominations to the Cabinet as well as various other government posts such as judges and members of independent commissions, it does not allow the legislature to encroach into this sphere of influence that is specifically the domain of executive power.

A clear line has to be drawn between nomination and appointment of members of state institutions within the executive domain and approval and accountability which is the prerogative of the legislature.

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