MPs debate legislation on public referendums

Preliminary debate began at today’s sitting of parliament on legislation submitted by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Khaleel on legislation governing public referendums.

Presenting the bill (Dhivehi) on behalf of the government, the MP for Faafu Nilandhoo said the proposed law would specify circumstances whereby public referendums could be held as well as procedures to be followed by the Elections Commission (EC) in conducting polls.

Khaleel explained that the legislation stipulates that a public referendum must be held before approving an amendment either to chapter two of the constitution, which outlines fundamental rights and freedoms, or term limits of parliamentarians and the president and vice president.

The constitution authorises both the president and parliament to “hold public referendums on issues of national importance.” Parliament is also authorised to call for public referendums to override a presidential veto on a bill.

The bill defines matters of national importance as issues that parliament believes requires public approval before enactment as law, Khaleel noted.

The bill stipulates that parliament shall pass a resolution calling for a public referendum and provides details on how to conduct the poll, he continued, adding that the public must be informed of the pros and cons of the issue prior to voting.

The first public referendum following the adoption of the new constitution in August 2008 took place in October 2010, which saw small islands overwhelmingly reject a government proposal for administrative consolidation.

The bill on public referendums along with the special economic zones (SEZs) bill was accepted for consideration today and sent to committee for further review.

The SEZ bill was accepted with 46 votes in favour and 16 against.