Concerns over a lack of details regarding the powers and jurisdiction of recently formed local councils have been downplayed as alarmist by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) which contends that the unprecedented decentralisation of the country’s political system may require a transitional learning period before finding its feet.
Ahmed Irfan, executive director of the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), told Minivan News that although local councils had been appointed following last weekend’s elections without defined roles or powers, the outlining of regulations for a major new political system could not occur immediately.
A number of prominent politicians across the country, including the leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, have raised concerns that while councils have been elected, there was little regulation or legal framework to actually define their role or method.
Thasmeen claimed following the elections that successful candidates from across the political spectrum had not been given any indication of what would be expected of them whilst serving as councillors.
“It is a fact that candidates from many parties including ours may not be clear on their responsibilities and mandates,” Thasmeen said at the time. The DRP leader added that no timetable for councilors to begin their work had also been given.
Ahmed Shareef, secretary general for the fellow opposition party the People’s Alliance (PA) also said that details on the exact role and responsibilities of the newly appointed local councils had been extremely limited.
“We really don’t know how system will work or how affiliated it may be with government,” he said.
In this uncertain post council election environment, Shareef said that he believed there were already reports that numerous opposition parties were working to stifle possible developments or strategies planned by elected councils.
However, Irfan said that highlighting the initial lack of detail regarding the councils as a major concern at present was perhaps sensationalist, adding that adapting national laws and power sharing agreements to regional levels was a completely new challenge.
The MDN’s executive director said that while details and information surrounding the councils was needed as soon as possible for politicians and constituents alike, as an entirely new political development, he believed people needed to be flexible.
“When the Local Government Authority (LGA) is formed and comes into place they will be able to define where the responsibilities of island councils end and atoll councils begin,” he said. “The path of this jurisdiction will fall to the LGA and could prove to be one of the most important regulations concerning the councils.”
According to Irfan, alongside the wider division of power, each of the councils bought into operation following the elections will have to discuss around 25 regulations concerning how they will operate within the Maldives.
“I am not sure they are areas that can be initially informed and decided upon before the councils are operating,” he added.
While the councils are expected to serve as independent institutions; in certain areas such as the release of land or funding, MDN’s executive director claimed they would still be bound by national Land Laws and finance regulations.
Irfan added that the MDN did have some possible concerns that a lack of official information over the individual roles of the local councils and the exact powers they would have in relation to parliament were one possible reason of a relatively low turn outs from voters in areas like Male’.
However, he stressed that only allowing constituents to vote within the atoll of their registered permanent address had also potentially stymied interest among people currently living in other parts of the country.
Representatives for the LGA were not available for comment at the time of going to press.