Parliament approves new Elections Commission member, ambassador to Pakistan

Parliament today approved President Abdulla Yameen’s nominees for a vacant seat on the Elections Commission (EC) and the new ambassador to Pakistan.

Former Human Rights Commission of Maldives President Ahmed Saleem was approved as the ambassador to Pakistan whilst Ahmed Akram was appointed to the EC.

Saleem had also served at the foreign ministry, the Maldives High Commission in Sri Lanka, and the Maldives’ permanent mission to the UN in New York.

Both nominees were approved unanimously with 53 votes in favour. Opposition MPs did not participate in the vote.

Akram was previously the deputy secretary-general of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and is reportedly related to the wife of the party’s former chairperson, MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, who was expelled from the party last year. Akram also quit the party last year.

President Yameen nominated Akram to the EC after the five-year term of a previous member expired in November.

Today’s sitting also proceeded amidst continuing protests on the People’s Majlis floor by opposition MDP MPs over the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Preliminary debate on an amendment submitted to the constitution by government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance MP Ahmed Amir as well as voting on the president’s nominees took place amidst the opposition MPs’ protest.

Opposition MPs used whistles and megaphones to call for the release of the opposition leader.

Amir’s amendment meanwhile – which would require a three-quarters majority of the 85-member house to be passed – proposed removing clauses b) and c) from Article 231 of the Constitution.

The clauses stipulate that local councils shall be elected for a three-year term and that chairs and deputy chairs shall be elected through secret ballot by councillors.

The MP for Dhaal Kudahuvadhoo proposed specifying both the terms and process of electing chairs and deputy chairs in the Decentralisation Act.


Majlis accepts constitutional amendment capping number of MPs

The People’s Majlis today accepted for consideration amendments to the Constitution’s Article 71, limiting the number of MPs to 85.

The change was proposed by government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance MP Ahmed Amir and accepted with 54 votes in favour and 13 against. It has now been sent to the independent institutions committee for further review.

The article currently states that two MPs must be elected “for the first five thousand residents registered for each administrative division or two members for administrative divisions with less than five thousand residents” and “where the residents registered to an administrative division exceed five thousand residents, one additional member for each group of five thousand residents in excess of the first five thousand.”

Accordingly, the number of parliamentary constituencies grew from 77 to 85 ahead of the parliamentary polls in March this year.


Parliament rejects first amendment to constitution

A bill to amend the constitution proposed by Independent MP Ahmed Amir to extend the term of local councils from three years to five was rejected at yesterday’s sitting of parliament.

The first amendment proposed to the constitution did not win the required three quarters majority – 58 votes – to pass.

Of the 55 MPs who participated in the vote, 40 voted in favour and 15 against while two abstained. Three other MPs in attendance did not participate in the vote.

Historic local council elections, which will replace the centuries-old system of island and atoll chiefs appointed by the central government with elected councils, are due to place on February 5, 2011.