President cleared to submit bills to Majlis

An amendment has been passed to the People’s Majlis’ Rules of Procedure enabling the current government to submit bills to the legislature.

Since February’s transfer of presidential power, there has been dispute regarding the power of current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to submit bills to the Majlis as his party, the Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP), has no representation in parliament.

Yesterday’s amendment, which was approved by 42 of 67 MPs present, changed the procedure to allow the president to designate a party to represent the government. The amendment was submitted to the floor by a report from the General Purposes Committee.

Article 217 of the parliamentary rules of procedure had previously interpreted the president’s party as that which he was a member of. The new amendment defines the president’s party as any designated by him.

This, in turn, impacts upon article 71 which states that government bills must be submitted by the party in power.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has maintained that they remain the party in power, although this is not defined in the rules of procedure.

“This is the perfect example of the democratic changes we are losing every day,” said party spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor who argued that, after being elected on an MDP ticket, Waheed was now allowing the opposition to dictate policy.

When asked by a reporter from Al Jazeera on February 8 about his relationship with other political parties, Waheed responded: “I come from a different party, and the [former] president knew very well that I was not from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) when he asked me to be his running mate to win the election,” he said.

The status of the MDP has been queried, particularly following the publication of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report which ruled the February transfer of power to have been legitimate.

The MDP and Waheed’s GIP formed a coalition just days before the 2008 presidential elections which Mohamed Nasheed won, with Waheed as his running mate.

Nasheed’s February resignation was followed by wholesale changes to the cabinet and the formation of a coalition government in which the MDP refused to participate – maintaining that Nasheed was ousted illegally.

Waheed has also claimed, however, that his government is “a continuation of the previous one under President Nasheed.”

“There should be no doubt on this score,” he was reported as telling Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May.

The MDP still holds 30 seats in the Majlis, although it is outnumbered by the pro-government coalition, which currently includes 39 of the assembly’s 77 members.

Local media have reported that the government intends to submit 12 bills to the Majlis within the next month following yesterday’s amendment.

The bills are said to concern human trafficking, prevention of sexual harassment, extradition as well as a bill that will govern the implementation of the death penalty, amongst others.

The Majlis has been beset by the political gridlock enveloping the country over the past eight month. Attempts to open the Majlis session in March saw violent clashes between protesters and security forces, while tensions within the chamber saw sessions suspended throughout August and September.