The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) yesterday (October 23) proposed a bill to parliament, which if passed would allow the Speaker to take charge of the government should no president-elect be determined by November 11.
The constitution only provides for a similar transition within the limits of the presidential term. The current Speaker of the House is MDP member Abdulla Shahid.
The bill (Dhivehi) sponsored by MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – who is today seeking refuge from arrest in the Majlis chambers – coincided with the party’s presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s contention that incumbent Dr Mohamed Waheed could not remain in power after November 11.
Meanwhile President Waheed himself has maintained that he does “not want to stay in this position even a day beyond November 11”.
Despite the statements by the president – who obtained just 5 percent of the popular vote in the annulled September 7 presidential polls – the Supreme Court has previously ruled that Waheed would be able to remain in power even after the expiry of his presidential term, citing the continuity of government principle.
This principle, first developed by the British, establishes defined procedures for allowing a government to continue its essential operations in case of nuclear war or any other catastrophic event.
The new bill titled ‘Legislation underlining transitional arrangements in the event no president-elect and vice president-elect is not determined at the end of the 2008 presidential term’ states that the primary purpose of the bill was to prevent any constitutional void that could arise in case no successor to the president or vice-president was elected by November 11.
Section 3(a) of the bill states:
‘Until the new president and the vice president are elected, the duties and responsibilities of the President would be undertaken by the Speaker of Parliament. If the Speaker of Parliament is unable to take the duties and responsibilities, then Deputy Speaker of Parliament will take undertake the duties and responsibilities. If both the Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Speaker Parliament are unable to undertake the responsibilities and duties, it would be undertaken by a member of parliament determined by a resolution passed by the parliament.’
The section 3(b) meanwhile states that any person who takes charge as per section 3(a), is required to take the “oath of office by persons temporarily discharging the duties of the office of President and Vice President” as stipulated in article 126 of the constitution.
The bill also demands that the new caretaker-president ensures the completion of the first round of presidential election or the run-off election as mentioned in the article 111 of the constitution within a twenty-one day period.
The bill states that the winner of the presidential polls must take the oath of the office within 18 hours of the Elections Commission announcing the final results of the poll.
It also states that the term of the new presidency would commence only after they take oath, resulting the renewal of the presidential term every five years would take place on November 11.
The section 6 of the bill – a sunset provision – states that the bill would automatically expire once the new president and vice president take the oath of their office.
The submission of the bill also coincided with the Civil Service Commission’s meeting with all the presidential candidates regarding the appointment of the director of transition – a temporary official selected among the civil servants to oversee the transition of governments – as stipulated in the Presidential Elections Act.
Although MP Ghafoor’s bill has been submitted to the parliament, a date has to hold the preliminary debate of the bill is yet to be scheduled.
Parliamentary procedures dictate that the bill gets formally accepted to parliament only if the majority of the MPs vote in favour after holding the preliminary debate.