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.


EC members Manik, Farooq summoned for questioning by police

Elections Commission (EC) members Ali Mohamed Manik and Mohamed Farooq were summoned for questioning by police last night.

Farooq told the press upon emerging from the police headquarters that he was questioned about the distribution of voters on the Malé municipality special register to various constituencies in the capital.

Farooq said he answered all the questions put to him by police interrogators, declining to reveal further details.

The police summons for the pair followed questioning of dismissed EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek on Sunday night.

Thowfeek was questioned over a leaked phone conversation between himself and former President Mohamed Nasheed, during which the pair discussed the distribution of citizens on the municipal register to constituencies in Malé ahead of the parliamentary elections due to take place on March 22.

The former EC chair exercised his constitutional right to remain silent, a police media official confirmed to Minivan News yesterday (March 17).

Following the release of the phone call recording on social media, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports Abdulla Rifau ‘Bochey’ – a candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) for the Maafanu South constituency in the capital – filed a case with the police alleging that Thowfeek had abused his powers as the commission’s chair.

Thowfeek, however, told local media that he had offered clarifications on the municipal registry issue to any politician who had contacted him over the phone.

The commission held a number of meetings with representatives from political parties to discuss the distribution of voters on the municipal registry, he explained.

Thowfeek also said that he shared his concerns regarding the Supreme Court’s contempt of court charges against EC members with various politicians.

“I also shared this concern with President Abdulla Yameen through a text message. In that same manner, I shared my concerns with Nasheed, too,” he said.

Municipal register

In December, the EC compiled a report on electoral constituencies for the 2014 parliamentary elections, increasing voting districts from 77 to 85 in accordance with the Electoral Constituencies Act.

Citizens on the municipal register – residents without a permanent address in Malé – were distributed among constituencies in the capital following consultation with MPs representing the 11 constituencies in Malé.

In the approximately three-minute long recording that surfaced on social media, Nasheed and Thowfeek are heard discussing the redistribution of voters.

“Some of our members went to discuss the matter of the municipal register border, didn’t they? It was agreed then that Maafannu will be kept as in the final report, yes? In short, it was agreed that some changes will be brought to Henveiru and the remaining people on the register will be distributed to the four constituencies of Maafannu, yes?” Nasheed is heard asking.

Thowfeek replies, “Yes, yes, the current borders are something that everyone has agreed on.”

Nasheed then inquires, “have any additional changes been brought to the list later on the request of Maafannu [West] constituency MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem?”

In response, Thowfeek states that no such changes had been made and that Abdul Raheem had visited the commission to discuss the issue.

MP Abdul Raheem was suspended from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in January after voting to approve President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet against the party’s three-line whip.

He did not contest in the party’s parliamentary primaries or seek re-election.

Following the leak of the phone conversation, MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem explained on Twitter that the EC “invited all members representing Malé constituencies to meet with them” on December 26 to discuss the final report on parliamentary constituencies.

“I highlighted the issue of dhafthar [municipal register] being allocated to only 1 constituency instead of distributing it equally between 4 constituencies,” he tweeted.

MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Mohamed Rasheed, and Ibrahim from the MDP along with PPM MPs Ahmed Nihan and Ahmed Mahloof attended the meeting, Abdul Raheem revealed.

The final report was amended “after our contribution,” he added.


Parliamentary constituencies increase from 77 to 85

With additional reporting by Ahmed Rilwan

The Elections Commission, in its ‘Final Report on Electoral Constituencies of 2014 Parliamentary Elections’ (Dhivehi), have formally announced the creation of eight new parliamentary constituencies for the upcoming 2014 parliamentary elections.

The change means the number of MPs elected to the country’s eighteenth parliament will consist of 85 elected members of parliament.

The Maldives’ current unicameral parliament consists of 77 MPs who were elected in May 2009, replacing the previous 50 member parliament following the ratification of the new constitution in August 2008.

According to the new report, an additional constituency has been created in Addu City, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Noonu Atoll, Alif Dhaalu Atoll, Thaa Atoll and Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll while two new constituencies have been created in Capital Male’ City.

New Constituencies

According to the report, two administrative wards of Male’ City, Villimale and Hulhumale – which are geographically separate islands from Male Island – have now been declared as two separate constituencies.

From Haa Dhaalu Atoll, a new ‘Makunudhoo Constituency’ is formed to include the islands of Makunudhoo, Kumundhoo and Neykurendhoo.  From Noonu Atoll, a new ‘Holhudhoo Constituency’ is formed to include the islands of Miladhoo, Holhudhoo and Magoodhoo.

From Alif Dhaalu Atoll, a new ‘Dhan’gethi Constituency’ is formed to include the islands of Dhidhoo, Mandhoo, Dhigurah, Dhan’gethi and Omadhoo.

From Thaa Atoll, a new constituency ‘Thaa Guraidhoo Constituency’ is formed to include islands of Guraidhoo, Gaadhiffushi and Dhiyamigili.

From Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll, the existing Thinadhoo Constituency is split into two new constituencies the ‘Thinadhoo North Constituency and the Thinadhoo South Constituency – following an increment of the island’s population within the past five years.

From Addu City, the existing Hulhu-Meedhoo Constituency was split into two new constituencies, the new ‘Hulhudhoo Constituency’ for the ward of Hulhudhoo and ‘Addu Meedhoo Constituency’ for the wards of Meedhoo and Maradhoo-Feydhoo of Addu City.

Naming of constituencies

Furthermore, several islands which constitutes to current constituencies in parliament have been switched to other constituencies to balance the population representation of each of the constituencies.

According to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2009, two parliamentary seats must be allotted for the first 5,000 people who are permanently registered in every single registered-population – that may or may not include more than one island to form the figure – and one additional parliamentary seat for every additional 5,000 people.

The law also requires the electoral constituencies to be formed based on the twenty-one administrative regions including Male’ as the primary registered-populations.

Elections Commission furthermore states that each constituency have been named after the island in the constituency that has the largest population.

However due to two islands in different atolls having the same name, the similarly named constituencies have now been named including the atoll of which the constituency belongs to.

For example, the report claimed, two constituencies, one in Kaafu Atoll and the other in Thaa Atoll, have a constituency named ‘Guraidhoo Constituency’.

To avoid any confusions, the constituencies have now been renamed to include the first Dhivehi letter of the atoll which the constituency belongs, thereby the Guraidhoo Constituency in Thaa Atoll is renamed “Thaa Guraidhoo Constituency” and the one in Kaafu Atoll is renamed as “Kaafu Guraidhoo Constituency”, the report stated.

Increased expenditure on MP’s pay

Following a salary revision after the parliamentary elections 2009 that saw the base salary of an MP raised to MVR 62,500 (US$ 4,053) and a further inclusion of an additional MVR 20,000 (US$ 1,297) as committee allowance, a Maldivian MP currently earns a total of MVR 82,500 (US$ 5,350) – a sum which is far more than many of the other developed countries.

The parliament therefore spends approximately MVR 6,352,500 (US$ 411,964.98) per month on remunerations of MPs meaning approximately MVR 76.23 million (US$ 4.94 million) is spent on wages per year.

The new increment on number of MPs could mean that approximately MVR 7,012,500 (US$ 454,766.54) would be spent per month as salaries for 85 MPs – an increment of MVR 660,000 (US$ 42,801) spent on MP’s wages.

This means MVR 84.15 million (US$ 5.45 million) would be spent per year – an increment of MVR 7.92 million (US$ 513,612) per year.

Previously, MPs’ decision to increase their own remunerations – including a back pay of committee allowances –  were met by harsh criticism from both the public and local NGO’s leading to public protests.

Aiman Rasheed of local NGO, Transparency Maldives – one of the key local NGO’s who expressed concerns over the pay hike – told Minivan News at the time that the pay rise was symptomatic of “inherent problems in the entire system.”

“With such a high budget deficit and high inflation, we do not accept that the hike [in remuneration] is at all responsible,” he said at the time.

The matter resulted in a Civil Court case which was later dismissed.

In order to tackle the increased expenditure due to expansion of the parliamentary composition, government aligned Maldivian Development Alliance MP Ahmed ‘Aims’ Amir proposed a constitutional amendment that would prevent any further increase of parliament’s size.

However, the bill still remains pending in parliament.