First proposed amendment to constitution seeks to bar individuals aged 65 from the presidency

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has proposed the first amendment to the constitution, seeking to bar individuals aged 65 years and above from standing for the presidency.

Hoarafushi MP Mohamed Ismail told Minivan News he had submitted the amendment to Article 109 of the Constitution because he believed an elected president must “suitably represent” the country’s predominantly young population.

“We do not want a President who cannot function due to old age and has to be brought to important meetings in a wheelchair. The President should not be over the age of sixty-five,” he said.

According to the Department of National Planning, half of the Maldivian population is under 25 years of age.

If passed, the amendments would bar Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom from contesting the 2018 presidential elections. Gasim would be 66 years and Maumoon would be 81 by 2018.

At present, the Constitution only requires a president to be “at least thirty-five years of age.”

The JP has today announced it will reject the amendment with JP’s deputy parliamentary group leader Abdulla Riyaz stating the JP would lobby all parties to vote against the proposal.

“We do not believe in using the youth as an excuse to do these kinds of acts for political gain. It is irresponsible,” Riyaz told local media.

The proposal would require a two-third majority of the full 85-member house or 57 votes to pass. The ruling coalition i.e. the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and MDA currently hold 48 seats at the parliament. JP holds 13 seats while opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) holds 22.

JP Spokesperson and former member of the Constitutional Assembly Ahmed Sameer said the amendment constituted a breach of Article 69 which states that “no provision of the constitution can be interpreted in a manner that would prevent any individual from obtaining rights and freedoms as per the constitution.”

He also pointed out that Article 26 (b) on fundamental rights and freedoms states that ‘every citizen of Maldives eighteen years of age or older has the right to run for public office’.

Sameer and former Attorney General Husnu Suood claim that a public referendum would be required before the President could ratify the amendment.

Sameer pointed to Article 262 (b) of the Constitution which states that any amendments made by the People’s Majlis to certain provisions – including Article 108 which governs presidential elections – can only be ratified by the President after a public referendum.

Opposition MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said the ruling coalition was seeking to ‘prevent certain targeted people from contending in presidential elections.’

“Amendments to the constitution are usually brought after the constitution has been tested by time and when such amendments become necessary to the people of the nation, not for the gain of the government at the time or certain individuals,” said the MP.

Amendments to the constitution “must not be taken lightly,” Fahmy said describing the amendment as “dangerous.”

Minivan news was unable to reach PPM at the time of press.

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