Friday, November 23, 2007

Maldives needs bicameral parliament, mid-term elections and four-year presidential term

After spending more than three years idle, the members of our Constituent Assembly (People's Special Majlis) seems to be eager to finish the constitution by a self-imposed deadline of November 30. However, it is a matter of grave concern that the present draft falls short of several reforms that will benefit the country.

We propose to include these features in the constitution.

1. Bicameral Parliament

During debates at Special Majlis our MPs just dismissed the idea of a bicameral parliament without even a sound debate and decided that Maldives should have a unicameral parliament. They did not consult their constituents much before making their decision. The reason is obvious: these MPs who are hopeful of future re-election, are not ignorant of the power, influence and benefits they can reap out in a single chamber parliament.

But we call for a bicameral parliament in the Maldives because two chambers work to check and balance the work of each chamber. We find examples of bicameral parliaments in countries with presidential system as well as parliamentary system. Examples include USA, UK, India, Japan and Australia. Wikipedia outlines some of the benefits of such a parliament.

A 2005 report on democratic reform in the Arab world by the US Council on Foreign Relations co-sponsored by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urged Arab states to adopt bicameralism, with upper chambers appointed on a 'specialised basis'. The Council claimed that this would protect against the 'tyranny of the majority', expressing concerns that without a system of checks and balances extremists would use the single chamber parliaments to restrict the rights of minority groups.

2. Mid-term elections

It has been generally accepted by various political stakeholders that Maldives is going to have a Presidential System. One of the most important features of a Presidential System is mid-term elections. Mid-term elections make the Parliament more accountable. If mid-term elections comes with a bicameral parliament it creates more accountability and checks and balances. For example, in the USA all members of House of Representatives are elected every two years in mid-term elections while some members of Senate are also elected in mid-term elections. However, our MPs have decided to have a five-year term for the parliament. Instead of this our parliament should consist of two houses with one of them facing elections every two years.

3. Four-year term for President

We believe the term of five-years for a President is too long as one person can rule for ten years if he or she can win two-terms. The two-term restriction for one person is excellent. However, we believe the term of a President must be four years and not five years. During the four-year term a mid-term election must be held to elect members of one of the chambers in a bicameral parliament.

We will be advocating for these reforms. We are at a loss as to why our MPs failed to come up with these important features that are seen as very important in a Presidential System.

What you can do

Time is running out. The constitution that they are trying to make for us and our future generations should be made after consulting us. The MPs are frantically trying to pass all chapters within the next few days. This is the most crucial time to act if you need a better constitution. Tell your MP that you need these reforms. Start talking about this in cafes and at your office. Organise protests near the parliament. Send requests to the Chair of the Drafting Committee Mr Ibrahim Ismail (Ibra) that you need these reforms included in the draft of the constitution. Start the campaigns in your facebook groups and blogs.

These reforms are needed to make the Parliament and Executive more accountable with a new constitution. If our MPs ignore the appeal, we will make sure they will have a hard time getting re-elected in the future elections. Having a better constitution is our right as well. Just because they are elected for making it, does not mean they can do whatever they want with it. Remember that they are being paid with our money. The people's money.

Our Facebook groups Idhikeeli Maldives and Separation of Powers for Maldives have already started this campaign. Why don't you join as well to have a better future for all of us?


Anonymous said...

In my view, we should have spent more time debating for the presidential term fixation than to have a multi-part system; which has already created a lot of chaos in the country.

transitions said...

Essentially the US system is "seperated institutions sharing power" and this what a system of checks and balances is about. Power is not seperated. The institutions are, and the power is shared. While the President has some influences over Congress, the Congress also has some influence over the Presidency...

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