Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Majlis Sets Dangerous Precedent



Majlis discussions yesterday on the structure of the new government have raised important Constitutional issues related to transition from one government to the other. These relate to re-structuring of government ministries and Majlis approval for cabinet ministers. How these issues are decided now could set precedents that would have future repercussions. Here are some of the issues:



  1. Structure of the Government: With each change of government is it possible or desirable to redesign the entire structure of the government including arrangements for providing 1000s of services? Will there be sufficient time to do this effectively? In the US, which has a presidential system, the government structure is essentially fixed and supervised by a 15-member cabinet. In India, a parliamentary democracy, it is true that the cabinet does not have a fixed number and ministries have varying structures. But the civil service structure is essentially fixed. So with a change of government an entire department may move from one ministry to another, but no re-structuring is done within the department. This makes transition a simple matter of changing the boss.

  2. Majlis approval for cabinet: In parliamentary democracies like India, a newly appointed cabinet must demonstrate it has the confidence of the Parliament. (In cases where the ruling party has a large majority an actual vote is not taken and it is assumed the government has the confidence of the Parliament.) In approving President Nasheed's cabinet in a 'block vote' collectively, People's Majlis acted in line with the practice in parliamentary democracies. This could set the precedent of seeking Majlis approval for cabinet (as opposed to individual members.)

  3. Majlis approval for individual ministers: In presidential systems such as in the US approval is obtained for individual cabinet members. Since Maldivians have voted for a presidential system in the referendum of August 2007, it is assumed that the Constitution stipulates a similar procedure for approval of cabinet ministers. However, the decision taken by the Majlis yesterday does not appear to be in line with this procedure.

Comments: Collective approval of the cabinet could be a dangerous precedent to set. Under the current Constitution it is possible to elect a President whose party does not have a majority in the Majlis. In such a case an opposition party (or parties) could create a deadlock by voting down the cabinet along party lines. In contrast to this when approval is sought for individual members of the cabinet as in the US, decisions are taken regarding the qualification of the person in question. If he is rejected a new candidate is nominated, and this process could go on (as we often see on TV) till a suitable candidate is found; so the system works without crisis. Perhaps this procedure is more suitable for the presidential system we adopted for the Maldives.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Momentous post. I, too, feel that the government structure should be fixed. So the next government will not be able to make drastic changes such as creating a justice ministry again which can bring about grave consequences. However, since we are still in the transition process it will take time for the government structure to harden.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Give them time, things will change. We just entered a new territory! I am sure the US made a lot of mistakes before things got better. We need time to fine tune!

adhu..and himself said...

About the change in structure of the government, i think the structure doesnt need to be changed with change of government everytime. Anni will be able to change the structure this time to a good system where it will set to be the structure of government for future. Annis has to change the strutcture this time becoz we have seen the current structure is simply not good enough as seen in the inefficiency and fatigue in the 30 year regime. I think Maumoon's government structure needed to be changed to privide better service from the government.
And About the approval of the whole cabinet, i think you are right. the cabinet posts should be approved individually, but if the person nominated is fit for all criteria's of being a Minister, then majlis should not block the nomination. in otherwords the job of the approval by the Majlis should be to check whether the person nominated fits into all criteria's set by constitution to be a Minister.

Anonymous said...

I DON'T THINK THIS WILL NECESSARILY SET A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT, BECAUSE THIS TIME AROUND THE QUESTION WAS FOR THE WHOLE CABINET, SO THE VOTE SHOULD BE ASKED FOR THE WHOLE CABINET FOR THIS NEW GOVERNMENT, BUT IF A CABINET MEMBER RESIGNS THEN THE VOTE SHOULD BE ASKED FOR THAT CABINET POSITION ONLY.

SO IF FUTURE GOVERNMENTS WANTS TO CREATE A DEADLOCK, THEN IT IS NOT ONLY OUR LOSS BUT ALSO A LOSS FOR THEM.

Anonymous said...

I suggest Shihab talks to US ambassador and arrange a study tour to US Congress and find out how Senate approves Presidential appontments including Cabinet members and Ambassodors.Remember, How Bolton was not allowed to be US amb to UN. We have a lot to learn from US since our system is mostly US model. I say, mostly because they have no run off betwn first 2 contenders if 1st can doesnt secure 50 prcnt.If we had exact Us sys. then Gayoom will still be our prez. And there will not be a collective Presidency like now. Now we have a v weak presidency.And there ae power brokers outside govt. eg Hassan Saeed. But this again may be a v useful thing, a unique Maldivian system. our gift to the development of democracy. This is also good to get Majlis approval of Prez program.Now all Majlis mwmbers will vote for Prez proposals.Including one member I-Bra. The most pweful single membr coontrling one cabinet post. what a trade off.

Anonymous said...

How could you forget this, Anni said to buy land in India, Sri Lanka, or Australia and get ready for the doomsday scenario from global warming.

Can an average Maldivian afford to buy land in these countries? I don’t think so.

Farooq M. Hassan said...

I tend to agree with Dr. Waheed on the issue of approving the cabinet posts. The very essensce and spirit of the constitution in giving the Majlis the power to accept/reject a proposed cabinet member is to ensure the integrity/competency of the candidate for the post to which he/she has been proposed. The approval of a candidate by the Majlis also give him/her the confidence and respect of he public which is a critical element in good governance. Even with the time constraint, the formalities should have been completed to give credibility to the process. I am afraid that the way things has been rushed through may damage the good name of the Majlis. As one of the three independent powers of the state, it is important that the Majlis is not seen by the people as a mere 'rubber stamp' of the ruling party.

having said that I am afraid the Civil Service Commission (CSC)have also set a dangerous precedent in its recent shuffling and appointing all the current permanant secretaries (PSs). The whole idea of forming a small number of cabinet posts was to cut down cost, remove bottlenecks, improve transparency and efficiency. In this regard, the action of the CSC is highly contrary to the policy of the government. I remember that during President Nasheed's campaign, the issue of not creating a particular post to a particular person was raised time again. Has the CSC not set precedent to keep its PSs permanant, no matter what?

Anonymous said...

Obama is so hesitating to name his cabinet, because both Bush administration and Clinton administration before inauguration congress has rejected many nominees. One of the most famous was former New York Police chief, who had an illegal Mexican in his house to work.

I guess if properly vetted people like current defense minister, convicted for misconduct and misbehavior in high ranking post in military will be disqualified to be eligible for cabinet portfolio he hold now.

The sad part of infantile democracy in the Maldives is that we dont have capable parliament with high level of intellectual capacity and as well as integrity.

Anonymous said...

This does not set a precedent at all! The Majlis can vote any way they choose to. I dont see any issues here.

Anonymous said...

I notice the parliament crossing its boundaries and getting into the executives. I do not believe there is anyway they can set a limit to authorise the government to run its ministries for a 30 day period. The only thing they can do, and is allowed by the constitution is to say a YES or NO for the ministries and the ministers. Nothing more! Separation of powers does not mean the legislator can step into the executive branch! In case of wrong doings by the government, there are all sorts of steps the parliament can take. There are lots of things the Judiciary can do. There are more steps the independent commissions can take too! But limiting the governments functions by giving a 30 day period and forcing the government on how it should structure its departments are not for the legislator. Its for the executive!

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous at 5.36pm.
I guess what you said is true.We cannot be very proud of many of the members in the present parliament.In addition to not having a proper education they dont have the intellectual capacity to come to a good decision on important and complex matters.Some of them are very good in making personal attacks as if they are in a place like the fish market.Our hope is that very soon these ignorant people will be replaced by more educated youngsters so that proper decorum and a real parliamentary atmosphere is established.Then decisions will be taken after proper debate and intelligent and intellectual thinking.Till then we have to suffer these fools.

Anonymous said...

Why should we have to follow US? We can bring good things from around the world. I think its better to mention a whole government structure in the constitution. another thing is to mention the qualification and experience for cabinet ministers. Cos we should leave our country on the best hands.