In a period that should ideally be marked by a smooth transition of power, the Maldives has witnessed growing tensions between the incumbent government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the newly elected government of President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu. The discord centers around various actions taken by the incumbent government and its refusal to comply with the directives set forth by the incoming administration.
President-Elect’s Office Concerns
The President-Elect’s Office spokesperson, Mohamed Firzul Abdulla Haleel, voiced concerns about potential changes in state-owned company accounts and the recruitment of new employees during the transition phase. While President-Elect Muizzu and his team have requested that certain activities be restrained during this crucial period, it seems the incumbent government has a different interpretation of the transition process.
Dr. Muizzu had previously addressed a letter to President Solih, requesting him not to engage in seven specific activities during the transitional period. These prohibitions included actions related to state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The President-elect’s Office further demanded that SOEs abstain from starting new projects, promoting employees, acquiring loans, and making new investments during the transitional phase.
In response, the incumbent government swiftly nominated an ambassador for parliamentary approval, which President-elect Dr. Muizzu had expressly asked them not to do during the transitional phase. While the government justified its actions by emphasizing that it was acting in accordance with the law and that state functions must continue, tensions mounted.
Amid concerns and confusions over the directives, President-elect Muizzu clarified that he has not ordered any project to be stopped or suspended. He categorically stated that no such directive was issued on his behalf.
The Legal Standpoint
The current Attorney General referred to Article 107(a) of the Maldives Constitution, asserting that the incumbent president would remain in office until the president-elect formally takes the oath to assume powers. The AG also highlighted that the elected president would hold the office for a term of five years, continuing until the next presidency assumes power.
The Legal Perspective
From a legal standpoint, the AG stated that the president-elect cannot make demands of the incumbent government, underlining that previous governments had not made such demands to outgoing administrations during the transitional process. This, the AG insisted, should remain the status quo.
The Presidential Transition Act
The Maldives’ Presidential Transition Act includes procedures for the support of the president-elect by the incumbent state and the appointment of a Director of Transition by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to oversee the transition. However, the law does not specify measures such as stopping ongoing projects or initiatives of the current government or the deferment of bids on national tendering or employment promotions.
“Cooperation with the president-elect is a commendable characteristic upheld by democratic societies. There may be a moral duty incumbent upon the government in this regard, but it is important to note that such cooperation does not necessitate the discontinuation of ongoing projects. The government will continue to operate effectively until [president-elect] takes the oath of office.”Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath
During this transitional phase, as the new government prepares to take over, the state-owned enterprises (SOE) committee of parliament is actively addressing concerns raised by various entities. These concerns revolve around allegations that the President-elect’s Office and the Privatisation and Corporatisation Board (PCB) are impeding the normal operation of state-owned enterprises. During the hour-long SOE committee meeting, the dissatisfaction of incumbent government’s MPs were heavily targeted at the PCB.
As the transition unfolds, it remains essential for both the incumbent government and the incoming administration to navigate these differences with respect for democratic values, legal processes, and the best interests of the Maldivian people. Tensions must be alleviated to ensure a peaceful and productive transition of power.