Government and Politics
Government organization is based on the 1968 constitution, as revised in 1970, 1972, and 1975. The document provides the basis for a highly centralized, presidential form of government. Its philosophical frame of reference is derived from Islam; thus the distinction between secular and religious authority is often academic. The constitution vests final authority for the propagation of Islam in the president, who in turn is empowered to appoint all judges who interpret and apply the sharia in the adjudication of civil and criminal cases. In Maldives, therefore, the courts are not independent of the executive branch, but rather are under the minister of justice, who is appointed by the president.
Constitutional provisions regarding the basic rights of the people are broadly phrased. They refer to freedom of speech and assembly, equality before the law, and the right to own property, but these rights are to be exercised within the framework of the sharia. In 1990 younger members of the recently expanded president's Consultative Council called for the repeal or amendment of Article 38 in the penal code, which allows the jailing or banishment "for any gesture, speech or action that instills malice or disobedience in the minds of Maldivians against lawfully formed government."
The president is elected for a renewable five-year term by the Majlis, or legislature. The election must be formalized through confirmation in a popular referendum. The chief executive is assisted by a cabinet, or Council of Ministers, whose members serve at his pleasure. The post of prime minister, which had existed under the sultan and in the early years of the republic, was eliminated in 1975 by President Ibrahim Nasir because of abuses of the office. Cabinet ministers need not be members of the Majlis. The legislature is unicameral, with members elected for five-year terms by citizens aged twenty-one and above, or appointed by the president. Eight of its forty-eight members are appointed by the president, and the rest are chosen popularly, two from Male and two from each of the nineteen administrative atolls.
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