After deliberations with the cabinet, President Abdulla Yameen decided Thursday that the newly-elected Fuvahmulah city council will have the same restricted powers and responsibilities as the Malé and Addu city councils.
“The president made this decision in order to provide quality services to citizens and to give equal and uniform authorities to all three cities,” the president’s office said.
The move comes after the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party swept the three city councils in the May 6 municipal elections. The MDP won 12 out of 13 seats on the Malé city council, all seven seats on the Addu City council and two out of three seats on the Fuvahmulah city council.
The opposition-dominated city councils were gradually stripped of their authority and staff after Yameen assumed office in November 2013.
In early 2015, the housing ministry evicted the Malé city council from the city hall building and took over management of the capital’s public spaces, parks, harbours, cemeteries, and roads. A third of the council’s employees were transferred to the housing ministry.
The ruling party-dominated parliament then amended the decentralisation act to authorise the president to determine the public services to be provided by city councils, after which Yameen transferred the remaining municipal services to government ministries.
The Malé and Addu city councils were left with providing registration services and issuing birth and death certificates. The MDP said at the time the changes were aimed at reducing the city councils to an “administrative desk at the president’s office.”
In March this year, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan caused a stir during the local council election campaign when he declared that parliament will restore the city council’s powers and responsibilities if ruling Progressive Party of Maldives candidates are elected.
He also pledged to reverse a 50 percent pay cut for Malé and Addu city councillors approved by the parliament in October 2015.
Yameen meanwhile accorded city status to Fuvahmulah with an executive decree issued in September. He declared that the southern island meets the revised criteria for a city in the decentralisation law, which was amended in 2015 to lower the minimum population threshold from 25,000 to 10,000.
As Fuvahmulah is uniquely both an island and its own atoll, it presently has an atoll council and island councils for each of its eight administrative wards, with a total of 30 elected councillors.
However, the island will now have a three-member city council. One member was elected from each of its three parliamentary constituencies.
The new city councillors are due to be sworn in on June 3.
Elected island, atoll, and city councils were introduced in the Maldives for the first time under the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010. The May 6 poll was the third local council election.
The latest revision to the decentralisation law was meanwhile ratified by Yameen in late April. The amendment removed six councillors from the Local Government Authority, an oversight body tasked with coordinating the work of councils with the central government.
Six representatives from city and atoll councils as well as a member representing the public were removed from the LGA’s board.
The president was also authorised to appoint the other five members, subject to parliamentary approval, including a cabinet member, a chief executive officer, a civil society member, and two experts in the fields of gender equality and public administration.