Can’t hold elections if budget is cut down: Elections Commission

Elections Commission (EC) Vice President Ahmed Akram | Photo: Sun

Male’, Maldives – The Elections Commission of Maldives has said that if the Commission’s budget for 2021 is decreased, it would be difficult to hold the Local Council Elections, scheduled for the year.

EC Vice President Ahmed Akram said at the parliamentary budget committee meeting yesterday that he believes there has been a misunderstanding between the two budgets EC receives on an election year. Akram said that EC’s administrative budget for 2021 is MVR 25 Million, and the budget for the Local Council elections is MVR 71 Million.

Akram explained the MVR 71 Million is justified as the elections are to continue with appropriate safety measures in March, even if the COVID situation has not died down. And that if the current budget is decreased, it would be hard to take necessary measures and procure infrastructure to follow COVID guidelines during the elections.

“If the current budget of MVR 71 Million is further reduced, it would be extremely difficult for us to conduct a fair, transparent and independent election as described by the law” Akram said

Akram added that the current budget is after a decrease of MVR 21 Million from the original budget summited by EC. And that this reduction included MVR 15.9 Million that was to be used for voting booths, election officials, and training. Akram said that the elections require an estimated 6000 officials.

“We cannot afford to be sparing when it comes to officials and TOT’s, incidents during the previous presidential election has left us with a shortage of election officials” Akram noted.

Akram has previously said that under Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) guidelines, voters need to be 3 feet apart from each other when in queues, and work to obtain facilities that will allow for this is going on. It is also possible that the number of voting centers could see an increase from previous elections, which will result in additional expenses. They are now working to increase their budget due to these predicted additional expenses.

EC members have also stated that their administrative budget is also low, and that employees have served EC for years without any promotion or salary increments, and that many employees have left commission due to this.