EC to request postponement of Local Council Elections over HPA guidelines

Former President of the Elections Commission of Maldives, Ahmed Shareef. | Photo: Mohamed Sharuhaan

Malé, Maldives – The Elections Commission (EC) of Maldives has decided to request the Parliament of Maldives to postpone the Local Council Elections again, citing that the new election regulations set forth by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) pose major obstacles in hosting a smooth election.

The election, which was initially postponed due to Covid-19, and then scheduled to be held on 10th April, was described as a “difficult” election by the President of the Commission Ahmed Shareef, if it would have to be held as per the guidelines gazetted by HPA last night, due to which the decision was made to raise the issue with the Parliament.

Describing the issues, Shareef said that the guideline focuses on curbing the spread of the virus, and that complying with the guideline would result in a significant increase in workload as well as expenses, amounting to nearly MVR 100 million, while the current set budget is MVR 51 million.

As per the guideline, facilitating the voting of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 and those who are in quarantine, by allowing safe transportation of such individuals to and from the voting centers would be the responsibility of the Commission. Shareef has said that this would not be possible and that the Commission would not deny the right to vote event if an individual who tested positive for the virus arrives at the voting center.

The guideline also stipulates that EC must also ensure that all campaign activities are carried out in a safe manner, and must also formulate an online system to manage all documents as to allow the smooth flowing of the election, without disruption, by also having a back up plan with additional officials.

While the guideline also mandates that officials and voters maintain a minimum of three feet of distance at all times among other safety instructions, EC had highlighted the issues that would arise with holding the election as per the guideline, previously as well.

With this, it is unclear when the local council election would be held, as incumbent local councillors continue to remain in office, nearly a year after their terms ended.