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Parliamentary Committee approves additional time for EC to hold local council elections

Mariyam Malsa
18 January 2021, MVT 15:55
EC President Ahmed Shareef speaking at a press conference. PHOTO: AHMED AWSHAN ILYAS
Mariyam Malsa
18 January 2021, MVT 15:55

Parliamentary Committee on Independent Institutions, on Sunday, decided to add a provision to the "Special Bill for the Local Council Elections 2020" to circumvent the stipulation that the Elections Commission (EC) must hold the already delayed polls within an year of the bill's passing.

Speaking at the parliament, EC President Ahmed Shareef expressed concern that the commission might not be able to complete the election process by the stipulated date of May 9 due to clashes with international examinations and the month of Ramadan.

As per the sunset bill, passed by the parliament on April 30, 2020, EC can only host the local council and Women Development Committee (WDC) elections once the presently-declared state of public health emergency is over and only after the Health Protection Agency (HPA) determines that there is no longer a public health risk to hold the elections.

Although EC had initially planned to hold the elections in March 2021, the commission is currently facing challenges to make the arrangements for the elections since relevant authorities have yet to nullify the public health emergency.

At present the election is slated for April 3, 2021.

Following discussions after consulting with EC members, the parliamentary committee unanimously agreed to introduce an amendment which permits the election watchdog to lodge an extension request with the parliament if it believes that the time allocated will be insufficient. The request must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the deadline.

The elections, initially scheduled for April 4, 2020, has been postponed by nearly a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 4,172 candidates, including independent candidates and those representing political parties, are contesting in the upcoming local council elections. Till date, 71 candidates have withdrawn their candidacies.

In response to the indefinite delay, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified an amendment to Article 231 of the Constitution, extending the terms of incumbent councilors. He also ratified the legislation to delineate the powers of council members who remain in office during the interim period, thus allowing the continued functioning of a decentralised government until such a time the local elections can be held.

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