Elections Commission (EC), on Tuesday, scheduled the already delayed Local Council Elections for April 10.
According to the elections watchdog, there would be certain difficulties with holding the election in adherence to the the Health Protection Agency (HPA)'s safety guidelines, including the necessity of increasing the commission's budget by MVR 44.9 million.
EC President Ahmed Shareef disclosed that the commission would share any difficulties or challenges with the parliament.
The election's watchdog finalised its decision shortly after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified an amendment to the 'Special Bill for the Local Council Elections 2020', which permits EC to conduct the polls during the ongoing state of public health emergency, provided that safety guidelines imposed by HPA are followed.
Additionally, the amendment includes a provision that permits the election watchdog to lodge an extension request with the parliament if it believes that the election process cannot be completed before the one-year deadline of May 9. The request must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the date.
The EC president had previously expressed concern that the commission might not be able to complete the election process by the stipulated date 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. The bill also mandated the election watchdog to hold the election within one year of the bill's passing.
The elections, initially scheduled for April 4, 2020, have 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 Till date, 71 candidates have withdrawn their candidacies.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 councillors.
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.