Elections Commission (EC) President Ahmed Shareef on Sunday, revealed that EC is currently preparing to host the already delayed Local Council Elections on March 2021.
In an interview with state-run Public Service Media (PSM), Shareef stated that an exact date is yet to be decided.
However, the commission leader disclosed the commission's intention to host the election prior to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Over 980 councillors were to be elected for the island, atoll and city councils on April 4, 2020. Nevertheless, initial fears over the COVID-19 pandemic forced authorities to postpone the election to April 18, 2020.
Afterwards, the persistence of the health crisis soon prompted an indefinite delay.
The situation was remedied by provisions passed under “The Special Bill for the Local Council Elections 2020" - a sunset Bill, passed by the Majlis on April 30, 2020. The bill requires EC to hold elections within a one-year period.
Typically, sunset laws are temporary and cease to have an effect after a specific date, unless further legislative action is taken to extend the law. As per the new law, the local council and Women Development Committee (WDC) elections must be held before May 9, 2021.
According to the law, the Elections Commission can only begin preparations for the local council and WDC elections once the presently-declared state of public health emergency is over and only after relevant authorities determine that there is no longer a public health risk to hold the elections.
With its ratification, civil servants' previously suspended from their official duties for contesting in the local elections will be able to return to their employment. Over 200 eligible civil servants contesting in the elections will not be allowed to campaign until they are placed under suspension once again, when a date for the election is determined.
However, Shareef noted that concerns were raised over the law's ineffectiveness to alleviate the situation of civil servants, as suspensions are still in place. Shareef added that EC is currently in communication with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to formulate a solution for the matter.
Previously, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified an amendment to Article 231 of the Constitution to extend the terms of the presently elected local councils, President Solih 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.