Elections Commission (EC), on Wednesday, scheduled the already delayed Local Council Elections for April 3, 2021.
According to EC President Ahmed Shareef, the decision to hold the local council election and the Women Development Committee (WDC) was finalised following an internal meeting.
Although EC tentatively slated the elections for March 2021 in July, the state of public health emergency was extended, while HPA has yet to officially greenlight the polls.
As per the "Special Bill for the Local Council Elections 2020", passed by the parliament on April 30, 2020, the Elections Commission can only host the local council and 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 sunset bill requires EC to hold local council and WDC elections before May 9, 2021.
EC President Shareef has raised concerns regarding certain terms of the special act, highlighting that provisions which mandate seeking approval from external bodies presented challenges in holding the local council election.
According to Shareef, the election could be held if the terms of the special bill granted EC the mandate of setting a date for the polls after seeking counsel from HPA.
He noted that EC had completed all administrative preparations required to hold the local council elections, with the only pending preparations involving public efforts, such as recruiting volunteer observers and re-registering voters.
Therefore, Shareef stated that the terms of the aforementioned act represented the only obstacle to scheduling polls.
The EC president noted that efforts were now underway to draft an amendment addressing the issues surrounding the local council elections, which would be submitted to the parliament following the conclusion of the ongoing recess period.
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 Till date, 71 candidates have withdrawn their candidacies.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.