The Elections Commission (EC) announced on Thursday that the local council election will be delayed to April 18, following the government's declaration of a state of public health emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a press conference, EC President Ahmed Shareef stated that April 18 was the latest available date the election could be rescheduled to, as per the law. He added that any further delays would need to be sanctioned by a High Court ruling or a new law passed by the parliament.
Shareef assured that EC was prepared to lodge a case at court over the elections in the event that the state of emergency is extended.
Maldives declared a public health emergency under Section 33 of the 7/2012 Public Health Act, on March 12 for a period of 30 days.
Furthermore, Shareef revealed that the delay would result in the additional expense of MVR 30 million.
Prior to the election watchdog's decision, certain politicians including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, called for the polls to be delayed from the initially scheduled date of April 4. Some members of the public expressed support for a delayed election, asserting that they would boycott the polls if they were held as previously planned.
However, coalition leader Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had strongly maintained that such a delay was unnecessary.
Currently there are eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maldives, with four foreign nationals from Kuredu Island Resort, and two from Sandies Bathala and Kuramathi Maldives each. Although the resorts were put on lockdown, Kuredu being the first last weekend, Health Protection Agency (HPA) lifted the restrictive measures this Wednesday.
WHO has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected more than 134,000 and claimed over 4,900 lives around the world. Out of those infected, more than 69,000 have recovered.