President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Shareef declared, on Wednesday, that the local council elections can be held in upcoming March only if the Health Protection Agency (HPA) greenlights it before December 15.
The much-delayed local council elections, initially scheduled for April 4, was postponed with a special Act due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As per the bill passed by the Parliament in June, the elections must be held within a year of passing the amendments. However, the law also highlights that the Elections Commission can officially announce the election date and carry out the necessary preparations after HPA publicly greenlights the proceedings.
Speaking at the Parliamentary Committee on Independent Bodies, Shareef stated that HPA must permit the election before December 15, even if the public health emergency is not lifted, in order to wrap up the election within the time frame granted by the law.
He added that the commission had now set dates for election proceedings, such as publicising the voters list, accepting complaints, opening for re-registration, campaigning and issuing the candidate list.
According to the law approved by the Parliament, new candidates will not be allowed to contest for the elections. Therefore, voting will take place for the candidates that had submitted their names as contestants prior to the postponement of the local council elections.
However, Elections Commission confirmed that about 5,000 people who turned 18 within the duration that had passed, will be given voting rights.
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 Till date, 71 candidates have withdrawn their candidacies.