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President decides against ratifying election postponement bill

Stating that the bill sent by the parliament to postpone the parliamentary elections to after Ramadan poses violations to the Constitution, the President has decided against ratifying the amendment.

Aishath Shuba Solih
27 February 2024, MVT 09:07
President Dr Mohamed Muizzu speaking at the parliament
Aishath Shuba Solih
27 February 2024, MVT 09:07

President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has determined not to ratify the bill on amending the general election regulations to cease all elections during the month of Ramadan which subsequently delays the upcoming parliamentary elections, and will return the amendment back to the parliament.

The Elections Commission had scheduled the parliamentary elections for the 17th of March. However, Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats, who holds the majority of parliament, sought to postpone the elections to ten days after the conclusion of Ramadan and voted to pass the amendment to the regulation in their favor.

A senior representative of the State shared that the president’s decision to not ratify the bill was based on five major reasons and added that the bill in its current state violates a number of articles in the Constitution.

Reasons for dismissing the bill

1. The current outline of the bill mandates publication of all voter’s identity card numbers when announcing the voter’s list

2. Significant responsibilities mandated to focal points determined by the election’s commission, while there being no elaboration on how the focal points are appointed and other related information

3. Possible violation to Article 79 (b) of the Constitution - which stipulates the conclusion of all election procedures 30 days prior to the new parliamentary term’s elections - if elections are conducted as instructed in the amended bill, there arises a possibility that election procedures may not be completed before the constituted window, resulting in violation of the constitution

4. Despite the stipulation in Article 75 of the Constitution mandating parliamentarian’s conduct to remain in conformity of the best interests of the nation, the conduct seeking amendment to the election date surmising to be in the personal best interests of the parliamentarians due to some members’ participation in the elections

5. Loss of confidence in the elections stemming from tampering with the General Elections Act in such ways and altering the date of the election

The amendment to the General Elections Act initiated by MDP stipulated the delay of the elections to after Ramadan. The amendment to the Act to cease elections during Ramadan was also included with the intention of delaying the parliamentary elections.

This amendment was brought after EC had established dates with the consultation of the National Advisory Committee and had geared up to organize the elections for the first week of Ramadan.

With this amendment, the election would have been held on the 20th of April. In his speeches voiced during the trips around the atolls, the President has indicated that there will not be an election delay. As stated in the Constitution, the bill must be delivered to the President to be ratified within 7 days of passing it in the parliament and the president must make a decision on ratification of the bill within 15 days. This window expired yesterday.

If the president wishes to return the bill to the parliament without ratifying it, it must be done within this 15-day duration. The parliament reserves the right to pass the bill once again without any amendments in the case it is sent back without ratification. If the bill is passed a second time by the parliamentarian’s votes, the president is mandated to ratify the bill.

Holding the elections during Ramadan is a concern of the EC as well. As they had stated at the parliament, this was due to their perception that the number of voters would decline during Ramadan. The commission further believes that the task of finding and training officials would also be more challenging during this period.

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