The Election Commission (EC) today said it is ready to conduct a referendum on the system of governance on October 29, according to the parliament's directive, however, it is uncertain regarding the specific questions that public should be asked during this vote.
The parliament passed a resolution instructing the Elections Commission to conduct a referendum before October 30.
Following the resolution, the commission sought legal opinion and decided to proceed with the referendum. However, prior to this decision, the commission had submitted a proposal to parliament to seek clarification on certain issues.
Speaking at a press conference held today elections chief Fuad Taufeeq said that the commission has decided to hold the referendum on October 29 and will begin public awareness campaigns as soon as they receive the necessary budget. He highlighted the commission's commitment to fulfilling its responsibilities within the timeframe, and said, "If the parliament or the president has tasked us, we will do it."
Vice chief of the commission Ismail Habeeb said that when seeking public opinion through votes, it should be clear what information is being collected and the questions to be asked. Habeeb, however, said that the parliament had not provided such details to the commission.
"Now we have asked the parliament what question the Elections Commission should ask? What should that question be? We urge the parliament to approve the question and forward it to us," Habeeb said.
"We need additional information along with that question. In cases where there may be debates related to the question, its advantages and disadvantages, we need to understand the reasons behind the vote. This information is important, and we must make it available to the public," said Habeeb.
Habeeb said that in the event of a vote, a voter registry must be established, a mechanism for lodging complaints must be in place, and various preparations need to be made. He said that the commission is prepared for these tasks but cannot proceed until the legal questions that have emerged are addressed.
Habeeb further said that he had also requested the parliament to allocate the budget for the referendum. He said that without the necessary budget, they would be unable to proceed with the voting process.
EC had previously said that MVR 40 million would be required to conduct the vote.
Habeeb also expressed concern that although the parliament had mandated a referendum on the system of governance, there is currently no specific legislation in place that outlines the procedures and requirements to be followed in the event of a referendum.
"While the power to conduct a general vote of opinion is held by both the president and the parliament, in the past 15 years, the parliament has not established regulations that must be followed in the event of a referendum," Habeeb said.
He said that it is the responsibility of the Elections Commission to conduct a referendum to gather public opinion, as stipulated in Article 32 of the Elections Commission. The commission has initiated the process of formulating a regulation that specifies the procedures to be followed by the commission when conducting such a vote, he said.
"The rules will be submitted for gazette within the next two days. The first draft has already been prepared," Habeeb said.