Not necessary to reduce number of by-elections, says Nasheed

Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed has said he does not believe the number of local council by-elections and Women's Development Committee (WDC) by-elections held should be reduced.

Two bills have been introduced in Parliament aimed at finding a solution to the increasing number of by-elections for local councils and WDCs, which in turn incurs high expenses. The bills were introduced by two MPs from the main-ruling MDP, Velidhoo MP Mohamed Abdulla Shafeeq and Meedhoo MP Rozaina Adam.

MP Shafeeq has proposed amendments to the Local Council Act and Decentralization Act to require elections to be held once a year if a local council seat or WDC seat becomes vacant. As per the proposed amendment, the period between two by-elections should not be less than 300 days. It also proposes that if the end of the council's term or the WDC's term is less than a year away, the election should not have to be held. However, if the council seat or WDC seat becomes vacant and the number of council members required by law to hold a meeting is not reached, the election must be held within 60 days of the vacancy.

Speaking regarding the bills at Wednesday's Parliament sitting, Nasheed said he did not believe it was necessary to reduce the number of by-elections and noted that the cost of such elections was not high. Nasheed compared the MVR 160,000 spent by the Election Commission on a single by-election to the Parliament's “tea” budget.

President Nasheed said elections show which party is popular among the people and familiarized the people with democracy.

"It costs MVR 160,000 to hold such an election. This is a very beautiful 'democracy' event taking place on islands on Saturdays," Nasheed said.

According to the Election Commission, eleven by-elections were held for WDCs this year and 23 by-elections for local councils. More than MVR 100,000 has been spent on each by-election.