Constitution to be amended to extend term of incumbent councillors

A bill has been submitted to the parliament to amend the constitution such that term of the incumbent councillors may be extended due to the local council election slated for April 4 being postponed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussions on two bills have been put on the agenda of the parliament sitting scheduled for Monday, one of which is the proposed amendments to the constitution to postpone the election. The second bill is on the special provisional act developed to postpone the election.

The bill on postponing the election submitted by MP of Bileidhdhoo proposes to amend the constitution to extend the current term of the incumbent councillors until the new councillors are elected. The amendment to the constitution will come into effect once published in the gazette following the president’s ratification of the bill when it is passed by the parliament. The amendment will become invalid once new councillors are elected.

The other bill on the agenda is the special provisional bill on local council elections. The bill submitted on behalf of the government by Thulhaadhoo MP Hisaan Hussain proposes that the preparations for the local council election should be resumed after the end of the current public health emergency. However, elections should be held latest by January 2021.

The bill proposes to nullify the suspension imposed on the civil servants who are contesting in the election. The bill also proposes that once the suspension is annulled, the contestant will not be able to carry on any campaign activity.

The local council election was initially slated for April 4 which was later postponed to April 18, given that it was the maximum duration that the election could be postponed as per the Elections Act. Since there is no safe environment to hold the election due to the COVID-19 panedemic, the EC filed a case with the Supreme Court to decide what shall be done regarding the issue.

However, the main ruling party, Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) submitted a case to the independent institutions' committee of the parliament, stating that it is a constitutional matter. Following that, EC’s members were summoned to the committee, and after which discussions were held with the EC members and the committee. EC has since withdrawn the case submitted to the Supreme Court. The committee has now decided to develop a special provisional act to postpone the election.