Cost of local council election to exceed MVR 95 mln, projects EC

The Elections Commission (EC) has stated that MVR 44.9 million will be incurred in addition to the current budget allocated for the Local Council Election in order to conduct the election as per the guidelines set forth by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The Local Council Elections Special Provision Act—passed on May 10, 2020—led to the postponement of Local Council and Women’s Development Committees (WDC) elections in light of the State of National Health Emergency enforced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both votes were initially scheduled for April 2020. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih last week ratified amendments to the Local Council Elections Special Provisions Act which allows for elections to be held in the Maldives during the State of Public Health Emergency. According to the bill, the Elections Commission must initiate preparations and announce a rescheduled date for the vote within seven days from the date of ratification of the bill. The bill stipulates that the election must be held as per the guidelines set forth by the Director General of Public Health.

In this regard, the Elections Commission has announced that the council elections have now been rescheduled for April 10.

Speaking at the National Advisory Council of the Elections Commission, commission member Fuwad Thaufeek said a budget of MVR 71 million was initially allocated for the council elections. However, the Finance Ministry has thus far issued a budget of MVR 51.6 million, and that amount would not have been sufficient to conduct the election even in the pre-pandemic situation, said Shareef.

While the law mandates that the election is conducted as per the guidelines set by the Health Protection Agency, the cost of the election is now expected to double, said Fuwad.

The additional costs include hiring extra officials on site, increasing the number of floor managers to ensure social distancing measures are followed, arrangements to check temperature of voters and cost incurred for disinfection, said Fuwad.

The latest cost estimate projects that an additional MVR 44.9 million will be required on top of the budget currently issued to the commission, said Fuwad. This increases the total expense for the election to MVR 95 million, he added.

Speaking at the Advisory Council, President of the Commission, Ahmed Sahreef Adam said the HPA guideline instructs the Election Commission to hire a backup force in case officials at a voting centre test positive for COVID-19. Therefore, the current projections may not have to be spent based on the situation on hand at the time of the election, said Shareef.

Shareef also reiterated concerns on conducting the election as per the HPA guidelines. However, EC’s legal team has advised that the current laws do not allow for the election to be delayed further than the period stipulated in the law, said Shareef.