Further delays to council election possible: EC

The Elections Commission is seeking the Parliament’s counsel over concerns that the local council election may have to be delayed further.

According to the commission, the guidelines established by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) with regard to the election causes many challenges to executing the election on its scheduled date.

The guidelines published by HPA outlines measures to be followed in preparation of the election and during campaigning, and the safety measures that must be in place at voting centres. It also included guidelines on vote counting, the conduct of vote officials, disinfecting apparatus at the vote centres, garbage disposal and special voting arrangements for those who have been isolated due to the virus

The President of the Elections Commission, Ahmed Shareef Adam said there are some challenges to holding the election as per the guidelines set by HPA. Organizing the upcoming election will be no easy feat, and although the commission is entertaining ideas of further postponing the election, no such decisions have been made thus far, said Shareef. All preparations for the election are still ongoing, he added.

HPA guidelines state that those in isolation due to COVID-19 must be given the opportunity to cast their vote on the island they are at at the time of the election. Arrangements must be made that such individuals do not mingle with others, and they must be transported to the voting centre with separate vehicles, and with HPA’s permission. A specific time block must be arranged for such persons to cast their vote at specific vote centres.

Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are voting in the election must keep their masks on at all times, and must keep a 3 feet distance from others. They must frequently use sanitizer to disinfect their hands. The same applies for contacts of positive cases, and those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

According to the guidelines, door-to-door campaigning will not be allowed at this time. Instead of physical visits to households to gather support for candidates, online platforms must be used, the guidelines said. It is advised to hold campaign rallies virtually.

The Elections Commission announced on January 26th that the long delayed local council election and the Women’s Development Committee elections will be held on April 10th. 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 in January 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.