The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has agreed to consider bringing changes to its guidelines pertaining to the upcoming local council election.
The long delayed local council elections, originally scheduled for April 2020, have been scheduled for April 10 this year. The Elections Commission (EC) has been continuously stating that there are several challenges to conducting the election as per the strict guidelines issued by HPA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials from both the HPA and EC were summoned to the Parliament’s Committee on Independent Institutions on Monday to reach a solution on the matter.
The president of the Elections Commission, Ahmed Shareef Adam said political parties do not get equal opportunities to campaign for the upcoming elections due to the restrictions imposed by the HPA guidelines. There is a chance that legal complications may arise post-election due to such issues, said Shareef. He further noted that a huge expense is incurred due to the quarantine rules for election officials who will be stationed at local resorts and abroad.
The initial budget for the local council election was set at MVR 42 million. However, the budget was later revised to MVR 29 million. However, the election cannot be conducted on that budget if HPA’s guidelines are to be followed, said Shareef.
Shareef noted that other countries across the world were also granted some eases by its health authorities to hold elections during the current global pandemic situation. He therefore requested HPA to lighten its guidelines in a feasible manner.
After hearing the arguments from both EC and HPA officials, Chair of the parliament committee MP Rozaina Adam agreed that HPA must offer some eases to its current guidelines in this situation. In this regard, HPA must make arrangements such that candidates are allowed to campaign in a safe manner, said Rozaina.
The Director General of Public Health, Maimoona Aboobakur said HPA would try to make concessions on the guidelines as per EC’s request. However, the current guidelines are also designed in such a way that it ensures safety of all parties, said Maimoona.