Despite a legislative amendment to push back the parliamentary elections to a post-Ramadan date, the nomination period for candidates will remain unchanged, the Elections Commission of Maldives (EC) has declared.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposed the amendment to the Elections (General) Act, which passed the committee stage on Wednesday. The amendment seeks to prevent the EC from conducting any elections during Ramadan. However, the nomination period for candidates, which began on 30 January and concludes at 2 p.m. on 14 February, will not be extended, according to the EC.

Ismail Habeeb, the Vice Chairman of the EC, stated, “Regardless of any potential alterations to the election date, the EC will maintain the existing timeline for candidate nominations.” As of 10 February, only 18 candidates had submitted their nomination papers.

While election laws require candidates to use a dedicated bank account for election campaign expenses, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has requested banks to expedite and facilitate the opening of bank accounts for candidates, according to Habeeb. He warned of potential difficulties if candidates wait until the last minute to submit their nomination papers.

While the MDP seeks to postpone the elections until after Ramadan, the EC has formally requested that the parliament consider the logistical challenges of holding the elections during or after the fasting month. The EC has asked for provisions in the amendment that would obligate government offices and institutions to support the EC. However, the bill passed the parliamentary committee stage as initially proposed by the MDP.

The EC has established an election centre at Dharubaaruge to facilitate filing nomination papers. The centre will operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., except on Fridays, when it will accept nominations from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Political parties are currently preparing for the parliamentary elections. The opposition MDP and The Democrats concluded their parliamentary primaries on 3 February. The ruling coalition, the People’s National Congress (PNC), and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) wrapped up their parliamentary primaries on 27 January.

The tenure of the incumbent 19th parliament, comprising 87 lawmakers, is set to conclude on 28 May 2024. The 20th parliament will see increased representation with the addition of six constituencies, bringing the total number of seats to 93. The new constituencies include Central and North Hulhumalé, Hithaadhoo, Huraa, Kolamaafushi, and North Feydhoo.