Fuwad Thowfeek, Chairman of the Elections Commission (EC), has defended the commission’s decision to conduct the upcoming parliamentary elections on a Sunday, a departure from the traditional practice of holding elections on Saturdays during the weekend. The EC announced this revised decision on Thursday, rescheduling the parliamentary election for Sunday, 21 April.

Thowfeek justified the decision by citing the recent amendment to the Elections (General) Act, which stipulates that elections can only be held ten days after the conclusion of Ramadan. He clarified that 21 April is the earliest possible date for the polls, per the new amendment. He further elucidated on X (formerly Twitter) that the rescheduled election date is set as 21 April, the first day after counting ten days from the end of Ramadan.

“[The rescheduled election date is established as] 21 April, which is the first day, after enumerating ten days following the conclusion of Ramadan. Should we postpone any further, we anticipate that it may become unfeasible to elect the new parliament one month before the cessation of the incumbent parliament’s term,” stated Thowfeek.

The EC had initially scheduled the election for 17 March, which falls within the fasting month of Ramadan. However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led an amendment to the elections law, prohibiting the EC from holding any polls during Ramadan. President Mohamed Muizzu initially declined to sign the bill into law but ratified it following its second passage in parliament. After the law’s ratification, the EC announced 21 April as the new rescheduled date for the polls.

The MDP has expressed criticism of the EC’s decision to hold the vote on a Sunday, urging the EC to disclose the rationale behind this break from tradition. The advisor of the MDP, former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, also questioned the EC’s decision at a campaign rally. Solih insinuated that President Muizzu had influenced the EC’s decision to set the polling date for a government working day.

“I urge the Elections Commission not to yield to that undue influence and pressure [of the government]. You are an autonomous institution. Formulate arrangements in a manner that would be most convenient for the voters. Schools will be operational [on Sunday]. Parents will be obligated to escort their children to school. The [school] halls will be requisitioned. How can we facilitate this?” stated Solih.

According to the EC, rescheduling the parliamentary polls will allow 560 new voters, who will turn 18, to participate in the election. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on 21 April, with vote counting expected to commence at 4:30 p.m. The electoral body also announced its plans to publish the final results of the vote on 28 April.