The Election Commission (EC) has requested the Independent Institutions Committee of Parliament to look into the possibility of conducting the 20th parliamentary elections, scheduled for next year, before the month of Ramadan.

The committee met EC on Tuesday to discuss the challenges in holding the next parliamentary elections.

According to the Parliamentary Elections Act, EC must publicly announce, within a maximum period of 10 days from the commencement of the last 120 days of the tenure of the incumbent Parliament, the invitation to submit the candidature of persons interested in standing for Parliament. This 120 days is set to expire on 28 January. Further, parliamentary elections must be held 30 days before the end of the current parliamentary term, and as such, the deadline for completion of all election-related matters is set to be 28 April.

EC Vice-President Ismail Habeeb said the nomination process will be open from 30 January, going by deadlines currently stipulated by law. Candidates will then be given 14 days to be assigned their candidate numbers and the list will be announced on 17 February, he said.

He said the earliest date for the election would then be 18 March, which would fall on 9 Ramadan. However, polling stations cannot be set up at schools during this period due to the scheduled O’ level mock exams, to be held between 17 and 28 March, he said.

Therefore, the deadline for the next election would then be 30 March which coincides with 20 Ramadan, he said. If a second round is required, it would then be held on 20 April and the official results would then be announced on 27 April, he said. This would then mean that the election will be held one day before the stipulated legislative deadline.

With those concerns in mind, EC has proposed to change the statutory deadlines for holding elections. The commission proposed two options.

The first being to shorten the statutory 30-day period between the announcement of the candidates and voting to 20 days. The election will then be held on 9 March, two days ahead of Ramadan.

The second option being to extend the 120-day period for declaring elections to 140 days. This will give EC the opportunity to hold the elections earlier.

A decision on the EC’s proposals will be taken after further debate within the Independent Institutions Committee.

The Election Commission is also planning to consult with political parties to seek their views on the changes.