The Elections Commission (EC) of the Maldives has expressed concerns following the Parliament’s Committee on Independent Institutions’ decision to postpone the 2024 parliamentary election to after Ramadan. 

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq and Vice President Ismail Habeeb have both voiced apprehensions about the potential impact of this decision on voter turnout and the commission’s operational capacity.

The parliamentary election, initially scheduled to coincide with the first of the last 10 days of Ramadan, posed significant challenges in terms of hiring election officials and managing campaigning efforts during the Islamic holy month. 

As a solution, the EC proposed either shortening the legal campaigning period from 30 to 20 days, allowing the election to be held on 9 March, before Ramadan, or extending the statutory period for electing parliamentarians from 120 to 140 days to facilitate earlier election preparations.

Despite these proposals, the Parliamentary Committee, in its meeting on 26 November 26, recommended postponing the election until after Ramadan, citing the availability of a 30-day window post-Ramadan for election activities. This decision, according to Thaufeeq, would require EC staff to work intensively during Ramadan and potentially through the Eid holidays that follow, impacting their entitlement to public holidays and posing retention challenges due to limited holiday availability.

Habeeb further highlighted that holding the election post-Ramadan, which would coincide with the Eid holidays, could lead to low voter turnout and create additional difficulties for candidates who would need to campaign towards the end of Ramadan. He also pointed out the logistical challenges in placing ballot boxes in foreign nations during this period.

Despite these challenges, the EC has stated its respect for the Parliament’s decision and is set to finalise the election date after further deliberations. The current parliamentary term expires on 28 May, and according to the law, the election process must commence 120 days prior to this expiry. This timeline would have placed next year’s election on 19 March, within Ramadan, hence the initial push by the EC to advance the date.

The EC’s concerns underscore the practical difficulties in organising national elections during significant religious periods and highlight the need for flexible, considerate planning in such circumstances.