The 2024 Parliamentary Elections will be held on 17 March, the Elections Commission of Maldives (ECM) has declared, a date falling within the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

The fasting month of Ramadan is expected to commence on 11 March, with the election scheduled for the sixth day. In a statement, the ECM defended its decision by citing that a post-Ramadan vote would present numerous administrative hurdles. The week preceding Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, would coincide with school examinations, thereby complicating the use of school buildings as polling centres, the commission statement read.

The government has declared the final ten days of Ramadan as government holidays. During this period, procuring assistance from government offices and institutions would be challenging, ECM anticipated.

The announcement of the election date was initially slated for earlier this week but was postponed following an official correspondence from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The MDP’s letter expressed concerns that the ECM was succumbing to pressure from the ruling coalition to conduct the vote during Ramadan, contradicting advice from the National Advisory Committee and the Parliament Independent Institutions Committee.

Ismail Habeeb, the Vice Chairman of the ECM, had earlier acknowledged the potential for a low voter turnout if voting is held during Ramadan. He assured that the commission would consider a date that would be convenient for both candidates and voters and would strive to minimise any administrative challenges.

At the National Advisory Committee on Parliamentary Elections meeting held on 27 December 2023, all political parties, barring the ruling Progressive-National Coalition, advocated for the parliamentary vote to be scheduled after Ramadan.

The tenure of the incumbent 19th parliament is slated to conclude on 28 May 2024. As per the constitution, the ECM is mandated to initiate preparations for the election 120 days before the incumbent parliament’s term is terminated.