The Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) will confirm the date for the 2024 Parliamentary Elections in January, the Vice Chairman of the ECM, Ismail Habeeb, has said. The constitutionally mandated date for the parliamentary vote coincides with the fasting month of Ramadan next year, prompting extensive deliberations between the ECM and political parties.

Political parties have differing preferences, with some advocating for the vote to be held before the start of Ramadan, while others favour a post-Ramadan schedule. The ECM, cognisant of these concerns, had considered scheduling the vote before Ramadan. However, this would necessitate legislative amendments, a proposition previously put forth by the ECM to the Independent Institutions Committee of Parliament. The committee, however, advised against this and recommended a post-Ramadan election.

Speaking with the Maldives Republic, Habeeb stated that the ECM is not inclined towards legislative amendments. The commission will convene the National Advisory Committee on Parliamentary Elections in the coming week to commence deliberations and preparations for the parliamentary elections, Habeeb said.

“We had extensive deliberations [at the last ECM meeting] about how the election date, before or after Ramadan, would affect hiring election officials and how to ensure the highest voter turnout,” Habeeb said. “We decided to conduct extensive research and prepare a white paper on the matter. The research will focus on the challenges we will face if the election is held before and after Ramadan.”

Citing the low voter turnout in the first round of the Presidential Elections 2023 held in September, Habeeb emphasised, “Our utmost priority is to safeguard the rights of voters and candidates. We are committed to ensuring that all eligible voters can cast their ballots. We will undertake all necessary measures to ensure this.”

While some ECM members are currently abroad on official and private business, Habeeb said that the commission’s next meeting is expected to be held in late December. He added, “Most likely, a date for the election will be finalised and announced in January.”

The ECM is legally required to finalise preparations for the new election 30 days prior to the end of the term of the incumbent members, which falls on 28 April 2024. With the final day of Ramadan expected to either fall on 9 or 10 April 2024, the ECM anticipates challenges, especially if a second round is required, which would necessitate an additional 15 days for campaigning.