Political parties represented in the parliament have initiated discussions on convening extraordinary sittings to address significant pending matters, including issues pertaining to the upcoming 2024 parliamentary elections. An official of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) confirmed to the Maldives Republic that the party’s parliamentary group held deliberations on the matter on Tuesday.

The discussions centred around proposing amendments to the Elections (General) Act, the MDP official confirmed. The party has since submitted an amendment bill to parliament, which seeks to allow the Elections Commission of Maldives (ECM) to reschedule the parliamentary elections to a date after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

The election is currently slated for 17 March, which falls during Ramadan. Parliament is set to reconvene on 5 February, following recess. The MDP parliamentary group is reportedly focused on calling for an extraordinary sitting of parliament to deliberate on the election-related bill and expedite the pending confirmation of President Mohamed Muizzu’s cabinet.

The bill to allow the ECM to hold the parliamentary elections post-Ramadan was submitted to parliament on behalf of the MDP by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ihavandhoo, Mohamed Shifau. The proposed amendments, numbering 20, include a provision barring the ECM from holding elections during Ramadan. The proposed amendment states that if any election falls during the fasting month, the ECM must delay the vote and have it 10 days after Ramadan.

The MDP has been vociferously opposing the holding of the parliamentary elections during Ramadan, advocating instead for a post-Ramadan election date. The party argues that holding the election during Ramadan would pose challenges for the ECM, candidates, and voters. However, the ECM defended its decision to hold the election during Ramadan, stating that it would face numerous administrative challenges if the vote were delayed until after Ramadan.

While the MDP previously alleged that the ECM had been pressured by the ruling coalition—comprised of the ruling party People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)—to set the Ramadan date for the election, the ECM denies these allegations.

Officials from the PPM have also dismissed the MDP’s accusations. Speaking with the National Advisory Committee on Parliamentary Elections on Tuesday, Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam, representing the PPM, stated that the ruling coalition did not influence the ECM’s decision to hold the election during Ramadan.

The PPM would support any decision to hold an extraordinary sitting of parliament to amend relevant laws and delay the vote, he added. He also concurred with the MDP’s argument that having the vote during Ramadan would be challenging.