The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has formally requested the Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) to schedule the impending parliamentary elections to a date following the fasting month of Ramadan. This proposition aligns with the counsel provided by the Parliament Committee on Independent Institutions.

In an official correspondence to the ECM, the MDP underscored that the committee had recommended conducting the polls post-Ramadan when the ECM sought their guidance. The scheduling of the election has ignited a dispute as the constitutionally stipulated date for the parliamentary vote overlaps with Ramadan.

The MDP’s correspondence disclosed that during the National Advisory Committee on Parliamentary Elections meeting convened on 27 December 2023, all parties, barring the incumbent Progressive-National Coalition (comprising the Progressive Party of Maldives and the People’s National Congress), 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. The constitution mandates the ECM to initiate preparations for the election 120 days before the incumbent parliament’s term is terminated. The ECM had previously proposed 19 March as a potential election date, coinciding with school mock examinations. Another date proposed was 30 March, which falls in the latter half of Ramadan.

The ECM suggested alternatives, including truncating the legally mandated campaign period from 30 to 20 days and conducting the vote on 9 March, two days before Ramadan. Another option was to extend the 120-day preparation period to 140 days.

However, the MDP’s correspondence accused the ECM of succumbing to pressure from the ruling coalition to conduct the vote during Ramadan, in direct contradiction to the advice proffered at the National Advisory Committee meeting. The MDP asserted that all political parties and independent institutions at the meeting, with the exception of the ruling coalition, had requested for the vote to be scheduled post-Ramadan. Independent institutions endorsing this suggestion include the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The MDP implored the members of the ECM to resist influence from the government and ruling coalition and to heed the advice of the political parties and independent institutions that have constitutionally mandated responsibilities related to the vote.

Ismail Habeeb, Vice Chairman of the ECM, announced last week on X (formerly Twitter) that a date for the parliamentary election will be announced in the forthcoming week. Discussions have also been held to publish the voter lists by the subsequent Wednesday, Habeeb added.