The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed strong disapproval of the Elections Commission of Maldives’ (ECM) decision to hold the 2024 Parliamentary Election during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

The MDP and other political parties in the National Advisory Committee on Parliamentary Elections had previously advised the ECM to set a date after Ramadan. However, the ECM disregarded this suggestion and declared on Wednesday that the parliamentary vote would be held on 17 March.

The ECM appears to have yielded to the pressure and influence exerted by the ruling coalition, stated Anas Abdul Sattar, the spokesperson of the MDP, in an interview with a local media outlet. The decision to schedule the election date during Ramadan seems to be more advantageous to the government, he added.

“Our position remains steadfast in advocating for the election to be conducted following the conclusion of Ramadan. We intend to reiterate our request to the ECM to reconsider and reschedule the election date to a time after Ramadan,” Sattar said.

Representatives of political parties and independent institutions at the National Advisory Committee expressed that holding voting during Ramadan would be challenging. The representatives of the ruling coalition, comprising the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), were notably absent at the National Advisory Committee meeting held on 27 December 2023.

The ECM, however, defended its decision to hold the vote during Ramadan. The commission cited 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 said in a statement.

While the last ten days of this Ramadan will be government holidays, procuring assistance from government offices and institutions during this period will be challenging, the electoral body said.