Parliament has once again passed the Amendment Bill to the Elections (General) Act and forwarded it to President Mohamed Muizzu for ratification. This marks the second time the bill has been sent to President Muizzu for his signature.

The bill, which proposes to reschedule the parliamentary vote to a date following the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, was initially sent to President Muizzu on 12 February. However, the President declined to give his assent, returning the bill to Parliament on 26 February for reconsideration.

The president’s decision not to ratify the bill has ignited a war of words between the incumbent government and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The Elections Commission (EC) has scheduled the vote for 17 March, which falls during Ramadan. The MDP argues that conducting political activities during this period would pose challenges for political parties, candidates, and voters.

On Wednesday, the bill was passed through Parliament for the second time without any further amendments, with 47 votes in favour and 14 against. The bill has since been forwarded to President Muizzu for ratification, according to Hassan Ziyau, the Director of Communications at the Secretariat of Parliament.

In accordance with Section 91(b) of the Constitution, the bill, having been re-passed without any additional amendments and with the support of the majority of the total number of parliamentary members, must be ratified by the president and published in the Government Gazette.

President Muizzu, currently on a tour of Noonu Atoll, would act according to the constitution in light of the bill’s re-passage, according to the government. Ibrahim Khaleel, the Minister at the President’s Office for Strategic Communications, confirmed to local media that the President will adhere to the constitution and laws. However, he did not specify when the president would sign the bill into law.

The MDP’s bill bars the EC from conducting any elections during Ramadan and mandates the electoral body to postpone any election which falls during the fasting month to be held ten days after Ramadan. If the bill is signed into law, the earliest date the parliamentary polls can be held is 20 April.

The MDP believes that President Muizzu might choose not to ratify the bill even after its re-passage. In the event of such a decision, and if the EC declines to postpone the vote until after Ramadan, the MDP, which commands a majority in Parliament, has warned that it would initiate measures against EC members, potentially leading to their removal.