The Maldives’s parliamentary election, which was scheduled for March 17 this year, is set to be postponed after the legislature voted to defer the polls, citing the Ramadan month.
The People’s Majlis or parliament on Sunday voted for the amendment to the country’s General Elections Act to commence the parliamentary election ten days after the month of religious significance in the Sunni Muslim nation.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its breakaway The Democrats together backed the amendment, citing concerns over a possible drop in voter turnout during the month of fasting and prayer from March 10, 2024, to April 9, 2024.
According to local media reports, MDP legislator Mohamed Shifau proposed the amendment, which was approved with 46 votes in the now 80-member House. Most government MPs abstained from voting, Male-based publication TheEdition reported.
However, the development has raised questions over the constitutional validity of postponing the elections to mid-April. Speaking to media persons in Male on Sunday, a senior official of the Election Commission of Maldives raised concern over this. “When the Bill says 10 days after Ramadan, that barely allows us enough time to complete the exercise within the 30 days stipulated in the Constitution,” he was quoted as saying, in The Edition.
Meanwhile, the MDP has had to put its earlier pledge, to impeach President Mohamed Muizzu, on hold after the government moved the Supreme Court on the matter.
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The MDP had based its decision to impeach the incumbent on his foreign policy moves “putting the Indian Ocean Region in danger”, and his “attempts to curtail” the legislature. The MDP, which has 42 seats in the 80-member People’s Majlis, joined forces with The Democrats — with 13 seats — and was confident of its numbers. However, the top court suspended a recent amendment to the standing orders that permitted vacant seats from being included while counting total votes.
Although the development gave some political reprieve to President Muizzu, his government faces major economic challenges. In its recent report, the International Monetary Fund noted that the Maldives is at high risk of debt distress. More recently, the country’s Inland Revenue Authority flagged a significant shortfall in government revenue.