Maldives local council elections postponed a second time

Maldives local council elections postponed a second time
February 02 20:00 2017

The elections commission has once again set back the vote to elect local councils stating that voting stations could not be set up in public schools on April 8.

The vote will now take place on April 15.

This is the second time the vote has been delayed.

It was first scheduled for January 14, but postponed after the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives petitioned the civil court for a two-month delay citing its inability to prepare for the polls amid a leadership dispute.

Ahmed Akram, a member of the elections commission, told the press Wednesday that the education ministry had informed them that schools would only available after April 8.

Some 90 percent of voting stations are set up in public schools, he said.

“A change in the date of election will not change the legitimacy of the election. No obstruction should be brought to the work we do to ensure to maintain the independence and transparency of the election,” he said.

The new date was set following a meeting of the national advisory committee, he said. The committee comprises of election commission members, political party representatives and the police.

All political parties except the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had attended Wednesday’s meeting, he went on, adding that there was unanimous support for the move.

Senior officials of the MDP are currently in Colombo, Sri Lanka for meetings with the exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The MDP declined to comment.

Akram said the commission has also extended the deadline to submit candidacy papers from February 6 to February 20.

The MDP had challenged the commission’s decision to open a new call for nominations, but the lawsuit was thrown out when the party’s lawyer failed to turn up for a hearing on Monday.

The opposition has previously criticised the local council election delay, alleging interference by President Abdulla Yameen. The president however insists that the courts are independent.

Newspaper Mihaaru meanwhile reported that the PPM is planning changes to electoral laws to amend the eligibility criteria to contest the local council elections.

A spokesman for the ruling party denied the claim.

“I am the party’s spokesman and an MP of the party’s parliamentary group, I have not been informed of any such effort officially or unofficially. No discussions have been held on any such matter,” he said.

The PPM holds a majority in the parliament.

Ruling party lawmakers previously amended electoral laws to bar candidates who lose political party primaries from contesting in the local council elections.