The elections commission has scrapped plans to introduce electronic voting in the Maldives for the first time in January’s local council election.
The commission announced Tuesday that it has ruled out e-voting after heeding appeals from political parties. The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had considered boycotting the polls after the commission informed parties in May that it has decided to test out e-voting in the council elections.
Both the MDP and the Jumhooree Party had expressed concerns about fraud due to lack of trust in the system.
The commission said at the time that the system would reduce polling costs and speed up vote counting. But the MDP maintained that e-voting is unnecessary “in a country with a small voting population where results are announced within a few hours.”
The Maldives’ third local council elections are due to take place on January 14.
The commission officially invited candidates and observers today to file application forms before a deadline of November 15.
Unlike previous years, application forms can be submitted online, commission members said at a press briefing this afternoon, advising candidates to submit documents early as clearing police records and history of debt takes time.
The commission is also planning to set up elections headquarters at the old Jamalludeen school building in Malé.
The number of councillors to be elected for three-year terms in January will meanwhile fall to 653 from the present count of 1,095 councillors, the commission announced on Saturday.
According to the electoral body, 563 councillors will be elected to 179 island councils, 67 councillors to 18 atoll councils, and 23 councillors to three city councils.
In the previous local council elections held in January 2014, the MDP won 457 seats (41.5 percent) and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives won 281 seats (25.5 percent).
The PPM’s coalition partners at the time, the JP and the Maldives Development Alliance, took 125 seats (11.4 percent) and 59 seats (5.4 percent) respectively.
The Adhaalath Party secured 45 seats (4.1 percent) – including a majority in three councils – while the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party won one seat (0.1 percent) and independent candidates won 132 seats (12 percent).
Voter turnout was 63 percent, well below the 90 percent turnout observed in the presidential election of November 2013.