The elections commission has assured political parties that the local council elections, which were postponed on the civil court’s orders, will be held in the first week of April.
An exact date will be announced next week, the commission said.
The decision was relayed Wednesday during an emergency meeting between members of the commission and representatives of opposition parties.
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives and its ally, the Maldives Development Alliance, did not attend the meeting of the National Advisory Committee.
The third local council election was previously scheduled for January 14. But the civil court postponed the vote after President Abdulla Yameen’s faction of the ruling party sought a two-month delay on the grounds that it was unable to prepare due to a leadership dispute that left the party in disarray.
Ali Niyaz, the deputy chairperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, told the press: “The parties requested today as well to hold the election as soon as possible and if there are obstacles, to overcome them and to ensure that candidates who have already applied to contest won’t have to bear additional burdens.”
Niyaz said the commission shared a tentative timeline of its preparations for the polls, which takes into account legally mandated periods and the availability of schools to set up polling stations.
The new poll date will exceed the court-ordered period by two weeks, he noted, blaming the delay on the commission’s decision to file a case at the high court in late December seeking “clarity” on the lower court ruling and instructions on how to proceed.
The high court has since refused to hear the case.
The case for clarity was filed after the commission filed and then withdrew an appeal against the election-delay, informing parties that the polls cannot take place on January 14 regardless of the appeal’s outcome since candidates would not have 28 days to campaign as required by law.
This was because the commission had failed to assign ballot numbers to candidates. The ceremony, initially scheduled for December 6, was cancelled at the last minute. The commission said it would reschedule but did not do so before December 16, the last date that would have left 28 days to campaign.
The Maldives United Opposition, a broad coalition front comprised of the MDP, the Adhaalath Party and representatives of former senior government officials, has accused the commission of seeking court action to “unlawfully facilitate” more time for Yameen “to resolve his inability to field candidates amidst the ongoing leadership dispute within his party.”
The PPM did not nominate candidates before the extended deadline of December 1.
It is not clear if PPM will be allowed to submit candidacy papers.
Niyaz stressed that the opposition parties never advised the commission to seek court action to set new dates and deadlines for accepting applications, which he said are “administrative matters” that the electoral body has the authority to decide for itself.
PPM Secretary General Dr Abdulla Khaleel meanwhile told newspaper Mihaaru that the party will be able to prepare for the polls in April.
The PPM had cited the loss of its database and membership registry in seeking the two-month delay.
MP Khaleel said the PPM’s membership registry is still missing. But efforts to compile it with help from the commission and the party’s branches in the atolls are underway, he added.
“We expect very much to be able to compile a strong registry to hold internal primaries and field candidates,” he was quoted as saying.
Other matters discussed at the meeting with the elections commission included the need for a decision on how to enforce changes brought to the political party law; the ruling party-dominated parliament revised the law to bar members who lose primaries from contesting elections on the ticket of a different party or as independent candidates.
Representatives from the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party meanwhile told the press that the election should take place without further delay.
The elections commission had informed party representatives of Wednesday’s meeting in a message sent around 3:00 am.