The fourth local council elections of the Maldives will take place during the first week of April 2020, the Elections Commission announced on Tuesday.
A date has yet to be determined, the electoral body told the press.
EC chief Ahmed Shareef briefed the press about planned administrative changes, including a new cap of 700 voters per ballot box, which would increase the number of boxes and election officials. The commission expects to have 178 new ballot boxes and to hire up to 7,000 polling officials, up from 5,000 for previous municipal elections, Shareef said.
Elected island, atoll, and city councils with three-year terms were introduced in the Maldives for the first time under a landmark decentralisation law mandated by the 2008 constitution. The first elections were held in February 2011. Ahead of the third elections in May 2017, parliament revised the law to reduce the number of councillors to 653 from more than 1,000.
The EC told the press on Tuesday that it was anticipating further changes to the Decentralisation Act as announced by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih last week.
The president pledged to allocate five percent of government income to local councils and introduce a quota to reserve one third of seats for women.
The EC estimates that up to MVR70 million would be utilised from the state budget to conduct the polls.
The 2017 local council election was delayed three times, with the EC saying at one point the situation was not conducive for campaigning due to a flu outbreak. But a week after the announcement, the education ministry said public schools would reopen as the seasonal outbreak was under control.
When the polls took place in May 2017, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party took more than 300 seats, winning 21 out of 23 seats from the Malé, Addu and Fuvahmulah city councils and securing majorities on most atoll councils. The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives won 191 seats and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance won 18 island council seats.
Voter turnout was 66 percent. The newly-elected councillors were sworn in on June 3, 2017.
The decentralisation law required new councillors to be elected 30 days before the three-year term of local councils expired on February 26, 2017.
But the civil court said councillors would remain in their posts until successors were elected, referring to “a state of necessity,” a principle previously invoked by the Supreme Court to legitimise former president Dr Mohamed Waheed’s continuation in office after the end of the presidential term on November 11, 2013.