Delaying voting to June will pave way for more democratic and cost-effective elections, says Hoarafushi constituency MP Ahmed Saleem.
The lawmaker made the remarks while speaking at the extraordinary parliament session held to debate on amendments proposed to the Local Council Special Provisions Act on Sunday.
Debating on the bill, which seeks to eliminate legal barriers to expediting Local Council and Women's Development Committee (WDC) elections, MP Saleem questioned the safety of pursuing an election without increasing efficiency of contract tracing and transport services while Maldives continues to experience difficulties due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
MP Saleem further described the President of the Elections Commission (EC) and the Director General of Public Health Services as seeming to be at odds in relation to when and how to host the elections. He further questioned the feasibility of one person, who works to avoid coming into contact with others, and another who is not required to contact others in their line work, collaborating to achieve the same results.
In addition to this, MP Saleem highlighted that contact tracing is one of the most important tools employed to manage the spread of Covid-19, along with controlling transport to and from the geographically dispersed islands of the Maldives. He added that it could not be understood that EC would be working freely if they were to host and organize the elections under restrictive guidelines.
MP Saleem also went on to explain that election laws in the country preserved certain freedoms to candidates competing for office and citizens voting for them, including the right to register and cast a vote, and the right to travel freely in or do to do so, or for campaign purposes. MP Saleem stressed that it would be premature to rush the elections without first considering the degree to which the Director General of Public Health was willing to ease restrictions for citizens prior to casting ballots.
Further, MP Saleem noted that elections were generally an expensive endeavor on behalf of the state, and that MVR 50 million had been allocated from this year’s budget for Local Council and WDC elections. Saleem stressed that it was likely extra costs would be incurred due to unprecedented difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the state of public health emergency extended across the nation at the time.
Alluding to the government's efforts to procure and transport the first batch of vaccines to the Maldives before the end January, MP Saleem projected that it was possible vaccination efforts would have largely concluded by the end of May.
MP Saleem concluded by stating that postponing the elections to June in light of the present difficulties will pave the way to host elections that are more democratic and cost-effective, that will allow for campaigning on behalf of candidates and yield results which will be accepted by the international community.