The Supreme Court’s guidelines dictating the electoral process will present “many challenges” in the local council elections scheduled for January 18, Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz has said.
The Supreme Court annulling the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 delineated 16 guidelines including obtaining candidate’s signatures on the voter registry, fingerprinted re-registration forms for voters who wish to vote in a location other than their home islands, and police support in transporting ballot boxes and papers.
The EC has previously criticized the guidelines for limiting the powers of the independent state institutions and said the clause stipulating candidate’s signatures on voter lists effectively gives veto power over elections to candidates.
The EC was forced to call off elections scheduled for October 19 when the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhoree Party (JP) refused to sign the voter registry and the police withdrew support in dispatching of ballot boxes and papers to polling stations and obstructed any EC staff from leaving the commission’s offices with any documents.
Fayaz said over 4000 candidates would contest in the local council elections and obtaining their signatures on the voter registry would be the biggest challenge.
However, the EC will continue to adhere to the guidelines as in the past, Fayaz said.
The EC has called for candidates to submit applications between November 25 and December 8.
Candidates must only hold Maldivian citizenship, and be of the Sunni Muslim faith. Full time students or any individual convicted of child abuse or rape or decreed debt cannot stand for local councils.
Local government in the Maldives is a two-tier system, comprising island councils and city councils, which are all accountable to an atoll council.
Every inhabited island in the Maldives – except islands where city councils are established – is governed by an elected island council. City councils are established on islands that have a population over 25,000 people
Island with a population less than 3000 elect five members, those with populations from 3000- 10000 elect seven members and those with populations over 10,000 elect nine members for the councils.
Elections will be held for two city councils in Malé and Addu cities, 20 atoll councils and 66 island councils. There are 17 city council seats for Malé and Addu, 132 atoll council seats and 942 island council seats.
Each island council also has a women’s development committee to advise the island on key women’s issues.
The 2014 polls will be the country’s second attempt at local council elections. The first polls were held in February 2011 and saw a turnout of 70 percent.
The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) won a majority of the atoll and island councils while the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) took the majority of seats for every major population center.
The councils have the power to charge fees or rents for the services they provide and are allocated funds from the state reserves for office administration, provision or services and development projects.
City and island councils’ responsibilities include providing roads, waste disposal, pest control, water, electricity and sewage systems, primary health care, pre school education, and educational and vocational programs for adults.