EC: Not feasible to hold a constitutional referendum before runoff

From the press conference held by the Elections Commission on September 2, 2023. (Sun Photo/Maahil Athif)

Elections Commission (EC), on Tuesday, stressed that holding a constitutional referendum before the runoff of the presidential election slated for September 30th is not feasible.

The Democrats which came in third in the first round of the presidential election secured over 15,000 votes which saw over 200,000 voters cast their votes. The condition they have put forth to form a coalition with main ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for the runoff is for them to agree to hold a constitutional referendum before September 28th.

To secure support from The Democrats, MDP had agreed on Monday to hold a constitutional referendum after the runoff. The Democrats are nevertheless pressing for a constitutional referendum within the span of the next 10 days.

When questioned on the matter by Sun, EC’s Vice President Ismail Habeeb said the General Elections Act mandates the commission be provided between 30 to 45 days to prepare for a vote.

“We cannot for September 28th; the law even calls for the commission to conduct voting awareness programs. Adequate time is needed for this. We cannot undertake the task within seven days or three to four days,” he said.

“The commission believes we are entitled to 30 days by the least,” he added.

Habeeb explained that EC is required by law to undertake various responsibilities ahead of a vote including publication and accepting complaints for voters list in addition to facilitating re-registration for eligible voters among other things.

He stressed that a budget of MVR 40 million to MVR 50 million was required to hold such a vote.

Only The Democrats, among political parties, are advocating to hold a constitutional referendum. Thus, many have raised the requestion as to whether such a vote is necessary in light of the expenses.