President says election day will be made a public holiday

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu speaks at R. Dhuvaafaru on March 3, 2024. (Photo/President's Office)

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu says that he will declare April 21 – when the parliamentary elections is scheduled to take place - as a public holiday.

He made the remark while addressing a rally in R. Dhuvaafaru on Sunday.

The parliamentary elections was originally scheduled for March 17th – which falls within the first week of Ramadan.

But an MDP-sponsored bill banning national elections in Ramadan was ratified last week.

According to the legislature, if an election date falls within Ramadan, it must be held 10 days after Ramadan ends.

Elections Commission (EC) has announced that the election will now be held on April 21 – a Sunday - instead of during the weekend – when national elections are usually held.

But the new date sparked criticism, with the main opposition MDP, going as far as to suggest the decision was influenced by the government.

Addressing the allegations on Sunday, President Muizzu said he himself became aware of the new election date from media reports.

He said that he clarified the reason for the election date from the EC.

“They said they set it that way to follow the law. I told them that since you have already announced the date, I will designate the day a public holiday,” he said.

The remarks come after the EC made a formal request with the government earlier on Sunday to have both April 21 and 22 declared a public holiday.

In a rally on Friday night, MDP’s advisor, former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, accused his successor, President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, of influencing the EC into holding the elections on a working day.

In a post on X on Saturday, Fuad Thaufeeq, the chairman of EC, rejected the allegations.

He that the election was being held on April 21st because, it is “the first day available, 10 days after Ramadan.”

He added that delaying it any further would risk not being able to elect the next parliamentary assembly, at least one month before the term of the incumbent assembly expires, as required by law.

The MDP had submitted legislature banning elections in Ramadan, citing a likely low voter turnout.

The Parliament – which MDP holds a majority in – originally passed the bill on February 11th.

But it was rejected by the president two weeks later, citing that some of the provisions were in contravention of the constitution, and that changing the election date would result in “loss of public confidence.”

But the same bill was passed again, on Wednesday.

A day later, the president, after initially questioning the legality of the bill, signed it into law.