Local Council Elections play a key role in enabling citizen engagement in government and ensuring that citizens across the Maldives’ nearly 1,200 islands have access to necessary services. It is an opportunity for decentralization.
For the first time, Women’s Development Committee representatives, who are responsible for upholding women’s rights and increasing their political participation, will also be elected through the Local Council elections. This is a key step in ensuring women’s rights and equality are protected in this country.
When is the election?
It was initially scheduled to take place on April 4, 2020, but was delayed to April 10, 2021, as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In January 2021, the government authorized the first amendment to the Special Provision Act, calling for the Elections Commission of the Maldives and other relevant authorities to move forward with the election.
How does the election work?
Island Councils are grouped into administrative units, called atolls, which are governed by Atoll Councils. Cities are defined as islands that have a population of at least 10,000 registered residents; have achieved a certain level of economic growth; and can independently provide education, banking, and transportation services for their population and other peripheral islands.
We have to vote for members and presidents of island, city, and atoll-level councils.
In total, 982 representatives will be elected to govern 200 Local Councils, divided as follows:
• 46 seats on four City Councils;
• 918 seats on 178 Island Councils; and
• 18 seats on 18 Atoll Councils (in addition to the 178 island councilors who also serve on the Atoll
Why is this election important?
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has pledged to increase the budget for and autonomy of Local Councils and implement provisions of the Decentralization Act that passed in 2010, have yet to be fully operationalized.
One such provision, as outlined in the Eighth Amendment of the Decentralization Act, authorized by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in December 2019, enables Local Councils to access up to 40 percent of revenue collected by the government of the Maldives, significantly increasing the resources available to local government to fund development projects on their own.
The Eighth Amendment also includes expansion of natural boundaries under the jurisdiction of Local Councils, the introduction of a quota of 33 percent of women in Local Councils, and expansion of the terms for Local Council and Women’s Development Committees (WDC) from three to five years. Moreover, WDC representatives will be elected through the Local Council elections, with both men and women casting ballots for WDC candidates.
The election will play a key role in decentralization reforms and demonstrated commitment from the central government to advance the decentralization goals, the new local councilors and WDC members will have a critical mandate to enact the provisions laid out in the Decentralization Act.
Who is eligible to vote?
All Maldivian citizens aged 18 years and over have the right to vote. Eligible voters must be on the register of electors (the voter register) before Election Day and must present a valid photo ID to cast a ballot.
Voters can check their voter registration location online on the Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) website, or by sending a text message to the ECM. The ECM is not facilitating out-of-country voting for this election.
How are votes counted and announced?
Ballot boxes are sealed once voting ends at 4:00 PM. Then, all materials used for voting, including unused ballots and counterfoils, will be packed and sealed in a designated security envelope.
Designated officials will count ballots by hand, total the votes and announce results for their ballot box. The unsealing of the ballot box, vote counting, and tabulation occur in the presence of candidates, official election agents of candidates, candidate representatives, and election observers and monitors.
Preliminary results are first announced in each polling area and then communicated to the Elections Commission of the Maldives through electronic tablets.
The local council election will play a huge role in implementing the Decentralization Act. It will be crucial for the development of islands outside the Male’ and to stop the dependence on Capital Male’ City for necessary services such as education and healthcare. We should vote for what is best for us, our island, and our atoll.