It appears that the Presidential Election slated for October 4th may not be held on that date. On Monday Commissioner of Elections Mohammed Ibrahim proposed this date contingent upon the establishment of the Supreme Court and the passage of two pieces of crucial legislation within this week: the Law on Elections and the Law on Presidential Election. Barring a miracle, these will not happen within that deadline. Where do we go from here?
One obvious implication is that the election must be postponed to allow time for passing the laws, drafting regulations and institutionalizing them. But how long can the election be postponed? To meet the constitutional deadline for inaugurating the new President on November 11, the first round of the election must finish latest by 31 October. This will leave a bare minimum of 10 days for completing the second round, should that become necessary. There is one problem however with such a postponement: Article 301 (Haa) of the Constitution requires that the Presidential Election must be completed by October 10.
Postponement of the date of inauguration beyond November 11 will involve an additional predicament. November 11 has traditionally been the date of oath taking right from 1968. Thus postponement beyond that date requires the crossing of a psychological barrier, in addition to the legal limit specified in Article 301 (Shaviyani) of the Constitution.
Some experts are of the opinion that postponement of the dates stipulated in Article 301 of the Constitution will lead to a legal void. But void or not, it must be done if necessary. As John Wayne says, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." The Majlis and the new Supreme Court must be prepared to deal with this eventuality.
Apart from the legal constraints, is it desirable to postpone the election? This is a very controversial question and opinions are likely to be sharply divided. One argument against it is that postponement beyond November 11 will result in a government without legitimacy, a very imprudent precedent to create. Such an illegitimate government it is argued could go on indefinitely, an eventuality that will be unacceptable to the people and could lead to mass protests.
The argument for postponement is that it will give sufficient time for the newly formed Election Commission to do a thorough job instead of a hurried election. Additionally, it will also give the electorate enough time to get familiar with the manifestos of recently formed parties such as Jumhooree Party and Gaumee Itthihaad. The argument here is that the public must be given all opportunities to make an informed decision.
Despite the strong arguments against it, postponement of the election date now appears likely. And with each passing day the Election Commission is running out of options.