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Poll time in Maldives

Anand Kumar is Associate Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for detailed profile
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  • July 29, 2013

    The nascent multi-party democracy in Maldives had suffered a setback on 7 February 2012 when the democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed had to step down under tumultuous circumstances. Though he was succeeded by the then vice president Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the legitimacy of his government was questioned by many. Nasheed and his party the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had termed the change of government as a coup d’état. The continuous political turmoil in the country forced president Waheed to opt for an early election, which is scheduled for September 7. Even then it was felt that political vendetta will not allow all political players to take part in elections. However, finally, now it seems that Maldives is headed for an inclusive election that could restore democracy in the country.

    The election process has started with the filing of nomination papers from 15-24 July. Mohamed Nasheed has filed his nomination as the candidate of the largest political party, the MDP. He has chosen veteran administrator and politician Mustafa Lutfi as his running mate. Lutfi was part of the cabinet of both former presidents Gayaoom and Nasheed. He has also been associated with the Maldivian National University and is widely considered as the brain behind a master plan for the development of higher education in Maldives.

    Nasheed is likely to face stiff challenge from the Progressive Party of Maldives' (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yamin who is half brother of former dictator Abdul Gayoom. He has chosen Maldivian Home Minister Mohamed Jameel as his running mate. Gayoom formed PPM when his earlier confidant Ahmed Tasmeen Ali refused to return charge of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to him. Gayoom had given charge of DRP to Tasmeen Ali, when he left for Malaysia after getting defeated in the first multi-party elections.

    The third political front called ‘Forward with the Nation’ coalition is headed by incumbent president Mohamed Waheed who belongs to Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP). He has chosen Tasmeen Ali of DRP as his running mate. This was initially a rainbow coalition and also included religious fundamentalist Adhaalath Party. Adhaalath wants imposition of strict Sharia law in Maldives and also wants ban on men and women dancing in public and ban on alcohol at resorts which are the mainstay of Maldivian economy.

    The Adhaalath Party (AP) has, however, quit President Mohamed Waheed’s coalition after Waheed stated in an interview to the AFP that the party had “extremist” individuals. Denouncing the statement Adhaalath said, “The Adhaalath Party does not by any means hold extremist views. The party is working to introduce Islamic principles to the country, to protect the Islamic faith of the country and the country’s sovereign.” Another important desertion has been of Dr Hassan Saeed's of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) who was the presidential advisor. He has now joined Jumhoory Party (JP). Waheed has however tried to present a brave face and expressed confidence of ultimately winning the election.

    The business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim is the presidential candidate from Jumhoory Party (JP). He had finished fourth in the last presidential election and has picked Dr Hassan Saeed as the running mate. This combination is not supposed to present any serious challenge but has the potential to eat into the votes polled. It is possible that Gasim Ibrahim might tie-up with Abdulla Yamin if the first round fails to throw up a clear winner. In that case the combination would present a formidable challenge and might actually emerge winner.

    Besides the four party candidates, former PPM Council Member and one of the founding members of the party, Dr Ahmed Saud, earlier associated with the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), has announced he will contest the elections as an independent. He claimed that he is contesting elections because the candidates from political parties have put their own interests above that of the nation's.

    The international community, including India and the US, is closely watching developments in the Maldives and hoping that political stability and democracy will return to the Maldives after the elections. Both India and the US are trying to strengthen the Maldivian institutions, so that a free, fair and inclusive election can be held. Interestingly, the Maldivian election chief visited India and saw the election process in Karnataka state. India will be extending electoral training and technical assistance to the Election Commission of Maldives. It is planned that in August, some Maldivian election officials will be trained at the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) on a host election management issues and with special focus on registration and IT.

    The US, on the other hand, is also trying to facilitate election process and has pledged USD 9.7 million to the Maldives as technical assistance for climate change adaptation and election preparations. The MOU signed between the two countries says that USD 2.5 million will be used for election preparations. The US hopes that the grant will help promote integrity, strengthen civil society and consolidate the democratic transition.

    Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the anti-corruption organization Transparency International has shown that the parliament, parties and the judiciary, the pillars of democracy, are the most corrupt institutions of Maldives. This clearly is a big blow to the reputation of the Maldivian democracy. The elections will restore a multi-party democracy in Maldives, but to restore the confidence of people in democracy much more will be needed to be done.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.

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