Running mate: former Education Minister, Chancellor of Maldives National University, Dr Musthafa Luthfy
1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
Along with my colleagues in the democracy movement, I established the Maldivian Democratic Party, which is the country’s first political party. For decades, I campaigned for democratic reform and an end to human rights abuses. As a journalist, I wrote about the need for freedom of expression and the importance of treating all Maldivians with respect and dignity. I am proud to have helped force through the changes that led to Maldives becoming a democracy. And I stood in our country’s first democratic, multiparty elections in 2008 and was fortunate to be elected president.
As president, I worked hard to implement our 2008 manifesto. My administration introduced an old age pension for the first time, disability allowance and support for single mothers. We introduced the country’s first national transport network, and also universal health insurance. We managed to implement all these policies in just a little over three years while at the same time delivering record economic growth and reducing the large, inherited, budget deficit.
The MDP has always stood for democratic values. It is the most internally democratic party in the Maldives, and all major positions are voted on by the party membership. I share the democratic values of my party, and I am delighted that the MDP has issued a new manifesto for this election based on affordable and budgeted policies that meet people’s needs.
2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
The first major problem we must address is restoring democratic values in the country. September’s election will go a long way to delivering a genuinely democratic and legitimate government to the people. We need an elected government. But we must also work to ensure that everyone in our country respects democratic principles. Fundamentally, this means that people must respect the outcome of free elections. We must accept the will of the people. In February last year, we saw what happens when a few members of the political and business elite decided to abandon democracy and steal power through brute force. We all saw what happened next: brutality on the streets, peaceful protesters arrested and beaten, and a return of fear.
The second challenge we face is re-establishing faith in the judiciary. Sadly, many Maldivians have lost confidence in the fairness of the judiciary. There have been too many examples of underhand dealings, politicised trials and abuses of power. A small number of powerful judges seem to think that they are above the law and beholden to no-one. This has to change. The vast majority of people, and the vast majority of judges themselves, want to see a justice system the nation can be proud of, which is fair and seen to be fair.
Thirdly, we need to see the implementation of a development-based manifesto, to drive growth, create jobs, reduce the budget deficit and provide opportunities for all Maldivians. The MDP has put forward policies to do that – such as the development of guesthouses and mari-culture businesses – and ensure that the country’s wealth is shared by all, not just a powerful few.
3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
We will complete the tax policies that we started to introduce following the 2008 election. We successfully introduced GST,a higher band of GST for the tourism sector, and the Business Profit Tax. In addition to this, we will introduce a modest income tax on high earners. A stable tax base will provide enough revenue to implement important social protection policies, as well as reduce the budget deficit and national debit.
Moreover, a stable, business-friendly administration will encourage foreign investments in our country, helping to ease the balance of payments and develop key infrastructure. One of the most reckless and damaging decisions the coup government made was to throw out the GMR-MAHB consortium developing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. That foolish decision scared away other foreign investors, who worried that the government might do the same to them. It also left Maldivians with a half-built airport and potential compensation liabilities running into billions of dollars. Furthermore, the MDP has put forward a manifesto that is costed and budgeted. We know how we will pay for every policy in our manifesto. And we are the only party who has done that.
4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
The need for judicial reform is self-evident and the MDP has frequently expressed its concerns over instances of judicial bias, corruption and incompetence. Our manifesto includes policies and programmes to improve and enhance democratic governance. We believe that with a clear mandate from the people, we will be able to work through existing institutions – and always within the boundaries of the Constitution – to encourage reform of the judiciary.
In contrast, we have seen all other parties covering up for the judiciary, including the more unsavoury elements within it. MDP is the only party that will deliver on its promise to reform the judiciary and ensure an independent judiciary that people can have confidence in.
5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
The vast majority of Maldivians accept that the events of the 7 February were tantamount to a coup d’etat – an illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government through the threat and use of violence. All of the other three candidates in this election were implicated in some way in the coup and have led or supported the disastrous post-coup regime. I think voters will see that only one candidate and one party in this election truly believes in democracy and I believe they will vote accordingly.
6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
People are often drawn towards extreme views when there is an element of despair in their lives. So an MDP government will focus on people’s development, for example, by ensuring that people don’t have to worry about the costs of getting sick, making sure that everyone has access to good schools and that school leavers have job opportunities, and providing opportunities for Maldivians living outside urban areas to earn a good income. An MDP administration will help all Maldivians to fulfill their hopes and aspirations.
7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
If re-elected president, I will ensure that the Maldives is once again an active, responsible and trustworthy member of the international community. Our country’s reputation has taken a beating following last year’s coup and the reckless and irresponsible actions of the coup regime. I will ensure that Maldives is respected once again in the world. And I expect the international community to work with us to ensure democracy is never again stolen from the people.
8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
Our manifesto contains a number of measures to support women, ensure they earn a fair wage and also give them the flexibility that they sometimes need in the workplace. For example, we will support women to better participate in the tourism sector by ensuring that they are able to return to their families at the end of each working day. We will also introduce a minimum wage, introduce FLEXI TIME, as well as provide a homemaker allowance. An MDP administration will also create a Development Bank, which will provide loans for female entrepreneurs to set up businesses.
9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
Our manifesto contains detailed and properly costed policies to create 51,000 new jobs and introduce a skills development programme to help young people find employment. We aim to help 17,350 Maldivians take jobs that are currently being undertaken by expatriates. An MDP government will also help young people start their own small and medium sized businesses through loans provided by the Development Bank. An Entertainment Trust and an Arts and Culture Trust will also support talented young people to reach their full potential. And we will provide a Central Contract for young sports men and women to help them represent the nation in sport.
10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?
If voters elect me as president, my administration will ensure that we lay down the foundations for the nation’s future prosperity. We will make sure every Maldivian has the chance to own a home; that everyone has the chance of a fulfilling job; that everyone is properly covered by a robust health insurance scheme; that every citizen can take advantage of an efficient and reliable national transport scheme; and that every Maldivian – in particular women and girls – live in a safe and secure environment. I want all Maldivians to enjoy living in a happy, democratic and prosperous Maldives.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed defeated the Maldives’ ruler of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in the country’s first multi-party democratic elections in 2008.
Nasheed, a former political prisoner imprisoned and tortured several times during Gayoom’s rule, came to power following a second round run off with 25 percent of the vote, backed by an assortment of coalition partners of various ambitions.
Early in his tenure Nasheed sought to defray the image of the president as a distant and autocratic figure, walking the two blocks to work and transforming Gayoom’s mega-opulent, marble floored and gold-toileted presidential palace into the Supreme Court, opting to live in the more austere residence of Muleaage.
Nasheed also took a conciliatory approach to the autocratic regime he had replaced, publicly inviting Gayoom to retire comfortably as an elder statesman. Gayoom obliged – briefly retiring from politics in early 2010 – but was soon agitating for the new opposition.
That opposition also formed a majority in the fractious, adversarial and powerful parliament, severely hampering the new government’s ability to roll out its ambitious five point manifesto (affordable housing, free universal health care, lower cost of living, a nationwide public transport network of ferries and policies to combat drug trafficking and abuse).
Nasheed moreover inherited what the World Bank described at the time as “the most challenging macroeconomic situation of all democratic transitions that have occurred since 1956”, particularly a bloated and engorged civil service spend that, under Gayoom’s finance minister Gasim Ibrahim (also contesting the 2013 elections), more than doubled in size between 2005-2007 until it employed a full 12 percent of the entire population.
Popular overseas for his outspoken environmental and human rights activism, at home Nasheed’s ability to achieve the speedy reform he had promised was throttled by institutional and parliamentary obstruction.
A new wave of pragmatism on behalf of the MDP – particularly the sudden defection of opposition MPs in a parliament that was increasingly resembling a football transfer market – saw the passage of a number of critical taxation reforms, but was also contributed to rising apathy among the party’s more idealistic grassroots.
By late 2011 government revenue – badly impacted by the tsunami in 2004 and economic crisis of 2008 – while still propped up by the goodwill of India, the IMF and other assorted donors, was developing a positive trend, and the country was punching far above its weight on the international stage – attracting interest from foreign investors outside the tourism sector. The introduction of a percentage-based tourism GST had also led to the happy discovery that the industry was worth US$2.5-3 billion, rather than the US$700 million commonly thought.
Nasheed had hosted the SAARC Summit for regional leaders, introduced the Aasandha Universal Healthcare scheme and pensions for single mothers and the elderly, given Addu Atoll its sought-after autonomy by designating it as a city, and introduced the levers of a modern economy. By November, the government had even made early inroads into tackling the endemic labour trafficking that was sucking a monthly US$8 million out of the country in remittances.
At the same time, fighting between the executive, parliament and the judiciary had reached fever pitch while the opposition political parties unified by painting Nasheed as a threat to the country’s Islamic identity.
During the final months of Nasheed’s administration, police repeatedly arrested Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel, on charges of hate speech.
The move followed the publication by Dr Jameel’s party of a pamphlet entitled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’, alleging that Nasheed’s government was part of a “Jewish Zionist conspiracy” seeking to “spread Christianity” and “undermine Islam in the Maldives”.
Dr Jameel – the PPM’s running mate in the 2013 election who also served as Justice Minister with oversight of the judiciary under Gayoom’s administration – was swiftly released on each occasion by the Criminal Court, eventually leading to Nasheed’s administration ordering the arrest of the court’s Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed, accused of “taking the entire judiciary in his fist”.
Concerns about the judge’s conduct had first been raised in 2005 in a letter to Gayoom by then Attorney General Hassan Saeed (presently Gasim Ibrahim’s 2013 running mate) and included misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused.
A report by the Judicial Services Commission into the judge’s behaviour that would likely have resulted in his suspension remained unreleased after he obtained a civil court injunction blocking his further investigation by the court’s own watchdog body, while the parliament committee responsible for the commission’s oversight showed no interest in the matter.
At an apparent impasse, Nasheed’s government ordered the judge detained on national security grounds while police, aware that Abdulla Mohamed was liable to overturn his own arrest warrant, deferred the matter to the more flexible mandate of the military. Judge Abdulla was detained for 14 days on Girifushi – the same military training island used for 2009’s much lauded underwater cabinet meeting – as legal reform experts from assorted international partners hurriedly bought plane tickets to the Maldives.
On 7 February 2012 a mutinying police force sided with opposition demonstrators and assaulted the country’s main military headquarters, seizing control of the state broadcaster and ransacking the MDP’s headquarters in Male.
Nasheed, trapped inside the military base and apparently unwilling to resort to force or foreign intervention in order to remain in power, complied with an ultimatum to resign and was succeeded by his Vice President, Mohamed Waheed.
His party and supporters took to the streets the following day in protest and were met with a brutal police crackdown that left many hospitalised and resulted in riots and the torching of government buildings across the country. Waheed meanwhile bolted together a ruling coalition of Nasheed’s primary antagonists.
Back in opposition, the MDP’s challenging of the new government’s legitimacy and demands for early elections suffered a setback when a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry concluded that the transfer of power was legitimate and Nasheed’s resignation had not occurred under duress.
The party fought a running battle to retain control of successive protest sites in Male’ as authority over the new areas was systematically transferred from the MDP-friendly council to the Home Ministry – now led by none other than Dr Jameel.
Repeated police raids on the sites included a court warrant for the investigation of the MDP’s Usfasgandu protest site for “suspected black magic”, after the protesters were alleged to have “thrown a cursed rooster at MNDF officers”.
Meanwhile, multiple criminal charges were levelled at Nasheed in what he and his party contended were a politically motivated attempt to convict and bar him from contesting the presidential election.
These charges included possession alcohol reportedly discovered by police searching the presidential residence of Muleaage on February 7, while more recently the government called for police to investigate cost overruns associated with hosting the SAARC Summit in 2011.
Other charges involved Nasheed’s alleged extra-constitutional detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed. These charges were filed in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court, established by the Judicial Services Commission, which also appointed the three-member panel of judges hearing the case.
Nasheed was arrested multiple times by large squads of masked riot police serving warrants issued by the court. On one dramatic occasion in February 2013 he escaped police efforts by seeking asylum in the Indian High Commission, claiming to be in fear for his life.
The former president spent 11 days in the commission igniting attention from foreign governments and international media while MDP protests raged continuously outside. He eventually left after a series of urgent visits by high profile Indian diplomats.
Nasheed’s lawyers, who had meanwhile been challenging both the legitimacy of the Hulhumale Magistrate Court and the JSC’s appointment of the judging panel, began to be joined by experienced international legal observers who wrote extensive and damning reports about the state of the judiciary, and the Nasheed trial in particular.
These concerns included the presence of several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents on the JSC. including DRP MP/Speaker of Parliament at the time, Abdulla Shahid, and Gasim Ibrahim, a rival presidential candidate.
The most damning report was that of UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul, who extensively documented a judicial system in crisis.
“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of his prerogative, while another has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years,” wrote Knaul, following her mission to the Maldives in February 2013.
The government reacted by politely insinuating that Knaul was meddling with the country’s sovereignty, while Gasim more bluntly accused her of “lying and joking”.
International actors including the US, UN, EU, UK, India and the Commonwealth meanwhile began issuing a series of varyingly terse statements calling for the upcoming elections be “free, fair and inclusive”.
The case against Nasheed all but collapsed after growing numbers of JSC members told parliament and the local media that the commission had been overtly trying to bar Nasheed from the presidential race in its meetings.
In May 2013 the High Court cancelled a hearing contesting procedural issues in the JSC’s appointment of the judges in the Nasheed trial. Several hours later the JSC suspended the Chief Judge of the High Court, insisting the case was unrelated.
In July, the Elections Commission formally accepted Nasheed’s candidacy in the 2013 presidential elections: “When the tide has turned it becomes very difficult for anyone to swim against it,” Nasheed declared, during the party’s celebratory rally.
As during its 2008 presidential campaign the MDP has launched a succession of detailed ‘mini-manifestos’. The 2013 campaign was similar, culminating in late August 2013 with the release of the complete manifesto, titled “Costed and Budgeted 2013 – 2018”, on the party’s website (in Dhivehi).
Nasheed pledged during the launch of the final manifesto that all promises within had been fully costed based on the MVR 72 billion (US$4.6 billion) the state expected to receive over the five year term, accounting for national debt currently standing at 82 percent of national production.
These pledges include 137 development projects at a cost of MVR 30 billion (US$1.9 billion), with the remainder of government revenue to be spent on civil service salaries, administration and debt repayment.
” When our competitors come to an island and the first person they meet asks for a fishing vessel, they promise to deliver fishing vessels to everybody. And when they meet a teacher who asks for an iPad, they’ll pledge to give iPads to all teachers. The next person in line might say he is not feeling well, whereupon the candidate will vow to deliver a nurse and doctor to every house. This is not how a political party should form its pledges,” Nasheed declared. “I am not contesting in the upcoming elections with a handful of empty vows.”
The manifesto pledges 51,000 job opportunities, 20,000 flats, a monthly MVR 2000 (US$130) allowance for single parents and people with special needs, a similar MVR 2300 (US$149) allowance for the elderly, a MVR 120 million (US$7.8 million) savings scheme for higher education and a MVR 118 million (US$7.6 million) student loan scheme.
The party also committed to completing its program of tax reform, particularly an income tax for higher income earners, and pledged to -immediately – create a national development bank with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and World Bank.
“With 600 million rufiya from our state budget, and 400 million rufiya from international financial bodies, the development bank will be able to release funding for the generation of 1 billion rufiya capital,” Nasheed stated.
“Our aim is for the development bank to issue to private entities 20 percent for the construction of houses, 8 percent to implement a transport system, 44 percent for agriculture, travel and fishing, and 13 percent for the education field.”
The party’s ‘mini-manifestos’, released throughout its campaigning, have included:
Mid-market tourism, particularly the development of guest houses on ‘local’ islands giving average Maldivians access to the country’s multi-billion dollar tourism sector.
“Providing guesthouse services to tourists from inhabited islands would be no less profitable than resort islands, because the capital costs are lower for the former. While it costs about US$300,000 to create a bed in a resort, we claim it would not cost even US$10,000 per bed in a guesthouse business,” Nasheed declared, ahead of a public forum to launch the manifesto in March 2013.
Nasheed noted longstanding opposition to such a policy from not just the Gayoom administration, but also wealthy Maldivian resort tycoons: “Up to today, there are only about 50 people who directly profit from Maldivian resorts.”
“The sentiment behind this insinuated that such a trade would be detrimental to the culture, lifestyle and the religious values of Maldivians. To this day, PPM, Adhaalath, and resort-owner Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party continue their palaver against guesthouse businesses along the same lines.
“Having tourists on inhabited islands is not going to result in the community facing any additional detrimental effects that do not already exist. On the contrary, having tourists will empower the islanders to overcome whatever objectionable issues that they may face.
“Maldivians will have to open their eyes to outside cultures, and allow for the increase in opportunities for development. In addition to direct employment and income generated by guesthouses, it will also boost other existing island businesses.”
A 4-5 bedroom guesthouse could be constructed for MVR 2-3 million (US$123,000-189,500), “less than a large dhoni” and within reach of many island businessmen, Nasheed declared.
He cited the mid-market tourism success of Maafushi in Male’ Atoll: “There are currently 118 beds in 16 guesthouses. According to guesthouse owners, the occupancy rate at these guesthouses have maintained itself at over 70 percent.”
Nasheed pledged to double the 22,889 tourist beds in the Maldives by the end of his five year term, doubling the number of arriving tourists and offering loans and training opportunities for potential business operators, as well as government-aided marketing of mid market tourism internationally.
Youth and entertainment, including the developed of 40 turf stadiums throughout the country, development of high standard stadiums with modern-day training facilities, netball courts and courts for ‘Bashi’ – a traditional sport played by many women – across 60 islands.
The party’s ‘Entertainment without fear’ policy – a possible jibe at the Adhaalath Party’s crackdown on music and dancing, was met with derision from political rivals, who accused Nasheed of pandering to “drug addicts” and “promoting homosexuality”.
During the policy’s launch Nasheed – who played table tennis, jogged and went bodyboarding – assured young people that the Special Operations (SO) officers of the police – known for their rough handling of MDP protests – would not be allowed to barge in and “ruin the fun”.
The policy pledges to develop an ‘associations house’ for large sports associations and provide boarding facilities, and a sports-themed resort for international athletes.
Other plans include investment in youth development and skills development under the guidance of a National Sports Institute, the establishment of a sports school and pensions for athletes representing the country abroad.
Agriculture, launched in simultaneous events across 21 islands and two cities, pledging to establish a government-owned corporation to purchase local produce. The proposal aims to reduce the Maldives’ near-total dependence on imported foodstuffs by 44 percent.
The proposal includes “agri-boats” to transport produce and eliminate barriers of entry and access to markets, ensuring farmers are paid immediately for their produce, which would otherwise remain unsold and left to spoil.
Two “agri-centres” would be set up across the country as market hubs for local produce, including Kulhudhufushi in the north. A communications system would connect farmers to the agri-centres while harbour markets with cold storage facilities would be set up on 24 islands.
A government-owned corporation would be set up to purchase local produce and sell the processed and “value-added” products to resorts and other businesses, Nasheed pledged, and once the corporation became profitable the government would divest its majority stake and sell shares to the public.
The proposal includes training 1,000 farmers and creating 2,456 job opportunities. A cooperative society was also established to increase the participation of women in agriculture and conduct special training programmes.
Mariculture development, including the cultivation of marine products such as pearls, oysters, fish and sea cucumbers in the open sea, or in nets or ponds exposed to the sea.
During the policy launch – and accompanying sea cucumber hunt – Nasheed suggested such an industry could generate US$1.05 billion (MVR 16.19 billion) within five years and create 1800 jobs, should the government be able to successfully run at least 60 mariculture projects throughout the country.
If elected, the party would establish a soft loan scheme worth MVR 200 million to support people who wished to become involved in the new industry, which would be promoted as one of the country’s key industries, alongside fishing and tourism.
A lack of technical expertise in the field was identified as a key challenge for the expansion of such an industry, with the MDP pledging to create higher education opportunities in collaboration with the Maldives National University.
Higher education, pledging to raise the enrolment rate from six percent of school leavers to 40 percent in the next five years. Nasheed has pledged the government would allocate MVR 500 million (US$ 32.5 million) during its term to issue student loans, provide scholarships and conduct training programmes.
Other targets include inaugurating an education savings scheme with the government to match deposits by parents, providing plots of land to private education institutes, giving grants for financially-disadvantaged students, securing opportunities for 2,000 students to study medicine, covering course fees for students with special needs and issuing MVR 118 million (US$7 million) worth of student loans from a development bank during the next five years.
Moreover, the policy proposes upgrading the polytechnic institute to ISO 900 standard and establishing new faculties at the National University. In addition to the proposed higher education opportunities, the policy also includes special projects to train 300 science teachers, 300 Quran teachers, 500 nurses and 200 pharmacists as well as an MVR 80 million programme for the improvement of lecturers.
Analysis of support base
The MDP is the largest political party in the Maldives and despite almost a year and a half since its sudden demotion to opposition, still appears capable of fielding vast rallies of yellow clad, pom-pom waving demonstrators in Male’ at short notice.
One of the largest such gatherings since the 8 February 2012 protest was the event held in April 2013 to welcome Speaker of Parliament and DRP MP, Abdulla Shahid, to the MDP.
Beyond a powerful and respected parliamentary tie-breaker with the discretionary power to schedule motions, the MDP gained a renewed sense of momentum and a feeling that the political winds were in the party’s favour.
The MDP’s roots as a pro-democracy activist movement have given it a culture of volunteerism and a devoted grassroots support base. Coverage of the party’s campaigns and rallies suggests a diverse demographic spread, with particularly strong support from women. It also has an unquantifiable amount of ‘silent’ support from liberal-minded but politically apathetic youth, as well as older voters still concerned about the impact of dissenting political affiliation on liberty and livelihood – a legacy of 30 years of totalitarian rule.
The party has campaigned extensively across the Maldives with several high-profile, carnivalesque campaign trips to both northern and southern atolls over the past six months.
In late April 2013 the party declared it had been pledged 125,000 votes during a nationwide door-knocking campaign, a figure which if accurate would represent just over 52 percent of the total 239,593 voters on the final electoral register.
Assuming a similar voter turnout to the 2008 election (85 percent), these pledged votes would equate to 61 percent of the vote, adding weight to the party’s ambitious predictions of a first round victory. Nasheed has himself publicly tipped 57 percent.
At first glance such a win would seem unlikely given the party’s performance in the 2008 elections: 24.91 percent in the first round (44,293 of the 177,802 total votes), followed by 53.65 percent in the run-off against Gayoom, a figure oft-quoted by political rivals, followed by the aggrieved accusation that the MDP of subsequently shed its coalition partners and ruled with a ‘tyranny of the majority’.
However five years of primordial democracy have represented an epoch in Maldivian politics. Four factors in particular suggest the MDP’s optimism may be justified.
Firstly, while the MDP lost the 2011 local council elections in terms of raw seat count, it secured near unanimous control of the urban councils of Male, Addu City and Kulhudhuffushi – collectively representing well over half the total population.
Secondly, the proliferation of opposing parties focusing largely on an anti-Nasheed platform risks confusing voters opposed to the MDP, many of whom may opt to ‘vote’ this sentiment by simply staying home. This impact on the voter turnout could potentially lower the number of votes needed to reach the 51 percent.
Thirdly, the nature of Nasheed’s departure from power and the subsequent police crackdown is likely to have won sympathy among a formerly apathetic middle-ground dissatisfied with the progress of the MDP’s promised reforms. In addition, many who may have supported Nasheed’s resignation and the introduction of a new government will have noticed the large number of Gayoom-era officials and family members present in the new administration – a system 53.65 percent of the population voted against in 2008.
Fourthly, many young Maldivians without extensive adult experience of the Gayoom era tend to support either the MDP or are otherwise politically apathetic – disenfranchised by years of political bickering and a lack of promised democratic progress.
With 62 percent of the population aged under 25 this is an enormous demographic, with 31,000 new voters registered for the 2013 presidential elections – a 15 percent increase on 2008.
As a result, in the first round the MDP’s primary opponent is likely to be the political apathy of its younger support base, with many otherwise supportive young voters expressing sentiments such as “I support the MDP but I’m not political so I’m not going to vote”.
Some common sentiments:
“It won’t matter whether I vote, nothing changes for us, we are mistreated by police under every government administration” – 22 year-old working in Male’
“I don’t feel like voting since no one will be willing to do anything good for the citizens. When it comes to voting, they’ll tell us it’s our right. But when we go to get our rights, there’s no rights for us” – 23 year-old studying abroad in Sri Lanka
“MDP has so many supporters they don’t need my vote. Ehburun! But if they don’t win in the first round, then I’ll vote in the second” – 25 year-old Male’ resident
Should the election progress to a second round the MDP would potentially face a united PPM-JP-GIP coalition, and most likely Yameen or Gasim as an opposing candidate. The DRP has previously expressed an unwillingness to join a coalition featuring the PPM, publicly favouring siding with the MDP. The MDP has however been dismissive of any further coalition arrangements, pointing to previous attempts and the resultant political instability and government inefficiency. Even if all other parties ally against the MDP in a hastily formed ‘marriage of convenience’ to bring about the closest-possible match up, voters will not necessarily vote according to the instructions of their first round candidate. A second round is therefore likely to be unpredictable.
Registered party members (figures as of March 2013)
MDP – 45,666
Parliament seats (as of 18 August, 2013)
MDP – 33 (of 77)