The establishment of a multi-party democracy in the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2008 ended a 30-year period of authoritarian rule under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, writes New Delhi journalist Vishal Arora for Global Politician, but it started a vicious political struggle depriving the Maldivians of any sense of relief.
“Six months after former activist Mohamed Nasheed won the October 2008 presidential election, Gayoom’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and its allies got a simple majority in the parliamentary election. When two rival parties became almost equally powerful, the clash was inevitable.
The tussle between the ruling coalition led by President Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the conservative DRP and its ally People’s Alliance (PA) peaked in June 2010 when the education minister Dr. Mustahafa Luthfee’s planned to make Islam and national language Dhivehi optional in school curricula for senior students.
The Gayoom regime homogenised Sunni Islam by restricting people’s religious and cultural rights – the South Asian island nation claims to have a 100 percent Muslim population like in Saudi Arabia. Nasheed, on the other hand, is seen as a liberal Muslim.
The other bone of contention was the government’s move to privatise the Malé International Airport, which was a source of income for some opposition legislators.
In response, the opposition moved a bill in the parliament to amend the Public Finance Act to resist further privatisation of state property, and brought in a no-confidence motion against the education minister.
However, on June 29, President Nasheed’s cabinet resigned en masse alleging inability to carry out its constitutional duties. The government also arrested some opposition legislators – including the leader of the PA and Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen – on charges of bribing lawmakers to vote against the government in the parliament. The arrests led to violent street protests in which several people were injured.”