Paradise lost – has democracy gone to hell in the Maldives: Economy Watch

Democracy, as Samuel P. Huntington once famously put it, often comes in waves, writes Raymond Tham for Economy Watch.

According to Huntington’s analysis, countries can be over-swept by democratic ideals during one such wave; and a political transition might occur – transforming the government from an authoritarian to a democratic one.

Yet, as Huntington would later note, the waves of democracy are often followed by “reverse waves” as well. In a reverse wave, a newly democratic country could potentially revert back to its authoritarian ways, especially if the remnants of the old regime attempt to rear up their ugly heads once again.

Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed learnt this lesson the hard way. Less than four years after becoming the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Nasheed was swept out of power on February 7th 2012 by a coup – led by his predecessor Maumon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom, and his associates, had apparently forced Nasheed to resign at gunpoint, with Nasheed’s vice president Mohamed Waheed Hassan – who Nasheed has now accused of being complicit with Gayoom’s scheme – installed as president on that day itself.

These violent scenes were a stark contrast to a year ago, when a young and upbeat Nasheed arrived in Delhi for a conference on promoting liberal governance in South Asia. During the conference, Nasheed expressed optimism on his country’s democratic process.

“We are in the process of consolidating our democracy,” said a cheerful Nasheed, as quoted by the Economist. Commenting on the Arab Spring, Nasheed also expressed confidence that his country could soon become a model for other Islamic states in adopting democracy.

“We are a 100 percent Muslim country. We feel if democracy can survive in the Maldives, it can survive in other Islamic countries.”

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