“Maldives President Mohamed Waheed has unexpectedly thrown his hat in the ring for the September 2013 elections, upsetting what was supposed to be a two-cornered contest between the country’s best-known democrat and its infamous strongman,” writes R Radhakrishnan, in an open editorial for the Hindu newspaper.
“Until last week, it appeared that the race for the Maldivian Presidency would be between two candidates — the charismatic former President Mohamed Nasheed and Yameen Abdullah, the brother of former dictator and Nasheed’s tormentor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party is the country’s biggest in terms of membership (45,666, according to the election commission; an additional 1,323 were not included, says MDP). The Progressive Party of the Maldives, which Gayoom founded in 2011, is the second-largest party, with 22,383 members.
The only purpose of the others in the fray seemed to be to ensure that neither of the two main candidates would get the 51 per cent votes in the scheduled September 7 election and that there would be a run-off.
No one seriously thought that President Mohamed Waheed would emerge as a candidate himself. His Gaumee Ithihad Party (GIP) was too small — with a membership of barely 4,000 — and he did not have the commanding stage presence of either Nasheed or Gayoom; and it appeared no other small party wanted to back him for President. (A GIP functionary claimed that after a membership drive, the members have shot up to 12,000).
All that is history. Dr. Waheed is now seriously in the reckoning. Playing a deft hand, Dr. Waheed — Vice-President in the previous Nasheed government — has managed to rope in parties that do not want to be in an alliance with either Gayoom’s PPM or Nasheed’s MDP.