Comment: Consensus the only way forward

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has not served its cause for early polls nor has it covered its democratic credentials with glory when it stalled Male and stopped President Mohammed Waheed Hassan from delivering the customary annual address to Parliament on Friday, March 1.

For their part, the government parties, while commendable as their conduct was in not allowing themselves to be provoked both inside and outside parliament on the occasion, seem to have backtracked on the spirit of the India-facilitated roadmap consensus document on restoration by being vague on early polls to the presidency than when due in November 2013.

The alternative to consensus is utter chaos that Maldives now or ever could ill-afford. That was also the spirit of pragmatism that attended on the Indian concerns for encouraging the roadmap document and subsequent roadmap discussions. Political stability being the touchstone for progress of democracy in any community or country — and Maldives is a combination of both than in most – the roadmap provided for this and more. Or, else, the rest of the world with their vast democratic experience would not have endorsed the Indian initiative to recognise the alternate government of President Waheed after President Nasheed had announced a vacancy through a much-televised resignation, as provided for in the nation’s constitution. Both the US and China were in the list though the latter cannot be called democratic by any stretch of imagination.

Having encouraged defections in a 77-member parliament where it did not have the numbers after the 2009 elections, the MDP cannot complain about democracy-deficiency in the rest of the polity – greater or lesser be its concerns. Having taken to the streets and encouraging individual policemen and MNDF soldiers to join forces for demanding President Nasheed’s exit as numbers would not help his impeachment through a two-thirds vote in Parliament, the present ruling combine cannot blame the MDP for adopting similar tactics to drive home its demand. The consequent deadlock cannot be allowed to hold the nation to eternal ransom, which it will be if parliament does not meet in cooler climes to address irritants and issues which in fact had facilitated democracy-deficit in the first place.

Singing a different tune

The solution lies in between. The ruling parties of the day need to acknowledge that functional democracy is not possible without a parliamentary majority even with an Executive President at the head. The MDP in turn has to acknowledge that with only 34 memb4ers, up from the post-poll 27 but excluding the one disqualified by the Supreme Court after President Nasheed’s exit, it is still short of an absolute majority. At the bottom of the MDP’s problems, both parliamentary and political, while President Nasheed was in office was its failed strategy for the parliamentary elections. The party compromised healthy parliamentary precedents that it should have set, and encouraged questionable prosperity in individual members, which did cause eyebrows to rise when they decided to support the Nasheed Government in the past.

President Waheed’s government cannot continue with the perceived pitfalls from his predecessor’s time and expect to give a government different from that of President Nasheed, and hope to win over the masses (read: voters) ahead of the presidential polls. Having argued that all economic and fiscal measures of the Government would require a parliamentary approval when the MDP Government was in a minority, the anti-MDP group that now backs President Waheed cannot sing a different tune if and when they want to change what they call the ‘faulty economic policies’ of the predecessor, even if only to win over the masses.

The less said about the complexities attending on early elections the better. Having faulted constitutional institutions other than that of the Executive, represented exclusively by President Nasheed and his Cabinet, which in turn was tied down to parliamentary endorsement based on majorities, the MDP now cannot rush the nation into elections, and then complain all over again, if candidate Nasheed were to return to power once more. The alternative to working with the existing institutions at the time would be outright autocracy. The party says it shuns autocracy, and is not tired of referring to Nasheed’s predecessor, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as one – even while the reference otherwise are to people who had once served the latter and have since found a place in President Waheed’s team.

Burden, not a boon?

The MDP needs to cool tempers — not just of its leadership and cadres, who feel indignant and frustrated at what they claim to be the forced exit of President Nasheed. They need time even more for cooling the tensions that had built up between the party, the government of President Nasheed and various institutions and arms thereof. The MNDF and the police force are main components of such a scheme, and without addressing the issues triggered by the ‘mutiny charge’ and frequent changes at the top with them, an MDP President could be a burden to the nation than a boon. The latter, not the former, should be the case, post-poll.

The MDP needs to give the nation and parliament time to rework the institutional framework as they exist, though not time enough for imbibing in them a new sense of purpose and direction expected of them in a democratic scheme. The latter would take a lot more of time, and Rome, after all was not built in day. Putting the cart before the horse will also be a lop-sided approach which could only upset the MDP apple-cart, and the larger cause even more in a fledgling democracy with its inherent and institutional problems that have already shown up for what they are worth — or, not worth.

The inherent problem to post-Gayoom democracy in Maldives owes to the kind of constitution that they all produced in haste in 2008, with the sole aim of getting the incumbent out of their way, and of the nation’s way, as they had thought. That many political parties that are now against the MDP and are thus in the Waheed dispensation, had worked with the MDP to have their way when Gayoom was the sole power-centre. Just because they have fallen out even before the ink on the constitutional document had dried up, they, together with the MDP, cannot expect the inherent institutional inadequacies, to drop out, too.

Today, the MDP still wants to keep the political ghost of Gayoom alive, to try and win another election. It refuses to understand that after three years in office, and wide publicity that a thinly spread-out nation had not seen before, the voter would be judging the MDP by President Nasheed’s tenure, and not by that of his predecessor, per se. The near-dignified conduct of the government parties to the MDP’s street protests and parliamentary behaviour is a silent message that the MDP should be reading, instead. This coupled with the cost of living and dollar-rate are among the issues agitating the voters, and would be more so than democracy issues, as flagged by the MDP, if only after a time from now.

Electoral agenda

At the end of the day, both the MDP and its opponents in government are working on narrow political, rather electoral agendas, and are not on a national manifesto that the constitution still enshrines. The MDP would want to strike the electoral iron when people’s memory is still hot on the democracy and injustice issues that it now flags. The party does not seem to have the confidence to go back to the voters, based on its claims to be a better government than its predecessor. The government parties are also aware of the MDP strategy, and seem to be working with the sole aim of denying the MDP the pleasure of early elections.

The government parties also have the problem of having to decide early on about their own strategy for fresh presidential elections, and would want that date pushed as far back as possible. It would have been a different ball-game had presidential polls come in their natural course. The focus would then have been on President Nasheed and his completed five-year term. The question now is whether they would want to contest the first round of presidential polls independently or collectively, or in different combinations – and re-work their strategies for the second, run-off round, if they are confident of a second round in the first place. The last time round, all anti-Gayoom parties contested alone in the first round, but pooled their votes in favour of Nasheed, the first runner-up to give the latter his first electoral entry into the nation’s politics.

If the parties decide to go it alone now again, political morals dictate that their representatives on an otherwise apolitical Cabinet pull out before the presidential polls. One alternative to the possibility is to talk the MDP into joining what truly should be a ‘national unity government’, as propagated by President Waheed on assuming office, but not necessarily afterward. The other and worse alternative would be for the incumbent President to reconstitute his Cabinet, and yet hope that Parliament would clear the names.

It is a pre-requisite of the times that Parliament clear President Waheed’s team, as the Government parties had insisted upon when President Nasheed was in office. With Independents still holding key to a parliamentary majority, it could mean a lot in terms of compromises, if not corruption charges for purchasing their loyalties, which could at best be issue-based, and for obvious reasons. This is not the kind of democracy that Maldives and Maldivians deserve.

The ruling parties now have to record with appreciation the successive climb-downs that the anguished and aggressive MDP has made since President Nasheed’s exit. The peaceful conduct of successive rallies after the first one 24 hours after the exit had turned violent, should be a case in point. Maldives cannot even afford the police force clashing with the MDP cadres, and contributing to the continuance of peace in political rallies has become a condition-precedent for the Maldivian State to maintain a semblance of order and structure than at any time in the past decades. The alternative could be outright anarchy, and the dividing line is too thin for the nation to strain.

Likewise, the MDP has also begun participating in the roadmap talks, for which it had earlier laid pre-conditions. It may be true that the party has used the talks only to drive home its demand for early polls, and nothing more, it would soon (have to) realise how it needs the rest as they may need the party. Again, it can settle for a continued deadlock the kind of which that started the nation at the face under President Nasheed in 2010. This time round, however, such a deadlock could mean that the presidential polls may not become due until November 2013 — which is against the party’s demands and expectations.

There is a consensus that a new President should have a full five-year term, and not the residual term for which President Nasheed was elected in 2008 and a part of which President Waheed is now entitled under the Constitution. The MDP needs to acknowledge that it needs the rest of them all to have the constitution amended with a two-thirds vote, to facilitate an early election that they want. Not having compromised on issues in Parliament in the past, and having deflected the nation’s focus from one issue to another, the party may now find it difficult to take firm positions on the Roadmap even if in terms of reaching where it wants to reach.

Parliament, and not Male’s street, is the venue, and nothing is going to change inside the Chamber beyond a point by pressures from outside. If that were so, it would have happened even when President Nasheed was in office. Hoping to play the old game and paint President Waheed’s team as a revival of President Gayoom’s ‘autocracy’ has not convinced anyone who mattered elsewhere. It would remain so even more. The MDP, more than the rest, has to learn to work with other elements in a democracy and the government in a democracy. Possibly because they have to live down their ‘autocratic past’, the rest of them all seem to be less judgmental or unit-directional than the MDP.

Learning from others mistakes

It is unfortunate that mischievous sections tended to attribute motives to Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai’s reported reference to the Roadmap propositions at the all-party meeting that he was invited to attend by President Waheed, during his second and more recent visit to Maldives after the political crisis blew up in the first week of February. As Indian officials have already clarified and explained, Secretary Mathai was only referring to the roadmap that all of them had agreed upon during his previous visit, and which the all-party conference chair too had circulated for fixing priority. That was the crux of the matter, and not the Indian position, of which there was none.

Coming from the world’s largest and equally complex of democracies, Foreign Secretary Mathai’s prescriptions, if any, would have been the quintessence of the Indian experience and exposure to a scheme that was alien to the shared sub-continental pride and traditions. Maldives can learn from other people’s mistakes. Alternatively, it could learn the lessons by going through the birth-pangs of democracy itself, which the nation anyway cannot avoid after a point, despite external prescriptions to induce pain at appropriate times and extinguish the same on other occasions. It is for Maldives and Maldivians to decide which, what and when they want them -and how, and how much of each. The rest of it all would follow, as if they were a natural course.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


21 thoughts on “Comment: Consensus the only way forward”

  1. Dr Waheed's regime is not legitimate and the only politically and legally acceptable action by the regime is setting a date for an early election. The military junta has no mandate to address the People's Majlis, so Dr Waheed was not allowed to do so. While an early election is unavoidable, he had consistently refused to give a date for it and pave the way for ending the illegitimate rule on the people.

  2. Ex President Nasheed, Ex President Nasheed, Thasmeen, Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid, ..all these so called leaders does not have national interest at heart! I am very sure that is very vivid now to all foreign partners and locals who are looking at this objectively!
    a) Nasheed is simply trying to protect interest of Mariya, Rekko Moosa and other corrupt (morally and otherwise) MP's! Its so obvious! And Nasheed does not support democratic values in his party itself and controls the MDP congress by his crooks and puppets and does not allow MDP current President Dr.Didi (though he is a weak character) to run the party. Rather Nasheed support voilence and street activities when the option for peace and dialogue is available.
    b) Ex President Gayoom is too power hungry and is addicted to it, he cannot let off the his party to more young leadership who can lead the show and he be a mentor (even if its his son or daughter or brother?). He is no statesmen. Rather he is one of the cause of all this corruption in Maldives with Nasheed. I sometimes suspect this is all a grand plan of Gayoom and Nasheed.
    c) Corrupt political parties like DRP, Dr.Waheed's party which is corrupt from inner core to outer shell with its control and decision making at the family only! Look at the history of Speaker Shahid's history and link to Ibrahim Hussian Zaki and their business partnership and also current bonds.
    d)Silent majority in political parties and in Maldives are too silent! I don't know why!
    Ex President Nasheed and Gayoom!!!! I know you are reading this! YOU BOTH HAS TO TAKE THE LEAD RESPONSIBILITY FOR DISTROYING THIS NATION AND ITS YOUTH! JUST FOR MERE PLEASSURE AND POWER HUNGER AND ALLOWING CORRUPT INDIVIDUALS LIKE MARIYA, REKKO MOOSA, RED WAVE SALEEM, ILYAS IBRAHIM...! I HOPE YOU SLEEP WELL WITH THESE BAD DREAMS! I HOPE YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK WHILE ORDINARY MALDIVIAN FAMILIES ARE SUFFERING! How dare you collect ordinary citizens and energize them and send them back to home and they are socially and psy confused and angry and they neglects their kids education and kids behave most irrationally now in schools! How dare you!! I hope you and your families with ill gotten wealth at the expense of Maldivians can enjoy it! Remember what goes up will come down!! We shall watch it!

  3. Dear Mr. Moorthy.

    The people with MDP are not just MDP members right now. There are those of us who see the direction that this country is going, which is a military led, sympathetic to radical forms of interpretations of Islam, leadership. I will not call this a Government, as you very comfortably do, because what we now have a is Rouge leader placed there after a Coup.

    I give MDP credit for joining the talks even after the elected President was thrown out in a coup and even after MDP suppporters were brutally attacked in a peaceful protest.

    Now DRP and PPM have left the talks at the pretext that MDP stopped The Rouge President delivering his address. But MDP had the maturity to join the talks even at worse odds to them.

    Maldivians now have two options. Wait for elections for 2013 when the current coup lead military and leadership can consolidate power and influence the public vote or worse not hold an election even in 2013, or call for elections now in the hope that we will get rid of this military lead government and hope for an elected president.

    In your zeal to support your government please do not forget that there are intelligent Maldivians who can think for themselves.

    I think you fail to understand the deeper nuances of the Maldivian political scene right now. You are just skimming the surface.

  4. Spot on. This is probably the best analysis that I have read about our post 7th feb situation.

  5. When President Nasheed came to power, the opposition DRP has a clear majority in the Parliament. But to DRP's credit, it did not abuse the dominant position.

    In contrast, MDP has FORCEFULLY disrupted the parliament, even without any majority.

    MDP has FORCEFULLY taken a sitting judge without much influence in the judiciary.

    MDP has created havoc in the excucative branch even though the support of the civil service, military and police was never on their side.

    Politically speaking MDP has tried to play with fire with all 3 branch of the Government without any real power. Now they are playing with the public, even through MDP got under 25 percent in presidential election.

    Despite all this, MDP is determined and high spirited and believe that they are right just like the religious fanatics. One can say that MDP as an alternative religion to Islam.

  6. It is futile for Maldives to involve a country like India in their politics. India is not a matured people to give advice to others how to solve their troubled issues. Indians may be good in making third grade films and making crazy commercials to promote things that have no scientific value. India is still a backward and uncivilized people. The good Indians don’t live in India because it is not fit for them. Maldivain knows what their problem is, especially MDP has very much experienced and educated leadership and they are on the correct direction to solve their national issue. Maldives is sliding back to old order, to keep people in the dark in the name of peace, religion and unity. We have to break that force and disintegrate them at any cost. This momentum should not be stopped, and the only solution is to behave and act in a way that some people may see unethical and irrational. MDP is not doing anything that is abnormal as far as decency is concerned in the Maldivain politics. People should not forget what has unfolded the situation of February 7 and the subsequent dramas that followed. There is nothing to be worried by any foreign party, we Maldivains are different than the rest of the world and MDP is the only political party that has real Maldivian quality. MDP has brought lot of change to the Maldives politics. We had firm belief that the rulers and police was absolute few years back but we have brought them to their knees and by MDP commitment and behaviors. We are united peaceful people with common goal but due to our differences in opinions there may be some minor clashes till we have evolved our unique indispensible political landscape. And this is what MDP is doing .

  7. Moorthy has tried to offer an assessment that is different just for the sake of being different. While he has tried to be fresh and intellectual, the peice is shallow, confusing and utterly boring.

    What he fails to fully realize is that president Nasheed was forced out of office. MDP cannot 'cool tempers' until there are assurances that democracy will be restored.

    Everything else is secondary.

  8. Fully agree with Maldivian and Rambe. The MDP were absolutely justified preventing the so-called president from delivering his address, he is not a president. Although he & his supporters claim that he is legitimate, it is blatantly obvious that was party to the coup, hence he cannot, and never will be a 'president' in people's eyes. The only way to resolve this deadlock is elections as soon as possible, but as expected, the so-called president drags his feet.

  9. To all of you who talk about the legitimacy and illegitimacy of Waheed's government, lets get this sorted out first without screaming and all this nonsense.
    The first thing that should be done is for MDP to stop all this nonsense and demand one thing and that is an open and transparent investigation about what happened on that day and Nasheed's resignation. It is ridiculous to call for early elections.
    If there was a military coup, we should not have an election at all. We should restore Nasheed back as President immediately. That would solve all these problems. I wonder why no one is calling for an immediate investigation and if there is a coup the immediate restoration of Anni as President?
    Could it be that it is not so clear cut?

    Regarding the early elections, the constitution has to be changed but for that to happen, Waheed has to sign it into law. Also why should Waheed resign when there is no legal reason for him to do so. So MDP should take this matter up with the Supreme Court and get Waheed thrown out.

    That is the legal way of doing things.

  10. It is time the wise old men of the country broke their silence and take up the mantle.Maldives is certainly at crossroads and the country needs its sons and daughters from all walks of life with the valuable experience to help it at the crucial stage, as no foreigner can understand the Maldives as maldivians do,Specially maldivians who have experienced the social,political,economic and religeous developments and stages over the decades.The developed western countries have systems evolved over centuries and they have already gone through all these stages and have a system of government which is bigger and stronger than any individual or body,thus the head of state could be any qualified indivdual,young and energetic,who just during the term of office fulfills his mandate in office along the guidelines of an ever continuing developmental agenda.This is not the case with the Maldives who have very crucial decisions to make at this point of time,decisions that would change the life of the next generations to come.

    India's is a good example in the sense that the present indian system is fairly new compared the western world and just decades old.However it is a system and constitution that is a masterpiece of democracy and with ecocnmic development and education of the masses will take india to great heights in the decades to come.The reason for that is, the indian constitution was compiled by people with great knowledge and vast experience who knew and could address all the diverse issues,cultural,social economic ,religeous and put their heart in the work for the love of the motherland.The truth is this work can only be done by people with experience,because just getting a degree from a university in todays world where even education is comercial,does not give you the fundamental insights to the truths and paradoxes of life that only time can teach us.Also young people tend to be over ambitious and can be lured by the material allures of life and make hasty decisions more easily than the people past their prime and having a desire to leave with dignity.The young and the old need to join hands before it is too late.
    It is with great regret i have to point out that an individual widely acknowledged as the most intelligent person of his generation in the Maldives passed away few days back,had no role to play in these defining times because of the great divide created in society.Fathuhllah jameel was a statesman par excellence on the level of Henry kissinger and Pranab Mukherjee.We need to realise what we are missing and give up our pride and vanity and join hands to take this country forward and lay a strong foundation for the sake of our children.


  12. Dr Waheed's regime is not legitimate and the only politically and legally acceptable action by the regime is setting a date of an early election. The military junta has no mandate to address the People's Majlis, so Dr Waheed was not allowed to do so. While an early election is unavoidable, his regime had consistently refused to give a date for it and pave the way for ending the illegitimate rule on the people.

    Nasheed’s resignation was not as provided in the Constitution. The Constitution lays down how the President can resign. According to the Constitution, if he WANTS to resign he can do so by a letter to the Speaker stating the fact and when it is received by the Speaker he is removed from office. The resignation will be unconstitutional if he resigned under any pressure as he was. The Commonwealth Ministerial Group was the first multi-national body to investigate the incidents that led Nasheed to resign on the TVM (the MNBC One before the station was raided by the military forces or police under arms and renamed it prior to Nasheed’s announcement of resignation) refrained from saying that Nasheed’s resignation was constitutional rather than unconstitutional. This is testimony to the coup brought about by the MNDF backed or caused by the police.

    In a democratic set up, a military junta has no place to manage the affairs of the people. They cannot be given time and place of an elected government. Nor must the rebel regime be given time to prepare for an election. If they were it would mean that the regime would benefit from the coup and set a democratically inconceivable precedent – that of mid-term coups – and if the military and other institutions such as the Supreme Court and the People’s Majlis (the Parliament) are not guided by the law they can be persuaded to accede to military juntas. This is exactly what they have done this time. The existing political tension is all because of military rule in disguise. So, the sooner an election is held to elect the next President the better for the nation.

    If getting rid of the political ghost of Gayoom means amending the Constitution, that can and will be done by a popularly elected government, not necessarily of the MDP. The government must be legitimate and representative.

    The national unity government is not a notion that the Maldives Constitution envisages. Under the Constitution, the government is of a President directly elected by the people. The party he comes from is not important as far as the Constitution is concerned. Even when several parties have joined the campaign as was the case in the second round of voting in 2008 presidential election, the parties jointly or severally have no legal right to the government or presidency.

    Therefore, under a presidential system of the sort established in the Maldives, the multi-party arrangement of Dr Waheed’s military junta, is foreign to the body of government and has no legal standing in the transaction of government business.

  13. @N SathiyaMoorthy: I have a few questions....Who invited you to poke your nose into our business? Are you an expert on the Maldivian constitution? How much were you paid to write this rubbish? We, the majority of Maldives know that we elected Mohamed Nasheed as our President and he will be until another is taken by a vote of the citizens. We do not need paid thugs to come forward and say, I am the President now. Waheed doesn't know how to answer a question when he faces the international media even. The way we see it, the journalists and reporters who come to Maldives can play the part of a president thousand times better than him!

  14. @Sulaiman!!!

    N SathiyaMoorthy is a paid writer by DIctator Nasheed! this article is just a spin!!

  15. i think mr moorthy does not know that president nasheed was made to resign by force. if someone stole my tv, do i have to negotiate with the thief on how to get my tv back in the most peaceful means possible that also does not interrupt his daily viewing? like waiting till he saves money and buys a new tv...that's what you're talking about right? would a court order such an arrangement? what kind of rubbish is this?

  16. Dear Marie, Something wrong with English comprehension. This article is absolutely pro Waheed. And you must be joking when you say he is paid by Nasheed!!!

  17. Oh dear - this article seems such a rush job.
    With all due respect, it is difficult to read, confusing, lacks flow and therefore fails to deliver much meaning.
    What is Mr N SathiyaMoorthy actually trying to say here?
    I lost the will to read part way through.

  18. All this talk about legality and illegality is absolute bunk without a clear and transparent investigation.

    I do not want early elections if it is proved that there is a military coup.
    I want them prosecuted and the rule of law applied to them and jailed. I also want Anni reinstated as President.

    Why should we spend millions and have elections when we can re-install him back as President.
    If we was forced to resign then his resignation does not count and we all should shout and agitate for an open and independent inquiry instead of calling for an election.

  19. all this talk is redundant now. See below
    1. Nazim and Riyaz at the MNDF on the 7th before resignationof Anni? What were they doing there or at PO?
    2. Video of MNBC and thugs taking over MNBC BEFORE Anni's resignation. May I also mention, Dr. Waheed's brother and Azima's brother in the crowd who went into MNBC. May I also mention the bullet that was fired and the gun held by one army officer.
    3. Video of Nazim saying that they demanded Anni resign
    4. MDP haruge being demolished
    5. The VP (P now) was on VTV implying his potential presidency.
    6. Umar naseer saying they said 'die or resign' at PPM meeting
    7. Umar naseer implying a command centre and telling Nazim et al to get Umar et al's agreement before taking action on 7th (this video you can see from the Australian news)
    8. Video of Anni,on the morning of 7th, asking MNDF to intervene
    9. Audio of Anni on the 7th asking for protection of his family (this video you can see from the Australian news)
    10. Hassan Saeed's audio where he declared it was a coup (whatever kind but a coup

    Except number 5, all the known OBJECTIVER facts. so go figure people!!!!!

  20. @redundant

    you forgot to mention all the circus going on in the judiciary system since 7th feb.

    plus these people are vision impaired. there is no violence in the Maldives and none involving the police and mndf?

    i started reading this article and gave up after the first couple of paragraphs


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