Comment: Et tu Maldives?

For those looking for a bright side in the rather anticlimactic win of the much delayed/canceled/rescheduled Maldivian Presidential elections by the anti-democratic coalition led by Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, there’s some solace that this will probably be the final episode of the overly drawn out election saga.

Had President Nasheed won, there might well have been an endless number of elections till the anomaly was rectified.

Local democrats as well as the international community was waiting in apprehension to observe what clever trick would be employed to undo the election should Nasheed win again. Thankfully, the Maldivian public had other plans and rendered the whole discussion moot. It voted in another Gayoom to power.

Kingmaker Gasim

Gasim Ibrahim – who won 23% of the votes in first round – proved to be the decisive factor.

Yameen’s last minute deal with Gasim, who had just a day earlier hobnobbed with MDP leaders and publicly announced that 60% of voters of his voters would never vote for Yameen, clinched the victory by a slim margin of merely 5374 votes.

The election so far har been ugly affair, with the anti-democratic forces pulling every stop and resorting to every dirty trick – from subverting the electoral process, getting anti-constitutional rulings from the Supreme Court, harassment of the Elections Commission, flexing muscles available in the form of the Maldives Police Service to obstruct elections, and holding the whole process to ransom by refusing to sign voter registries – and hemorrhaging millions in public funds all the while.

However to Yameen’s credit, he did win the election – at least this round of it – fair and square.

For his part, President Nasheed had some gracious words of defeat and congratulations to the winner, pledging to respect the people’s verdict and uphold the democratic process.

Reading into the results

The elections prove one thing: the Maldives electorate is yet to mature. The outcome of the election was more or less decided on November 9th, when – despite all the ugly episodes that played out in full public view – the public actually rewarded Abdulla Yameen with a slightly increased vote share.

It was clear that a large section of the public was not going to be swayed by an actual manifesto, or promises of justice, and police and judicial accountability.

President Nasheed handsomely won all the major population centers, resorts and foreign boxes. However, it is clear from the results that there is still another Maldives. A more isolated, isolationist, xenophobic and paranoid Maldives that is still susceptible to dangerous emotive politics.

It is remarkable that this victory was pulled off on the back of exaggerated anti-Nasheed rhetoric with strong Islamist and hyper-nationalist overtones, as opposed to any realistic development plans or policies.

This rhetoric was often of fantastic nature – ranging from evil Christian Westerners and Freemasons trying destroy Islamic unity in the Maldives, to Nasheed attempting to build temples for GMR staff and other such absurdities. Yet, it found resonance among a large section of the population. Voting for ‘dheen’ and ‘qawm’ became the catchphrase for the anti-Nasheed voters, although it isn’t immediately clear what exactly Abdulla Yameen has ever done to protect or uphold either.

Nevertheless, the result is what it is, and in a democratic process, the public verdict is supreme.

With any luck, the newly installed government will not pursue overtly isolationist, xenophobic policies while in power. After all, the Maldives – which is dependent on imports for everything from oil to basic foodstuffs – is no North Korea.

Challenges and fears

The most immediate challenge facing Yameen Abdul Gayoom is the tanking economy which has largely been in free-fall since the February 7 2012 coup d’etat. He inherits a nation on the verge of bankruptcy and – unlike the previous Dec 23 coalition that disastrously fell apart – it will take an extended period of stability within his large coalition to pull off a sustainable recovery.

The concerns for liberals are clear. Would the extremist Islamist Adhaalath Party be put in charge of the Education ministry as speculated? Will the mullahs be oversee the curriculum for our young students? Subjects such as science and history are usually the early victims of subjecting the school syllabus to Taliban scrutiny. Pakistan has already attempted this with disastrous results. Five years of Adhaalath extravagance is sufficient time to destroy one promising generation of Maldivians.

The fear is that instead of a modern, cosmopolitan outlook necessary to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world, children may be inculcated with inward looking, ignorant ideologies that the Adhaalath party favours.

The Adhaalath party controlled Ministry of Islamic Affairs of the Nasheed government attempted to ram through the Religious Unity Regulations in 2010 that would have severely curtained media freedom, given expansive powers to the clerics to censor media and publications, and would have explicitly banned the mere criticism of mullahs under the threat of five years in prison.

Liberal actors within the Nasheed government stopped that heinous piece of anti-democratic drivel from being gazetted as law, thereby preserving media freedom and basic liberties for a little longer.

Would Abdulla Yameen similarly step in to defend the public from the censorship friendly mullahs? Would he defend the free media and ordinary citizens and bloggers’ rights to challenge authority? Or would he continue in the family tradition of locking up potential troublemakers and/or making them disappear?

Would the Yameen regime continue to uphold the unwelcome precedent of extreme media hostility set by Waheed? The Waheed regime – supported by the same actors that won yesterday’s elections – routinely boycotted opposition media, explicitly denied them police support (in violation of the constitution), and have sat in silence as their journalists were attacked, pepper-sprayed and harassed in public by police and other outlaws. Raajje TV was also subject to serious arson attack that destroyed the station this year, despite receiving advance warning and requesting for police assistance.

The Maldives Press freedom index has been one of the biggest casualties since the fall of the last elected government – having reversed all the giant leaps it made under President Nasheed and returned to abysmal pre-democracy levels.

One would hope that President Yameen will channel his efforts towards rectifying the media situation. But it doesn’t seem an encouraging prospect, considering Yameen’s own party, PPM, continues to boycott media channels that it sees as being aligned with the opposition.

Yameen’s electoral victory is also a possible shot in the arm for wanton police impunity which has been on public display since the overthrow of the Nasheed government last year. Police brutality has gone unaddressed under Waheed’s regime – indeed, it has been richly rewarded with perks and promotions and flats. This is likely to continue under Yameen. As a candidate, Yameen has actively sought Police support with the promise of housing, supplies and weapons.

On the subject of the runaway judiciary, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has thrown in some kind words for the international media’s sake about how it requires reform. However, it does not seem likely that Yameen would do anything to threaten his friends in the Judiciary who ensured him multiple attempts at resurrecting his lacklustre campaign, which allowed him to eventually emerge as winner.

Finally, it remains to be seen how the MDP deals with the electoral loss. When the MDP was in government, one of the most frustrating deals was the lack of a capable or democratic opposition to hold the government accountable. The then opposition routinely failed to challenge the MDP government on corruption or policy, choosing instead to pick up far more far reaching national issues like random statues and Israeli airlines and massage parlours.

Some commentators hope that the MDP could now actively play that lacking role in the Yameen government. President Nasheed has pledged as much.

Yet, one can predict right away that the horse trading season will begin soon on the parliament floor, and quite a few MDP MP’s are likely cross the aisle looking for greener pastures. This possibility means quite simply that the MDP might have reduced effectiveness going forward as an Opposition party.

Furthermore, if MDP loses its Parliament strength – and it likely will – it further reduces chances of judicial reform or oversight from the elected Parliament.

After nearly two years of punishing instability and conflict, the Maldives and its economy desperately needs some stability and return to the rule of law. While the return of an elected government is welcome, democrats remain apprehensive of the Gayoom clan.

When slightly more than half the voting public gives a mandate to a media-hostile, blatantly anti-democratic coalition put together by a former dictator, it surely justifies this apprehension.

Furthermore, keeping together the chaotic coalition will be an interesting challenge and one that constantly threatens us with instability. For now, the coalition has been given a mandate to protect of ‘dheen’ and ‘qawm’; we will see Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s final report card five years from now.

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]


28 thoughts on “Comment: Et tu Maldives?”

  1. All honest Maldivian people,please keep Nasheed involved in politics..This 'Gayoom' regime won't last 5yrs..

  2. What arrogance from the writer: "The elections prove one thing: the Maldives electorate is yet to mature."

    The white/coconut person writing this should realise that his/her plan of neo-colonization did not work. Resign from minivannews and give the post to a real Maldivian.

  3. Anti Mullah Struggle should continue until this virus is eradiated. If yameen follows his crazy old man, and drag Maldives with xenophobia, nationalism and isolation, he will reverse the democratic process and the people of Maldives will have to be mental prisoners unable to think themselves, idle, lazy doing nothing to die to live another glorious life once they ceased to exist. The good news is Anni has laid the foundation for these morons to promise goodies for people and they have no choice and no way out from the trap Anni has put. Gunda force now will have to think how they can create an environment to nurture an economy that would generate money, for that you need liberal and openness policies. If they fail to enter in to global community, there is no Allah who will come to rescue them.

    Probably Allah has helped Anni to lose the election. If Anni ever won the election, the country will never be stabilized, these morons will never allow for anni to rule the country. Buggers have mentally retarded judiciary and an armed militia and few thousand bipolar fishermen to back them.

  4. This is a very good summary of a very frustrating process for most Maldivians. And indeed, it's "dheen" and "qawm" that won the day by a massive targeted negative campaign. Most insiders and quite a few outsiders will be puzzled by that.

    The writer has hinted at the reason very clearly. There does exist a very insular, insecure and isolationist section of society that's easily swayed by "dheen" and "qawm". MDP will have to learn a lesson from this and figure out why their opponents were so easily able to label them as "not-so-dheenee" and "not-so-qawmee".

    Addressing those issues and maintaining their parliamentary majority in the upcoming elections is the best way to preserve democracy going forward. As the writer notes, quite a few MPs will now jump ship; some of them to save their skin, such as Lolly Jabir.

    The first test of how justice works under the new regime is the pending alcohol related cases of Shiyam and Hamid. That's the litmus test. Let's see what happens. And of course, the big one is the pending case of President Nasheed. How will he be tried now.

    The Saud family of Arabia won it for "dheen" and "qawm". Gamal Abdel Nasser won it for "dheen" and "qawm". Saddam Hussain won it for "dheen" and "qawm". Aytolla Khomeini won it for "dheen and "qawm". Nothing good came out of those.

  5. still yellow party does not know how democracy works ?

    Majority of Maldivian do not want the dictator Nasheed and we need to a leader not an activist who can mobilize then mobs on the roads.

    MDP have never been able to win any election which had happened in last 3 years and digest this fact.

    3 parlliament sheets whihc had to go for re-election was won by other other parties not MDP.

    90% of all re-election for the councils are won by other parties not MDP.

    We have been telling that Maldivian are not only member of MDP and rest of the people from other parties are also Maldivian and we are the people who will cast the votes and decides who will be our leaders.

    GMR and India is not the one to decide who will be our president .

  6. I know what you need Yaameen Rasheed.. a hug ! Come here buddy... lemme wipe the tears. 🙂 Feel better ?

  7. My dear Democrat. This writing is a column. Minivan News even puts the information below each column they publish:

    "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]"

    Besides, I do agree with the writer. The Maldives electorate still has to mature, which is normal since it's only there since 2008. But even in democratic countries with a lot of experience only a minority of the people have enough insights in politics to make a well considered and reasonable vote.

    Labeling someone white/coconut doesn't add to your credibility by the way. Rather makes you look like another xenophobic mind who really believes evil foreigners are out there to submit The Maldives to their will and their religion.

  8. Good summary.

    It would also be enlightening to see how the demographics were spread between the candidates, and how this ties in with the "insular, insecure and isolationist section of society".

    IMO, generally;

    The young and middle class chose MN, while the old were YAG's stronger demographic (even with policies that target the youth).

    JP and AP have surprisingly cross cutting demographics, AP specializing in the extremist religious/xenophobic area.

    Disagree with author on giving Gasim Ibrahim alone the title of King Maker. That should read as GI and AP in the role of King Maker.

    Now there's a scary thought - Adhaalath Party in role of King Maker.

  9. Note to moderator;

    Appreciate if you could add @RiyazMansoor to the end of my last comment, and remove this one 🙂

  10. @democrat

    I disagree with this becoming a racial issue, but I agree with you on the basis that our country is for our people, and our decisions should be for our people as well. Xenophobia is bad, but Isolationism is not at all bad. If a country or group of people want to be left to their own devices its not anyone elses business.

    I dont want globalization forced down our throats. Globalization of before was mass extinction and colonialism of natives by the west, starting from the native americans, to the horrible massacres in the phillipines, india, africa, south asia and few attempts at even taking over maldives as well.
    And now you expect us to welcome you with open arms when you are underhandedly attempting to strip us of our faith? Raping our integrity?
    And these pathetic excuses of maldivians welcoming this type of intrusion, who whose forefathers would roll over in shame for their current feeble behaviour.

    Not hateful towards anyone on the outside, nothing wrong with trading, But we dont have to be like you, and you outsiders have no authority in our lands. And this land is OUR land.

  11. "......clinched the victory by a slim margin of merely 5374 votes."

    The slim electoral margin stated implies and small mandate, which is untrue. The following major events transpired before the vote -

    1) Feb 7th mutiny and forcible resignation of the MDP President
    2) Police impunity and brutality inadequately investigated
    3) Justice Ali Hameed fiasco
    4) Sept 7th vote annulled (through Ali Hameed)
    5) 2 elections forcibly stopped at the eleventh hour
    6) The second round again stopped by Yameen although the date was agreed upon by all candidates
    7) The Nov 9th elections result show clearly that there was no basis for the annulment of 7th Sept election

    Despite all of the above aggravations caused by PPM, they still managed to gain the majority vote. If there was any sense of anger, indignation, or unhappiness it was not shown. This seemingly slight majority gives the a free hand to the PPM in my opinion.

  12. @ Ekoloas
    just by writing "all comment pieces are the sole view of author.." does not absolve the website from any blame. It is the author/ whoever running this site that decides to publish the comments in the first place.
    Anyone ever wonder why they always publish these sort of pro-MDP anti religion comments only.
    surely there are many good writers who have a different view than those of MDP. There are some blogs like that too. why cant they republish it here with permission?
    The only reason is that it differs from the editorial policy of this website which is to present only MDP views and hatred against islam and its followers.

  13. The parties had one agenda to keep anni out even if it was to lick each others baltz and did they do and some a$$hole is become the president,
    The year is now 2003 in our country we been pushed 10 years back next year will be in living in caves made of sand.

  14. Nasheed together with EC and common wealth and India tried to have the election forcefully with a loop holes for rigging the votes.

    If Nasheed was so comfortable in winning election, why the hell he never allow the other candidates to check the correctness of voters list in the first place?

    EC together with Nasheed had tried very hard to come to power by hook or crook.

  15. Very good analysis of the situation and well written. Some Maldivians are easy to accept nationalism and isolationistic thinking combined with duty to Islam as a safety net. Democracy is an unknown to some and frankly scares them. This fear was used Yameen and used well.Clearly a coalition cannot have an agreed agenda and no one really knows what Yameens is. So, what to expect? That is what scares freedom and Democratic supporters...a return to the Gayoom dictatorship. A disastrous thought for the Maldives if it were to happen.

  16. We've seen it before. abc+def+ghi+klmn+opq+hiv+idp+un+f*#k+ppm+jp+rst+uvw+wxqz+wtf is in the coalition. Will fall apart as soon as promises fail to materialize. Democrats can fill the leadership void via the Majlis.

  17. Hero probably fits into that xenophobic,qawm and dheen individual who believes in the supreme white race of the Maldivians whom he also believes are the chosen one by God to show to the kuffar westerners that it is a miracle for this 100% muslims can live on small islands in the middle of the giant indian ocean(They knows not that even Allahs benevolance is on every human including kiribathis).We have a 100000 of these true muslims who can be fooled to believe in anything.This kind of people cannot fathom why dhiraagu or MWSC have done so well and on the other hand why MTCC or STO had failed so miserably.Dear leadrer have made them believe that this supreme race of people can conqure the higest peak or do the impossible.Stupid hare brained people are proud of their achievements at Hulhule as an international airport.These 100000 people probably never traversed beyond trivandrum

  18. @Don Cramer:

    Wouldn't you agree that it's not so much a Maldivian phenomenon but a wordlwide aspect of party politics. There's always a party that chooses to appeal to progressive, free-thinking, urban voters. While the opposing party plays on the fears of rural, conservative and often religiously-devout elements.

    So long as the dichotomy is not let to violence or intolerance the two ideologies can coexist and complement each other. Sometimes conservative thinking can be useful by reasserting nationalistic values and reinforcing national pride (I am in no way saying it does not have its faults).

    Meanwhile liberal thinking and free spirited activism helps to keep the young engaged in politics and ward off the extreme xenophobia and religious intolerance.

    I am sure the country can never return to the period between 1978-2003. We were a different people then. The Maldivian people have displayed that they want to take part in the governance of the country and that they will not easily return to the self-censorship of days gone by. With an opposition led by one of the most charismatic activists this side of the hemisphere, I think the government will be kept on its toes.

  19. Ed. needs to cut down the size of these 'analyses'. It gets dull the longer and more frequently the author writes.

    "The elections prove one thing: the Maldives electorate is yet to mature.... It was clear that a large section of the public was not going to be swayed..." "Furthermore..." "Furthermore..."

    Maybe it is unfair to say most of the piece can be reduced to unfounded assumptions. But the author does so often compose line after line of implicit and explicit generalising not to mention politicised rambling unsupported by any sort of acknowledgement of micro and macro context.

    "A more isolated, isolationist, xenophobic and paranoid Maldives that is still susceptible to dangerous emotive politics..."

    Subjective positioning much.

    "It is remarkable that this victory was pulled off on the back of exaggerated anti-Nasheed rhetoric with strong Islamist and hyper-nationalist overtones..."

    What? How do you know? Remarkable because...? To the contrary, the tactics were anything but remarkable because it is an obvious strategy and the easiest one.

    What did I learn from reading this article? Nothing, because all the questions you raise are rhetorical. Because we already know the answers. Your use of the question mark - to quote: "?...?...?...?...?...?" – is frustrating no less because it coveys more of a superiority/inferiority complex than any sort of informed argument. At one point there are 4 questions in a row. Write through the sentence, Inshallah, and stop badgering the reader. Just get on with your point.

    And you over-exaggerate the effect of anti-campaining - a 'fantastic nature'? … 'strong Islamist and hyper-nationalist overtones'?

    Yes, strong Islamist but certainly not hyper-nationalist. If anything the two notions in the same sentence are oxymoronic, when the Islamists are pushing for integration with the international wahhabi movement. Besides, hyper-nationalist is what happened in Yugoslavia which lead to the implosion of the federation along ethic and religious lines. Certainly the Maldives is not there (at least not yet).

    "The concerns for liberals are clear... The fear is that instead of a modern, cosmopolitan outlook necessary to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world." Liberals? Really? This is not what liberals are on about. Liberals are about rights and liberty, not the globalisation of material goods and services.

    A redeeming comment is: "When slightly more than half the voting public gives a mandate to a media-hostile, blatantly anti-democratic coalition put together by a former dictator, it surely justifies this apprehension."

    The cause you support may be just but you do it no justice with this piece.

  20. Minivan and the white/coconut entourage of Anni, still don't get it. Let me summarise where you screwed up.

    1. Anni got carried away by all the attention of being a global eco-warrior. He spent more than 50% of his time away from Male in 2009-2012.

    2. Anni therefore neglected the local politics and got completely over-confident. In an act of arrogance, he arrested Chief Justice Abdulla. Until this point, the justice system was held in high regard in the Maldives, and no wonder the people took to the streets. Not a coup, simply a popular uprising (of course with Gayoom support). This is what happens when you don't focus on what you were elected for - to run the Maldives.

    3. The activist in Anni never left him - he even organised a protest in Male when he was the President!

    4. The white/coconuts grew in power which brew resentment among Anni's close political colleagues. Strategic mistake of appointing a former Christian priest as the Maldivian 'Ambassador' in the middle of nowhere in the UK, epitomised this 'bubble thinking'.

    5. Anni smoking a joint or having a glass of alcohol (nothing wrong with that) was too well known in Male. Something, unfortunately, you have to give up if you are going to be President of a Islamic country.

    6. Anni overplayed the Indian angle - even hiding in the Indian embassy for a while. Yes - the GMR was a massive fiasco, courtesy of Waheed, but the current Indian government is spineless. Anni thought that India will coerce Waheed and others and India will ensure Anni's election as President, but, that was wishful thinking.

    Maldives needs foreigners, but, only as tourists. We don't need any Neo-colonial thinking of the sort that Minivan promotes. As Anni is a keen reader of this column, I hope he learns from the above. Ditch the white/coconut advisers - get some real, grounded educated Maldivians and rebuild. You will have your chance again.

  21. ''clinched the victory by a slim margin of merely 5374 votes''
    correction a margin of 6022 votes. get your facts correct.

  22. Correction democrat…
    The freedom you have to open your mouth is due to Anni. The Fish brained bipolar fishermen like you brought instability in the country because you don’t know what democracy is and could not digest Anni to be the president of Maldives. You used all your mussels to derail the democracy but Anni kept the course and idiots like you will never be able to change the course. Now all the power starts from the simplest citizen; fishermen, farmers, resort workers, and people like you who think that few of you who can write some rubbish or have some fake qualification are the people who can control the mass. You don’t need to get the facts, you are damn finished and this is all about now. The victor is Anni just see and watch. Once these empowered simple people realize what are their rights and what they should expect from politician, your game of religion will be over and this will happen soon.

  23. MDP needs an introspection : reasons for the desertion of alliance partners of MDP of 2008 within a span of an year or two and finally led all to be behind the PPM (the real DRP of 2008?)in 2013? Though religion ( deen) and nationalism ( gaumee) were the two catch phrases of political propaganda of PPM and its allies in this election, MDP need to look whether its actions really created the porous soil for the filtration of these catch phrases towards the masses ? Maldivian vote bank does not grow from international media ; it needs to be indigenous . Every one falls, the question is whether one can stand up before the bell rings..

  24. ނަޝީދު ނުހޮވުނަސް ކިހާ އަމާންކޮށްތޯ ކަންތައްތައް ދިޔައީ! ކިހާ ތހުޒީބުތޯ! ފުރަތަމަބުރު ނަޝީދަށް 95،224 ވޯޓް ލިބުމާއި އެކު އެރެއިން އެރެއަށް އެމްޑީޕީ އޮފީހަށް ބަޔަކު ޙަމަލާދިން. އަދި ހަމަ އެރޭ އެމްޑީޕީ ގެ މާލޭގައި ހުރި 8 ޖަގަހައަަކަށް ޕެޓްރޯލް ބޮން އުކި. އަދި މާލޭގެ 3 ތަނެއްގައި އަލިފާން ރޯކުރި.
    ނަޝީދު ހޮވުނުނަމަ، ބަޔަކު ނިކުމެ މުޅި މާލޭގެ އެކި ތަންތަނުގައި ރޯކުރީސް. އަދި ސްޕްރީމް ކޯޓް ވެސް އޮންނާނީ ހޭލާ. އަނެއްދުވަހު ހުވައެއް ވެސް ލައެއް ނުދޭނެ. މިތަނުގައި އުޅޭ ހައްދުފަހަަނައަޅާފައިވާ މީހުންނާއި ގޭންގް ސްޓާރުން ނިކުމެ މިރާއްޖޭގެ ދުވަސް ދުއްވާލީސް.
    ދިވެހިންނަށް ކަންކަން ފަހުމްވާނީ ވަރަށް ފަހުން. ވިސްނަވާ! 1953 ގެ ފުރަތަމަ ޖުމުހޫރިއްޔާއަށް ފަހު ރަސްކަން ވެސް އައި. 2008 ގެ ޑިމޮކްރަސީއަށް ފަހު މިއޮތީ ޚުދުމުޚުތާރިއްޔާ އައިސް. އިރާދަކުރެއްވިއްޔާ 2018 ގައި ޑިމޮކްރަސީ އެނބުރި އަންނާނެ.

  25. whether we like it or not qasim and Hassan saeedh is part of this struggle one from front and one from behind. abandoning or alienating both is loss of 100000 vote bank. at least you need one. and if one is on MDP side the elections is MDPs for the taking for next 50 years.

  26. As a foreigner and friends of many Maldivians, I am very happy that a President has been elected after much delayed,cancelled and rescheduled Maldivian Presidential elections.

    Now it's time to work for the country and lift up the economy as it is based mainly on tourism. There is no doubt that all parties should put hands together.

    Very Sad for Nasheed and hope good luck to the new President.
    I ask Allah to protect the country and bestow favour on the People of Maldives.

    Hope to have a good relation between Maldives and Mauritus.

    Ahmad Fawzi


Comments are closed.