In many cases social scientists have observed that multiparty systems, especially in a presidential political system, have inevitably transformed into two-party contests. While many parties are usually present at birth of a nascent democracy, as it matures the contest for power between these parties slowly become a fight for survival ensuring that only the strongest parties survive.
The video below demonstrates how multiparty systems filter out smaller parties as the democracy matures:
We are not of the view that a two-party system is better than a multiparty system. In fact a multiparty political system allows for more voter choice. We however do think that a multiparty system is much less likely to occur in a presidential system compared to a parliamentary political system (which is perhaps why MDP was right in endorsing a parliamentary political system when it was put to referenda). Maldivian politics too, seems like it is moving towards a two party political system. While it might be too soon to jump to conclusions, here is how we think it might happen;
The reason why we think MDP and PPM are the most likely two parties to survive is because we believe that they are the two parties with strong and exclusive principles. MDP was the founding party of Maldivian Democracy. It has stood boldly for individual freedoms, social welfare and has continuously opposed the use of force in maintaining social order (at least in principle). PPM on the other hand has endorsed a system Maldivians saw for 30 years where the emphasis is on social order, even at the expense of individual freedoms.
DRP though part of Ithihad (coalition), we predict that them moving away from it. First of all they took the bold move of forcing Gayoom to leave the party, and since then tension between DRP and PPM have been unresolvable.
Most PPM supporters feel bitter about DRP and are less likely to work with them. We think that feeling is mutual from DRP supporters towards PPM as well. The only thing now keeping MDP and DRP separated seems to be their disagreement with Mohamed Nasheed. Even then, we think if the earliest elections move to a second round DRP is much more likely to endorse the MDP candidate over Gayoom.
Given that we feel that both MDP and DRP will maintain similar ideologies the question must be answered as to why we believe MDP will survive over DRP. This is because MDP by far has a larger support base than DRP; whose members seem to be still stuck on crossroads after Gayoom left the party to form PPM.
Secondly, MDP is the party that founded democracy, and has continued to mature with these same principles while DRP was a party used to support an autocrat who they seem to disagree with now. In terms of number and consistency, it’s easy to see why MDP will win over DRP. We also predict PPM to win over DRP in the first round of the next election.
Apart from the fact that PPM continues to win former DRP members, PPM also enjoys the potential support from AP and JP as part of the Ithihad. Furthermore, we think that the lack of an exclusive principle in DRP means that swing voters who decide to vote for democracy will vote for MDP, leaving DRP expecting to win votes only from their own members.
The Adhaalath Party (AP) seems to be losing a lot of support it used to enjoy from the highly religious community in Maldives. The recent scandals, as well as the contradictory statements regarding political activism by their leaders have casted doubt on their sincerity, credibility, and commitment to Islamic principles.
Though AP leadership is expected to campaign with PPM in the second round of the upcoming elections, overtime the votes of AP members are most likely to transfer to a party which they feel, can accommodate a favorable Islamic environment.
If the Jumhooree Party (JP) was to support a principle; it would be in favor of liberalised markets and maximum commercial freedom. They seem to support least possible taxation and most possible freedoms in terms on investment and commerce. We argue that the party is likely to make coalition with a party that agrees to maintain the trade liberalisation ideology. We also would like to point out that such a coalition makes perfect sense for PPM since there seems to be no conflict of interest in adhering to the principles of JP.
Overall, our conclusion is that Maldives is likely to move towards a two-party political system as the political history matures. Perhaps parties like AP or JP might not completely die out, but it can be said with relative certainty that the main battles for presidency is to most likely happen between MDP and PPM.
This article first appeared on the Freethinker Maldives blog. Republished with permission.
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