Comment: Nasheed’s messy democratic revolution

Before we go to the ballot box again, we must understand why the first elected government was so short-lived. Some point to Nasheed’s activist personality, others to Gayoom’s control over the judiciary, and many cite political opponents’ impatience to attain power. All these highlight the dominance of personalities in our political landscape, and the lack of institutionalism in political behavior and state affairs. One underlying factor, that has received little attention in the public domain, but is emerging as Waheed’s ministers dissect Nasheed’s policies, is the economy.

Incumbents generally avoid talking about sovereign debt, budget deficits, and budget cuts, unless they are criticising their opponent’s budget in a campaign trail. And the few times that a sitting president talks about his own budget, it is a glossed over version of how well the economy is doing, how the GDP will double in the coming year, how inflation is expected to fall, and how food and fuel prices will drop to affordable levels. The electorate is usually unaware of how serious the budget deficit is, and ignorant of the perplexities involved in budget cuts under a democratic government. So it is no surprise that the electorate judges its government unfairly when it comes to economic management. Most accept the hollow promises, and expect results, but governments that are strapped for cash, more often than not, cannot deliver.

This poses big problems for a developing country struggling to implement democracy. First, the pressure on incumbents to deliver in times of deficits threatens democratic institutionalisation. Nasheed, who was up for re-election, tried to deliver at any cost, and chose to bypass democratic practices to achieve quick results. Take for example the airport lease. To meet budget needs, Nasheed chose the bidder who offered the largest sum up front, not the bidder with the best plan. When the airport board resigned, he put together a new board overnight to force the deal amidst allegations of foul play. The opposition was no doubt disloyal and irresponsible under Nasheed, and attempted to block and discredit his administration on all fronts. Nasheed tackled these problems by choosing to interpret laws and regulations in his favor, which meant there was little conformity in the state of affairs. Alas, the process of democratic institutionalization was nipped in the bud.

But the deeper problem for democracy in Maldives is not this.

Corrupt practices, and the dominance of personalities over institutions are merely manifestations of a problem that runs deeper: It essentially boils down to the dilemma of maintaining democracy without its protectors, saviors, and messiahs, in other words, a middle class; a middle class that will prop up democracy because it is the most conducive system to protecting its economic interests, and values of individual autonomy and self-expression.

If a middle class exists in Maldives, it has neither the numbers, nor the voice, to stand up for democratic principles.

Agents of Democracy

Middles classes are central to democratic analyses for two reasons: they install democracy, and ensure that it is “the only game in town” and there to stay.

Historically, democracy was born out of revolutions led or hijacked by the bourgeois, the land-owning middle class. In the UK, democracy followed the Glorious Revolution of the 17th century where the bourgeois who had accumulated wealth over time, gained enough power in the Long Parliament to demand that the king trade some political power in return for the right to tax. Likewise, in France, a revolution planted the seeds of democracy. In the 1700s, the French bourgeoisie, aided by a peasant revolution, formed the Constituent Assembly in opposition to the Estates General, abolished feudalism, and established the first French Republic.

Several centuries later, the salience of the middle class for democracy is not lost on us. Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote a paper recently asking, “Can liberal democracy survive the decline of the middle class?” In it, he argues that one of challenges to democracy today is the left’s inability to articulate a realistic agenda that has any hope of protecting a middle-class society.

A multiparty election in 2008 in Maldives was not a result of a mass movement, or a middle class led revolution. It was as much a coup from within against Gayoom by his own ministers, and pressure from outside by a group of courageous and determined individuals, and by foreign governments. For a short key duration, this medley of actors took upon themselves, the responsibilities of a middle class, and installed democracy in Maldives.

The Middle Class Dilemma

If the role of the middle class as initiators has been lacking in second and third wave democracies, its absence is all the more apparent in the aftermath of the first free and fair elections. Political scientists concede that the statement “No bourgeois, no democracy,” holds true in most cases. The theory goes that, industrialisation sets in motion a process of modernisation that penetrates all aspects of life, “bringing occupational specialisation, urbanisation, rising educational levels, rising life expectancy, and rapid economic growth.” In short, industrialisation sets in motion modernization that gives birth to a middle class that at once demand “their right to have rights.” The order is important: development leads to democracy, because it creates a middle class in whose self-interest it is to support democratic values. The history of democracy in the West suggests that the growth of a middle class must precede the successful installation of democracy.

This sequence of events- industrialisation, modernisation, democracy- poses a grave problem for us.

To create a middle class, there has to be development. But fostering development within a democratic framework is a serious challenge in low-income countries. Nasheed was handed this gargantuan task when he came to power in 2008. Indian Scholar Ashutosh Varshney explains India’s struggle to do the same: “India is attempting a transformation few nations in modern history have successfully managed: liberalising the economy within an established democratic order.It is hard to escape the impression that market interests and democratic principles are uneasily aligned in India today. The two are not inherently contradictory, but there are tensions between them that India’s leaders will have to manage carefully.”

Why? Because “market-based policies meant to increase the efficiency of the aggregate economy frequently generate short-term dislocations and resentment. In a democratic polity, this resentment often translates at the ballot box into a halt or a reversal of pro-market reforms.” Successful western democracies, the US, the U., and France installed democracies after their countries transitioned to capitalist modes of production and modernised. They liberalised their markets before universal suffrage.

Nasheed’s struggle

Absent development or a revolution that transforms the economy in favor of the many, the onus of creating a middle class falls on the nascent democratic government. Nasheed’s policy objectives were in line with creating a middle class. Whether he implemented market reforms because of serious budget deficits or because of a genuine concern with redistribution, is beside the point. Head on, and fully aware who held the reigns to campaign funds, Nasheed tackled the loaded question of how to shift from an economy that enriches a few, to one that increases the pie and divvies it up more equally.

All said and done, and numerous controversies over lease agreements, minimum wage bills, and the right to strike, his tax reforms were a revolutionary break with the past. It was a first attempt at usurping the status quo. There were more. The barter system- trading an island for a harbor, a sewerage system, or a housing project- drove down the value of uninhabited islands, threatened to increase supply, and drive down the value of existing tourism products. Not only did Nasheed increase supply, but islands were handed left and right to new entrants to the tourism industry, threatening the existing oligarchy. In short, if there was a democratic revolution in Maldives, it was during Nasheed’s administration, encapsulated in his controversial market reforms that attempted to usurp the status quo, and re-distribute wealth. It was messy, it was fraught with corruption, but it was the closest we came to one.

Whereas market reforms disproportionately affect the poor in neighboring India, the unique Maldivian economy dictated that the grand oligarchy, the tourism tycoons, bore the brunt of market reforms in Maldives. A backlash was to be expected.

Nasheed’s mistake

Nasheed administration’s struggles demonstrate the dissonance in democratic theory when applied in a postindustrial world. But he also made calls that were unnecessary, and aggravated the problem of consolidating democracy without a middle class.

One of Nasheed’s biggest mistakes was in trying to modernise the masses overnight, before his policies yielded results. In a parallel process (to his market reforms), and too late in the game, Nasheed attempted to modernise through rhetoric (the likes of “Medhumin Rally”), poor decision-making (SAARC monuments), and behavior that cast him as not Islamic enough. He challenged the majority’s most dearly held identity, which is growing to be a stronger Islamic identity. The process of modernising a people is a carefully measured process that requires a special focus on reform in the economic and social realms, so that wealth and intellect are distributed more equally. And it takes time.

So it is no surprise that despite building several harbors, installing a health post on every inhabited island, increasing housing units in urban areas, and implementing a tax system, people in the outer islands, who benefited more under Nasheed than Gayoom, continues to support Gayoom’s party over the MDP. In the local council elections, which served as a referendum on the MDP government, the MDP lost most of the council seats in the outer islands, despite a well-organised campaign, and over 100 island visits by Nasheed himself.

Given such realities, the next elected government should expect no immediate rewards from the masses at the ballot box contingent on policy successes, and must be wise enough to withstand a backlash from the wealthy in the face of controversial yet necessary market reforms. The next government we elect will face the same challenges Nasheed’s did, but it can avoid ad hoc and impulsive decision-making that contributed to his accelerated downfall.

Fostering development that creates a middle class within a democratic framework is a serious challenge, perhaps one that has very few success stories. But one thing is for certain: it requires a strategising leadership that is strong enough to stand up to the business elite, yet thoughtful enough to understand the nuances dictating democratic consolidation.

The way things are moving in Maldives, I doubt we will have an election before 2013. But a bigger threat for democracy in Maldives is, come Election Day, we may not have a strong and serious leadership to vote for. If the focus is only on an election date, we are giving our politicians a free ride to power, and passing on a second chance at democracy.

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13 thoughts on “Comment: Nasheed’s messy democratic revolution”

  1. You quite rightly point out that those who gained the most from the govt spurned the MDP. However I do not agree with your reasoning. The poor islanders are the least educated and most indoctrinated under the Maumoon dogma; therefore they were the most vulnerable to opposition propaganda. However, the large populations in Male, Addu, Kulhudhuffushi and Thinadhoo combined to provide MDP with overall more votes than all parties combined. If this was the Presidential elections, MDP would have won. The reason why MDP gained more votes in the "cities" is clear, better access to information, better educated people, more people from these areas are travelled, worked in resorts, have access to and use the internet to get and share information. These voters are our "middle class" and can clearly see through the coup leaders' intentions today. These are the people protesting today, on the streets, on the internet and in their conscience.

    You fail to note that the Council elections took place after the devaluation of the Rufiyaa; the price of food and everyday supplies were soaring. Yet MDP the incumbent, garnered majority votes. In most countries the incumbent would be trounced. Although the MDP did a poor job, the majority of citizens saw the opposition for what they were, proxies of the ex dictator.

    Nasheed and MDP's biggest single mistake was in being lazy, over confident and might I say arrogant prior to the Majlis elections (they corrected this during the council elections). The MDP' failure to lead a tight knit organized campaign lead them lose more than half a dozen seats to the then DRP PA. There were many allies and MDP members contesting against each other dividing the vote. Think of how many DRP PA guys scraped through by a a few dozen votes? This lead to among other things to political deadlock and our wonderful Judiciary.

    The "monuments" you mention was just one of the many excuses which the opposition used to discredit and protest. if the monuments didn't exist they would find another excuse.

    All political science text books point to a middle class which leads a country to democracy. The text books were hardly written in the context of our country which I dare say is unique.

    I believe the pandoras box has been opened and Dr Waheed has now realized his folly. The reason he is unwilling to give up is because he stands on a metaphorical land mine; can't stand down and can't stay on. The idea behind the coup was that the world and the people of this country move on and accept injustice. Bad mistake. An election is inevitable and judging by the mood, we all know what the outcome is going to be.

  2. True, that middle class is the guardian of democracy. But Nasheed's policies were largely in the opposite direction.

    The bastion of middle class is the civil service.
    However, the first order of business in Nasheed's administration was to sideline the civil service with clueless political appointees. As a result the civil service is reduced to receptionists and clerks.
    Mind you, that the organizers of the pro-Islam rally were lead by civil servants organization.

    Next, political bribery tactics were used to woo the 'under class' with promise of free health, housing etc - a short term tactic with the budget deficits

    Nasheed's failure (just as Gayoom's) had been the lack of an economic inspiration. Both of them did not have a long term plan to manage the massive challenges of globalization, which is really what nailed Gayoom.

    Gayooms version of globalization has been the environment while Nasheeds version is environment and human rights. Economy does not feature in either of the cases. Waheed if continues in the same path, is guaranteed to fall sooner than later.

    To put all eggs in the basket of democracy and human rights is not going to help Maldives to adjust the new realities that are faced. Ignoring the power of globalization is missing the elephant in the room.

  3. Too erudite. Do you expect us common men to understand this. Is this some sort of a research paper written for academia?

  4. Era

    This is a very interesting article. Great to know that there are articulate thinking Maldivians out there who don't just blurt out the usual cliche's.

    Allow me, if you may, a few critical comments so that your articles would get even better in the future. You clearly have the mind of a great political philosopher, but you also now need to explain it with more accuracy and less words.

    Leaving all judgement aside, from a purely strategic point of view, I agree with you that President Nasheed made many mistakes. While admitting that many of his actions were political blunders, I think that history will probably show him also to be working under a tremendous amount of pressure which has not been properly acknowledged.

    First and foremost however, you should understand a little bit more about the issue surrounding the airport. Your point about the airport being 'given' to a less favourable candidate over a more favourable one because they paid more money - it was never Anni's decision who was going to get the airport. Deciding on who is the most 'favourable' candidate to take over a government asset is frought with such subjective bias, that ultimately all participants simply had to pass a minimum quality check. Being able to build, run and deliver great KPIs for a number of international airports (Delhi, Turkey) GMR passed this test just as well as all the other three bidders. Ultimately, it was a race that boiled down to who would pay more. Arranging the bid as to who Anni/Finance Minister/MPs/World Bank see as the 'most qualified' to run the airport is neither a sustainable nor an effective way to do this kind of bidding.

    Secondly, there was the question of why the airport had to be privatised in the first place - the country was bankrupt and we had the IMF saying the only way a loan could be arranged was if such a policy could be put in place. No doubt, no government in their right mind would admit to being the puppets of their lenders, but this was the situation we were in in 2008-2009. Anni (as any politician did) - simply tried to sell it in a positive way.

    Dont get me wrong - I agree with much of what you're saying. It will however be an interesting discussion on things will move from here. Unfortunate as it is, few Maldivians are as independent and intellectually inclined towards an impartial analysis as you are. In fact, even in developed democracies, most simply do not care about these subtleties - they care more about celebrities and sex.

    The fundamental question is - are you saying that without a 'middle-class' - democracy is doomed to failure? I will then question as to whether what we have in the Maldives is not 'middle-class'. The reason why the 'working-classes' are less amenable to democracy (and not one i agree with), is arguably because they are so concerned with staying alive on a hand-to-mouth existence, that freedom and intellectual property mean nothing to them. However, we in the Maldives do not have the abject poor in the way that we used to. 1/3rd of the country live in Male- and about 20% of the rest live in bigish islands. While incredibly tough, I don't think there are same percentages of people living in abject poverty as there are in Africa and the Indian sub-continent.

    So perhaps there's another reason why democracy isn't working in the Maldives?

  5. Era,
    You seemed to have left out the role of media, particularly that of DhiTV, VTV, Haveeru and sun played in derailing democracy and intentionally cover up whatever good that was done by nasheeds government.

    Another important factor you have erroneously analysed is the giving out of resort islands on barter. If you recall it was in maumoons government in early 2000 that the first wave of resorts were leased out with 50% of the 100% score being given to the highest rent proposed by bidder. Under this scheme rents skyrocketed beyond what is feasible and bankable. But even then, banks continued to finance projects due to much speculated up market tourist potential. But then in 2008, the world was hit by an acute financial crisis from which even the western world as well as our small fragile economy could not escape. This contributed to the default of the old projects gayoom had initiated further hindering the financing of new projects amidst the financial crisis.

    Despite the almost impossible of circumstances, both internal due to politics and external, I still believe Nasheed did as much as he can to execute his promises. If that is his mistake, then yes, he is guilty of burning not only the cake that's already overheating but in this case the oven itself.

  6. When tourism was first introduced to the Maldives in the 1970s, the family members and supporters of the then President Ibrahim Nasir were beneficiaries of the industry which would evolve to become the largest foreign currency earner for Maldives. Not only did Nasir's family members own resorts but in what could today be described a grand act of corruption, Nasir owned shares in Crescent company which was operating several resorts.

    When Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became the president of Maldives, with the promise of greater social equality, he immediately began to rattle the tourism industry and the existing status quo. Nasir's family members such as Kerafa Ahmed Naseem became victims of a witch-hunt and allegations of a coup attempt against Gayoom. The resorts that Kerafa family owned were confiscated by the government and handed over to loyalists. The island of Rannalhi was handed over to Gogo Latheef and friends for their role in bringing Gayoom to power.

    Few entrepreneurs from the 70s were able to survive in the early days of Gayoom's rule by lending their support to the Egypt-educated scholar. During the 30-year-old rule of Gayoom, the early tourism entrepreneurs were able to become multi-millionaires. Add to this story, the likes of Qasim Ibrahim whose rise to fortune came with the blessings of Gayoom's wife's family, the Endherimaage clan.

    As torture escalated in prisons of Maldives, the tourism tycoons turned a blind eye to the repression of the Gayoom regime and continued to fund his presidential campaigns every five years. On every independence day, every republic day and every national day, the local daily paper Haveeru had pages filled with praise for Gayoom from the tourism tycoons.

    As the democracy movement gained momentum post-Eavan Naseem, the tourism tycoons must have made a calculated decision that their support for the aged dictator was not realistic enough to be continued in a long-term. In the presidential campaign of 2008 emerged their own candidate, the soft-spoken Gayoomesque Dr Hassan Saeed. Backed by Gogo Latheef, Solah Shihab, Ahmed Mujthaba, Crown Saleem, Champa Afeef and Bandos Waheed Deen, the former Attorney-General would have stolen the show if not for the smart campaign conducted by the Maldivian Democratic Party under the guidance of British Conservative Party.

    After Mohamed Nasheed became President he did indeed tried to rattle the industry. However, his attempts in handing over several uninhabited islands to newcomers was not done for market reform or wealth redistribution. Like his predecessors Nasir and Gayoom, Nasheed wanted to consolidate his power by creating a new bourgeois class of loyalists. Under the guise of National Planning Committee (NPC) Nasheed was able to award islands to his cronies such as Dhonbile' Ahmed Haleem and Fathimath 'Pre-paid' Shiuna. Nasheed's intention was not creating a middle class but creating a new wealthy class which would support him in 2013 and fund his presidential campaign.

    Handing over islands in return for developing a harbour or a sewerage system was not a prudent policy as in most cases the costs of constructing a harbour or building a sewerage system was comparatively smaller than the benefits the resort owners would have gained for a period that could be extended up to 50 years. Once again the beneficiaries of such projects were usually party loyalists. The acute need in the islands for a habour or a sewerage system was exploited to create the next class of wealth owners.

    The land reclamation projects in islands should be added to this tale of grand corruption. In addition to MDP's 'acting' chairperson (no pun intended) , a number of others in the party hierarchy were benefitting from the projects.

    It is true that Nasheed's policies threatened the existing oligarchy. With the spa ban following the December 23 protest of 2011, the oligarchs must have made their final decision that a power transfer was absolutely necessary to protect their interests. Rather than waiting for the next election, which was two years away, and rather than risking another defeat, they decided to play a dangerous card.

    If the average Maldivians want to break free from the chains of poverty and inequality, they have to stop looking for a hero.

  7. I commend Nasheed's economic reforms including introduction of taxes, which was one of the reasons why people like Gasim hated him. But i think he was sometimes too arrogant and did not listen even to sincere criticism from the people like in the case of the lease of Hulhule' airport to GMR. I like the point about politicians being afraid to tel the truth about the economy, instead simply trying to show dreams wherever they go. In the end they end up paying the price.

  8. Fundamentally, all governments that use the vote and not guns to gain their office of power have to expand the middle class - the alternative is a society where you have not the "have's and have nots" but the "super have's and have nots". Then you get the cycle of revenge aka Mexico and Venezula and a society that is totally prostituted to bribes, begging and worshipping the elite few.

    Extreme religion is a marvellous tool to effectively keep the masses succumbed, not to ask questions and to behave like slaves. How can Gasim preach the good book and yet be the biggest importer of alcohol and pork to this land? Look how the Middle East us being torn apart by its own populations today with the technology awakening and a fresh perspective on how things could be from a global perspective and the individual's rights.

    I can not agree at all that a lazy fat and ineffective government can be credited of supplying the real "middle class". This is a false argument because it is a false economy. Governments should merely effeciently govern, businessmen do business and therefore it should be slimmed down, lean and effecient; just like the way I would run my business.

    To widen the middle class is the only way forward now for the Maldives. You can not uninvent democracy. The elite businessmen at the top would gladly block this to avoid funded the progress for the country.

    As with most political problems, it is all about money - everything else is used to camuflage this crude fact - but it is all about money. Can you imagine how motivated Gasim and Jabir must have been to secure the coup with their overheads.

    The Maldives has a very low population, and a conveyabelt of strong foreign currency from 1 million high yielding tourists / year and yet we still have a "dollar shortage" - that is mathematically impossible but throw in Yameen and the black market and there you have it! The success of the GST and taxing the super rich has made huge progrees to reduce the debt. Have we not forgotten Maumoon's yacht and palace - who paid for that?

    To widen the middle class is the only way to a modern economy and a fair democratic society. Anni is the best bet by far - next time he will be smarter and better and wiser.

  9. nice piece. and for those who think civil servants are "middle class". gets some education. they must be working class. middle class the people with small businesses, male' landlords with small plots of land, and perhaps senior management people in state and private institutions.

    the rest of us, working class. the revolution should happen here too!

  10. Good article in an academical way but the reality is different on the ground.

    I agree that most people would see what is happening outside but on the inside it is not so clear.

    Anni does not run the government based on a collective responsibility. It is run in his whims and his fancy. The Ministers are there to make numbers. he sometimes even side line them and go to MDP party activists who are the position of State Ministers and Deputy Ministers. This made the government unworkable. All it created was chaos.

    Then there is the influence of others on Anni. They made all the important calls and not Anni. This became a personal interest thing instead of the country being at the fore front.

    He was also influenced by the Thatcherite dogma of privatising all state industries. This worked to a good extent in the 80 and 90 but not now. Even in the UK they are even thinking of nationalising the British Rail.

    It is true that economic factors did not help Maldives. The middle class can only stand up on their own feet if the circumstances allow them to do so. It is the duty of any government to do so but no government in Maldives has so far helped the middle class to attain this level.
    One problem of course is that we have no central bank that functions as a central bank. Our own MMA is a disaster and has been one for a long time.
    They do not set interest rates and they make too high demands on the foreign banks here in Maldives. Apart from BML, the rest are only branches and not banks and I do not see why MMA should restrict the loans these banks could give when they have billions as reserves outside of Maldives. After all if the borrower defaults these banks have the capacity not to fold.
    Then interests rates are way too high. The middle class struggle to pay the high interests. In almost all the countries when there is a depression or an economic down turn the central bank would lover interest rates to re -generate the economy. I am amazed that even with interest rates as high as 15% how people survive.

    Liberalmind, I hate to say that you have no clue about the airport and GMR.

    Anni wanted to give the airport to GMR. He made sure that the people involved in the evaluation bid knew that GMR was his preferred option.
    The evaluation bid was not an evaluation bid at all but the people there were just like puppets who were asked to tick some boxes by IFC.

    They were not even allowed to question or evaluate any terms on the bids offered on a technical basis.
    Of course any idiot can say that they would fulfil the requirements but if the evaluation committee cannot question the bidders on how as to they would meet the requirements, then what is the point of evaluation any bid?
    This is what happened to the Airport bid. That is why the Board resigned( or the Chairman of the Board) resigned.

    The second point of the refusal of a loan to the airport is pure Bunk. The airport itself generated millions of dollars and the airport would have been able to obtain commercial loans of around 4% to 5% on very favourable terms.
    Furthermore, the other bidders were offering a JV with the Maldivian Government. This offer was better in the sense they themselves would raise the finances for the airport without any input from the Maldivian Government using their own sources.
    The other bidder was Paris Aiport and Turkey Airports. If you think Delhi is better than Charles De Galle/ Orly or even Istanbul then I am afraid your knowledge is aviation does not seem credible.

    The airport was a huge mistake and he refused to accept the advice of aviation experts in the Maldives in this.

    Sure he did some good things like freedom of speech etc but most of things he tried to do was not right. It is the case of two wrongs do not make a right.

    yes the opposition was also like a bunch of thugs hell bent on destroying democracy in Maldives. The media too played a part.
    He also appointed incompetent people to good positions with high salaries and they would have to contribute part of their salaries to MDP.

    The economic situation of taxes is not a good thing for Maldives. Especially income tax.Any sensible economist would tell you that 40% of the GDP is good enough for any country. We earn that much in reserve so we do not need taxes. What we need is sensible spending. This would cut down the deficit and balance the budget.
    As far as the dollar shortage the main reason is the policy of the MMA. They for some ridiculous reason decided the peg the dollars as 15.42 ruffiyya. Only an imbecile would think that it would flush out the black market.

    It is too long to write all what went wrong with the Anni government and people in the inside also knows that there were personal issues with him and some of his closest friends in the party that was detrimental to the country.

    Finally I have to say that he acted as if he was only the President of MDP and not of the rest of the Maldives. This is probably what brought him down.

  11. Anni was a great democrat when he is not President. When he was President he made many people, many new people rich. Nothing wrong with that. It is called redistribution of wealth in economics. Nasir made himself rich( and his wife's bro Kerafaa Naseem and friends like Kandi and Karankaa Rasheed rich.Mammon made his cronies rich. Now it is Waheed's turn.
    This is called third world democracy!

  12. This article should be lauded for starting a dialogue on events based on an evaluation of the systemic issues plaguing our democratic consolidation.

    Might I just point the writer towards an examination of the numbers in both the Parliamentary and Local Government elections. The LG elections had extremely poor voter turnout in Male where the educated elite mostly reside. There were also concerns issued by Transparency Maldives about the low voter awareness and the only availability of information being that provided by political parties in a manner biased to suit them.

    I disagree with your characterization of the Nasheed regime's opening up of private islands for lease as market liberalization. First and foremost the Nasheed regime never publicized any guideline under which the private islands were to be leased. Secondly there were serious allegations of discrimination in how those islands were handed out. These allegations could not properly be addressed as legal loopholes were used to ward off the anti-corruption agencies such as the ACC and the Auditor General. Thirdly the islands were offered on a conditional basis to low-income individuals and businesses demanding that they carry out infrastructure development projects at high capital cost. This does not seem to be a well-thought out market reform if examined in this perspective.

    The Nasheed regime lost all trappings of a reform movement when it began to play power politics. As you so rightly point out there are several reasons why this happened. However the electorate mainly voted Nasheed in hoping that his rule would be different from Qayyoom's. Yet the problems that affected public confidence in Qayyoom; poor accountability, discrimination, nepotism and lack of economic foresight; lost the Nasheed regime support from across a large cross-section of Maldivian society.

  13. One of the reason for Nasheed's downfall was that his revolution was too messy for the liking of some people. He was ambitious. He had a grand dream. He wanted Maldives to be liberal in a religious sense. He underestimated the Mullah's power. His projects were expensive. He wanted to increase state revenue by introducing various taxes which angered the elite. He stepped out of chart on many occasions giving his enemies ammunition to out him.
    He made gross mistake by controlling and spreading propaganda on state media.
    He arrested Abdulla Gaazee provoking all the protests. All these contributed to his down fall. For me he should be thankful for the fact he survived that long(3 years).
    However democratic process will continue to grow and cannot be reversed.


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