The board is set. The pieces are in play. Only the outcome remains to be determined.
This weekend, the people of the Maldives face the starkest of choices: democracy or a return to autocratic one-family rule and authoritarianism. The game of political chess that has ebbed and flowed for the past year and a half reaches its finale on 16th November. It is for each individual to decide what the endgame will be. They should cherish this opportunity to choose their president because, if they choose unwisely, it will be their last.
So what is the choice?
If you cut through the rhetoric, the claim and counter-claim that “we are for democracy” and “the other candidate is a dictator”, and look instead at actions over recent months, the choice is stark.
On one side of this political game of chess are arrayed the forces of elitism, the ‘deep state’, one-family rule; those who wish to maintain the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few, those who believe human rights are mere words on a piece of paper. These individuals, led by Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of the country’s old autocrat, are people who bribe judges to do their bidding, who beat up protesters and torture men and women with impunity, people who ignore Constitutional term limits as though they are a simple nuisance. This side – and let us be very clear on this – are enemies of democracy because, quite simply, they treat the will of the people, as exercised through democratic elections, with complete contempt. If they do not like the result, they ask people to vote again. If the timing of the election does not suit them, they ask their friends in the courts to delay the ballot. And make no mistake: if they do not like the result on Saturday, they will do exactly the same again.
On the other side are the forces of democracy, people who, while no more or less perfect than any other politician, nevertheless believe that the only way to govern is with the consent of the people as determined through regular free and fair elections. This side believe a judiciary should be independent in action as well as in law, that judges and the police should be there to protect everyone, not just PPM party members. They hold that the press and independent institutions must likewise be free and independent, and should work with the other ‘estates’ – the Majlis, the presidency and the judiciary – in a delicate balance of government power. They believe in the power of Islam to do good, to bring people together and to foster tolerance, not as a political tool to be wielded and to frighten. They instinctively understand the importance of human rights – the right of freedom of expression, the right of freedom of assembly, the right to food, the right to adequate housing, the right not to be tortured or be arrested arbitrarily by armed thugs calling themselves police. And, crucially, they believe that these rights should be applied equally, to everyone without discrimination.
At its most basic level, the choice is this: if on Saturday you vote for MDP and you don’t like how they govern, then in five years you will be able to vote them out. If, however, you vote for PPM and they seize the presidency, you will never again have a chance to remove them through the ballot box. They will be there, in one form or another, for the rest of your life. The Gayoom clan made the mistake once of allowing free and fair elections, and they lost. They will not make the same mistake again.
It is tempting to wonder how it came to this. How the brave hope of 2008 descended into this fight for the democratic life of the country. A large part of the blame lies with Mohamed Waheed, a man who PPM see as a Pinocchio, a marionette who dances to their tune, while the international community, particularly Sir Don McKinnon and Kamalesh Sharma, probably now view more as a Frankenstein, a monster they created then found they couldn’t control. It is Mohamed Waheed who time and again allowed his limitless ego and frustrated ambition (frustrated because he is as unpopular as he is inept) to get in the way of making the right choices and doing the right thing. He should have resigned in February 2012 and called fresh elections. He didn’t. He should have resigned again on Sunday. Once again he failed to do so. By taking this course all he has achieved is to give time and space for the forces of autocracy to more firmly embed themselves in the Maldives body politic.
Mohamed Waheed should forever be remembered as the man who took Maldives democracy to the edge of a precipice and then went on holiday.
However, now is not the time to look back. It is the time to look towards Saturday and to make the right choice.
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21 thoughts on “Comment: Voting for PPM is voting to never vote again”
Brave comments indeed. Vote in MDP and be confident that in future you can vote them out again. In another few years there might be a credible democratic alternative to MDP, and the people will have the freedom to choose that alternative. Vote for Yameen and you have said goodbye to that future choice, as sure as night follows day.
The sad fact in my mind though, is that the Maldives has already been to this point, back in 2008. The country was well on the way to democracy at that point. If the PEOPLE didn't like the way Nasheed was governing, then they could have voted him out at the next election, but the PEOPLE never got that choice - the bullies were able to force him out undemocratically, and that should never have been allowed to happen. Even if Nasheed triumphs again on Saturday, how do we know that the bully boys will not do the same again in 2014 or 2015?
Unfortunately I don't see a rosy future for this beautiful country.
Democracy does not necessarily require many elections. Once we are content with what we have further alteration is unnecessary. Our vote to preserve the ummah need only be cast once. Alhamdulillaah.
An excellent and succinct analysis, M. Bell.
However, I would only add that even though the voting choices are stark, it will make do difference to the result whatever party an individual votes for.
If every man and woman votes MDP tomorrow, the vote will be determined inproper and subsequently annulled. This happen again and again until the PPM can get a win.
The autocracy has never gone away, its been there for 30 years, its there now and its there it will stay.
Furthermore chess is a wicked game that was devised by Zoroastrian magi in Achaemenid Persia that has no place in Darul Islam.
Therefore the analogy of chess used in this article is deeply offensive to our cultural traditions and firmly entrenched democratic values.
Last Saturday, Shelob Gayoom was in Singapore on urgent business; according to his Twitter feed, the illness of a relative. Where will he be tomorrow?
His minion, Gríma Waheed is hiding in a safe house with his bags packed for a State visit to Hong Kong and Malaysia even though he's no longer Head of State.
Meanwhile, back at the fort the gallant Yameen and his faithful retainer Ali Underpants Hameed will be standing almost alone against the rebellious hordes seeking a decent future for all in the Maldives.
It's a pity W S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan weren't still alive. They could this into a splendid comic opera.
Democracy only made Russia weak while autocratic rule has helped china. Democracy is not helping india either
So be careful what u wish for. Maldives does not deserve chaos in the name of a stupid ideology
Dear Mr. Bell,
Read the comments from the the trolls, they are beyond help, they have made up their mind - logical and reasoned arguments against their stance will not stop them from jumping head first into the crocodile pen. I only wish they didn't have to take the rest of us with them.
We are an indoctrinated society. Note, that with just one religion being practised, it is still the main concern of the voter. Even the MDP is grovelling for the pious vote now.
George Orwell would know what's happening here in Maldives.
WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Its a vote against guesthouses, vote against tourism, vote against prosperity. Wish all the best for the country. Tourism industry of the Maldives is with Nasheed.
I have worked in Maldives for the past 10 years and sincerely I do not know what is better for this country: democracy or autocracy?
In the days of Gayoom, for sure nobody could talk against him, all the institutions were there to protect him, his family and friends and of course all the riches were shared among them.
In 2008 we experienced some democracy and freedom of speech. But we also saw an increase in crimes(drugs and gangs making the streets unsafe), corruption helping to take decisions and filling the pockets of people close to the new regime, the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer as the USD crisis continues to favour wealthy resort and island owners and of course the islamic extremists who were silent under Gayoom were allowed to speak freely.
Those saying that Islam will disappear are just making up stories but the peaceful and hardworking Maldivians only want stability and fair distribution of income.
The choice is not as easy as you think Mr Bell.
If Nasheed wins, the chaos will be continued and never ending. It is seriously bad for Maldives but good for neighboring countries.
Perhaps, Nasheed needs to look and learn from Singapore in term of how to handle your enemies in order to build a great nation.
The salient point here is that the clan do not want a repeat of 2008. And yes, elect Yameen and we can kiss goodbye to democracy or anything of that sort for quite some time. We all know that this is about setting a score. The old man never got over the idea of losing in 2008.
Just like Shylock, Gayyoom came knocking at Gasim's door and asked to pay back what was due. Gayyoom wasn't merely asking for a pound of flesh, but the whole whopping +100 kilos of it. Gasim succumbed. Those who wouldn't succumb have been blackmailed like those in the Supreme Court.
It's not even funny how Commonwealth is now seen as the enemy. When the Commonwealth accepted the 7th February coup, they were hailed as upholders of democracy. Yes, democracy was invented by Gayyoom, the Father of Democracy, lest we forget.
English Holidaymaker on Fri, 15th Nov 2013 1:35 PM
I would say that Nasheeds administration was not poor, and the way he treid to govern the Nation was bit inexperience.Or he under estimated who Gayoom is.?? But Gayoom is made over power and he wanted take revenge from the People of Maldives, not only few people all round.The ultimatum was the well planed Coup hit People of Maldives very badly. NASHEED WOULD HAVE SUBMITTED HIS (GAYOOMS CASE OF ELIMINATED ) PEOPLE OF MALDIVES IN PRISON TO INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
we all would have been free from hi injustice activities. Nasheed and the People of Maldives was luck to get chance transferring power to a democratic system with no blood shade, but it took place 3 years of later, cause of negligence. God Bless to come over Gayoom, and his gangsters,soon.
The choice is not easy as both sides are flawed with so many weaknesses but lets hope the people are allowed to make their choice and in the near future we get a better crop of politicians more eager to develop the country and work for the people than ensure their personal interests and that of their friends and family.
Excellent article. The choices are this simple, but the choices we make will have huge ramifications.
I will weep tomorrow night- for my country. I will weep if PPM wins. I will weep for the dark future and the damage it will do to all aspects of this land that I love.
I will weep if MDP wins. The job they have done is incredible. So many have said that Maldivians did not have it in them to sacrifice like this. But they did. They did have it in them. They have stood up and showed the world what it is to fight for an ideal- an ideal worth fighting for.
But first things first- thank you. All those who have joined this fight for democracy, deserve our respect and gratitude.Thank you for the inspiration, the leadership, and the way you have kept going, despite huge set backs.
The nation waits.
You didn't mention examples of USA, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and whole lot others who enjoy democracy and peace.
You also didn't mention the countries in Africa and Middle east where citizen "enjoy" the totaliarian dictators.
BTW how do you know China/Russia do/did well under dictatorship - how would their media report any wrong doing???
More grandstanding from Supreme opinions. Time for some analysis that goes beyond preaching to the converted.
Its a case of less of the evils isn't it? Nasheed has his flaws which can be righted with a half-decent opposition or if his supporters were more responsible, but Yameen is a guaranteed crook at the dispense of the old despot Gayyoom. They will throw away law, they are ready to kill, they will fight India and the rest of the international communities so long as they get the power in the end. The decision is simple for anyone who has a conscience. May you all grow a conscience before you cast your vote tomorrow.
Mr. Bell you are wrong. This nation is not educated or civilized enough to have a fully pledged democracy. We should have a democracy like Singapore. To keep people from demanding freedoms which they are not fit enough to enjoy, there got to be a strong character with the loyalties from Judiciary, Police, Military and treasury assured. At the moment the only person who has that loyalty is our Royal A.Yamin. With our Buruma's support we shall drill a big enough hole so we shall have the necessary percentage to easily win this election. This country will be better off when undesirables are kept under control. We shall bring stability and discipline to this nation of uneducated.
Perhaps we should be taking into account Yameen's role as a gang leader/don figure here.
Excellent summary Mr Bell!!
Basically, Yameen is the head of the mafia, Al Capone. The MDP is for those who believe in their human rights and fairness. If Yameen wins, we all deserve to suffer and suffer we will for the rest of our lives. Just read the comments of the criminal minds and religious freaks on this page... They will be our master. I would rather die for a cause i believe in than answer to them.
We all know your kind sucks at chess.
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