President Nasheed is poised to win the Maldives’ presidential elections on September 7, 2013. It has become increasingly obvious that the only way to prevent Nasheed’s return is to ensure his name stays off the ballot paper.
At the same time, the repeated exposure of the farce of the courts and the dishonesty and idiosyncrasy of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by open parliamentary committee sessions since the February 7, 2012 coup d’état, and the mounting evidence against the JSC in many international reports investigating the status of the Maldives’ judiciary and its transition, has made it increasingly difficult to convince the public or the international community that any decision to exclude Nasheed from the elections will be impartial.
With less than four months to the elections it is undeniable to all observers on the ground in the Maldives, including the skeptics, the political opponents and the grudge bearers who form the majority opposition to Nasheed, that he has won the hearts and minds of the Maldivian public. The colour yellow, symbolic of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) undeniably brightens the islands despite the pink in the corridors of power.
Fifteen months since his forced resignation, the public has continued to rally around Nasheed who has come to be popularly known as the “elected president”. All signs today suggest Nasheed will win the upcoming September 7 elections in one round of voting. As the latest campaign slogan of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) promisea, President Nasheed is set to appear a clear winner, in one round; #EhBurun. Nasheed himself predicts 150,000 votes to MDP.
The government parties, despite an outward show of confidence and ‘fighting spirit’, are in silent consensus that there is no formidable challenge to Nasheed from any of their named candidates. Nor is there a possibility of a fight unless the so called ‘unity government’ can agree to back a single candidate to challenge the MDP.
But that is out of the question given that there is no common ideology shared by the seven parties said to be part of the unity government. What the coalition leaders share in common are a desire for presidency, and a need to cover-up the coup they led and backed in an effort to expunge President Nasheed.
The sitting coup-appointed President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, is today seen a front-runner among the opposition leaders, despite his Qaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) not having the required 10,000 party membership, and his rise to office having little to do with any power or influence he held.
According to the latest published Election Commission records, dated March 10 2013, GIP has a total of 3930 registered members and 1101 forms pending. It is highly unlikely Dr Waheed will be able to double his party membership in the next few months.
Dr Waheed is backed by his Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed, the leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), whose personal opinion of Dr Waheed is that he is “the most naïve and gullible amongst political leaders” -an opinion he revealed to a group of Maldivian students he entertained while in London to lobby with CMAG following the coup. A leaked audio recording has Dr Saeed explaining the “unique coup” they pulled, and belittling Dr Waheed: “Honestly, he’s the dumbest of them all.”
Dr Hassan Saeed’s own party has had no say in the decision as the DQP leadership split between Dr Waheed and the majority party in the unity government, Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Deputy leader of the DQP, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, has switched to the PPM, adopted as the running mate and Vice President of Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
PPM’s interest, still, is control over the courts as signified by the selection of Dr Jameel, an old Justice Minister of Gayoom and the only one within the unity government who may be able to direct the sitting judges to Gayoom’s needs. Quite likely, DQP members will swing independent of both Dr Hassan Saeed and Dr Jameel.
Joining Dr Waheed is the religion-waving Sheikhs of the Adhaalath Party, whose use of the religion card has failed to win them any seats in parliament or council despite their capacity to rouse frenzied crowds in rallies denouncing “moderate Islam” as blasphemy.
Umar Naseer, who commanded the coup d’état of February 7 2012 according to his own testimony to the Commission of National Inquiry, has declared support for Dr Waheed after his expulsion from PPM within weeks of losing the presidential primaries.
Umar was expelled as a disciplinary action after he accused Yameen Abdul Gayoom of not only vote rigging in the party primaries but of links with serious organised crime including gangs and the drug trade, during a post-primary rally for his supporters.
If Umar Naseer is to be believed, brother Yameen is quite the Don, and if anyone knows, Umar does, having been a lifetime loyalist of Gayoom until he was discarded. EC records show PPM to have 22,383 registered members and 1671 forms pending.
The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has bravely stuck to its charter which decrees that the party president is the party’s presidential candidate despite internal discord and the eventual exit of DRP founder and appointed leader-for-life, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
What remained of DRP after Gayoom’s exit was left to party president, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, who was Gayoom’s 2008 running mate, his one-time Home Minister, and the presidential candidate of DRP for 2013 per the party charter. The DRP has 21,411 registered members and 1147 forms pending after the split.
The DRP has however conceded defeat, backing out of elections to back Dr Waheed, in a move which may be deemed another silent coup. The party president is the presidential candidate only if the party chooses to contest in elections, and the DRP council has decided it is not in 2013.
Business Tycoon, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Educator, MP, the Honorary Dr Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP, Republican Party) declared himself a presidential candidate way before calls for early elections and the contested power transfer of February 7 2012, but has not yet found a coalition partner willing to back the JP.
Aside from the politicians, military leaders and police seniors share a common interest with candidates Dr Waheed, Yameen and Gasim to cover up the coup and their crimes. Judges too are neither free of influence, nor independent of politics. Having given into politics once, their interest will be to sit on to the bench they appropriated with a ceremonial oath and no due process, just as the sitting president did when he took office.
Given the current scenario, and the growing conviction that ousted president Mohamed Nasheed will return with a clear majority of the kind he never had in 2008, how far will the “friends of Dr Waheed” and those who backed the coup d’état go to ensure Nasheed’s name stays off the ballot paper? Whose interests would be served by eliminating him?
Aishath Velezinee (@Velezinee on twitter) is an independent democracy activist and writer. She was the Editor of Adduvas Weekly 2005-07 and served on the Maldives’ Judicial Service Commission (2009-11). She claims the Commission she sat on breached constitution in transition; and advocates for redress of Article 285, and a full overhaul of the judiciary as a necessary step for democracy consolidation.
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