Comment: A New Era of Maldivian Politics

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for good or ill, will probably be remembered as one of the most dominant figures of our modern history. With his withdrawal from active political involvement, he has given rise to new fractions, new political players, and a completely new dynamic. Yesterday we entered a new era of Maldivian Politics.

Nation and parties divided

Whether it happens in days or months, President Gayoom rescinding his candidature for DRP leadership will exacerbate the latent divisions within the party. Over time we have seen these divisions take form.

Mohamed “Kutti” Nasheed’s conflict with elements of DRP showed us our first glimpse of their division. After DRP lost the 2008 election Presidential election, Kutti Nasheed called for Gayoom to resign from politics. Because of this he was ostracised, excluded, and eventually driven away from the party. President Gayoom, even today, has a group of supporters who would give their last breath for the will of the man they see as having developed our country, and who they see as being the father of a modern Maldives. In those couple of weeks, this division was clear.

Since then we have seen Abdullah Yameen return to DRP as the leader of the People’s Alliance with a strong, well financed and capable group of people supporting him. Yameen along with Abdullah Shahid and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali are among the most active, respected and credible people within the older generation of DRP leaders. They are both the stronghold and the powerhouse of the party today, though with clear divisions between Yameen and the other two.

There is also the new, more dynamic, group of young leaders who are emerging within the party. While careful not to make the same mistake Kutti Nasheed made in alienating the hardcore Gayoomists, they have been rising in popularity and influence, and have shown a clear desire to break away from the previous era of political policy.

A clear example of this could be seen in Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef’s comments on Gayoom’s role in the ruling party’s philosophies. He stated that the only reason MDP is able to hold support is because of them vilifying President Gayoom. This emphasis on how Gayoom’s continued involvement in DRP may be detrimental to the party’s appeal, growth, and support was – in retrospect – clearly easing the idea of Gayoom withdrawing from politics into the consciousness of his most adamant supporters.

While the young and old group of DRP leaders are likely to work together for the good of the party, if Thasmeen wins the party’s leadership – as he is expected to – PA may withdraw from the coalition and become the deciding middle party. Though while division may be rife, Mundhu’s comments are based in a very real problem for the MDP leadership.

The wicked witch is dead

At least when it comes to politics, Gayoom is no longer the driving force of the opposition DRP. The one issue upon which the ruling coalition was built no longer exists. And while the coalition may no longer be important, this one philosophy has always been one of the driving forces behind MDP’s policies and youth appeal.

President Gayoom’s administration’s abuses and mistakes have provided the ruling party with momentum and a drive which has kept them united and very public. It galvanised a traditionally apathetic people into action and is a fundamental basis for the legitimacy of this government. Because MDP made the issue about President Gayoom, DRP made the issue about President Nasheed. Our politics has been based on the dynamics between these two personalities and as a result we rarely care about issues which affect our daily lives. Yesterday, the nation took the first step towards shifting this dynamic.

A moderate party overnight

This dynamic, which we are going to watch emerge, will be decided by the direction DRP takes.

But even without concrete policy shifts, it seems as though DRP has overnight gone from being a radical and confrontational party to one that is almost moderate.

Speculation is abound that Thasmeen will take leadership of the party. With both the explicit support of President Gayoom and Abdullah Shahid, as well as the majority of DRP’s members of parliament, it looks likely that the older generation will be the first to guide policy in the post-Gayoom era. Unlike the younger group who are confrontational and quick to providing harsh words against the ruling party, Thasmeen is seen as a calm and tempered businessman who gained influence within the party through consistent and ready support. Some of the older members would even say that he has deserved his turn to attempt leadership.

Shahid, while also mild mannered, is one of the most capable, organised and conciliatory leaders within the opposition. With these two at the helm, one can only hope that a more moderate stance will be taken towards implementing polices that will actually provide fruits for the Maldivian people – instead of the constant stonewalling which has been so prevalent.

Moving forward

Though I am a member of GIP (Gaumee Ihthihaad Party), I fully acknowledge that we are operating in a two party system. Losing President Gayoom’s direct influence will not change that (at least not overnight). With over a year under our belts, the government has not been able to produce the kind of results needed to bring our nation out of its current economic recession. And government does not mean just MDP – it is DRP as well.
DRP holds the majority in the Majlis (parliament), and as a result the Majlis’ failures are DRP’s as well.

In ancient Greece, the Titans fought for control of the heavens, nearly to the point of utter destruction. Without compromise between these two Titans, the people of our nation will continue to suffer. Our nation will continue to become more illiberal, and democracy’s very existence may come into question. We have entered a new era of Maldivian politics. Whether it will see the prosperity of our people or our social, economic and political degradation is yet to be decided. You Titans – decide well.

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2 thoughts on “Comment: A New Era of Maldivian Politics”

  1. There is one thing which we need to deliberate when we advocate to transfer all our powers to the youths. We know that despite Maumoon is old, he makes prudent and much more effective decision in comparision with the current incumbent president. We've seen dramatic changes in Gayooms cabinet shifting to a mix of more experienced youth and matured people, in his last years. Quality experience is more important than the age. And experience gain over years.

    This is something prudent which we carefully need to deal with and we cant just transfer the powers of the state to anyone who comes with a qualification and without a good track record.

    Lastly, matured and experienced people are ubiquitous in successful democracies and we could only judge the case of Obama once his term is completed. He is gradually becoming controvertial.

  2. The overall shift in leadership in Maldives from not just an old but also a young and vibrant President is more than welcome. while in no way detracting the tremendous contribution made by the former President, today the national approach is to integrate with the World and President Nasheed has done that with great aplomb. The more you integrate the more you benefit not just as a nation but as a people, this is the lesson of contemporary economics and politics. The challenge to the current government is to maintain the traditional roots, for what ever one can say about modernisation, it cannot replace in toto our traditional roots and values. A recognition of this truism will serve the new sources of power well.


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