Loyalty, support, money: The motivation behind Male’s political decoration

In the months leading to the September 7 presidential election, the streets of Maldives have erupted into a mosaic of party banners, with posters, flags, banners, and graffiti decorating every street corner.

While it may seem to an onlooker that the amount of material each party has placed around the country represents the amount of public support they enjoy, some volunteers putting up the decorations suggest another side to the story.

Party supporters are largely responsible for the colourful displays, but some parties are accused of spending thousands on hiring groups to help them keep up with the campaign craze, oftentimes spending large funds on the process.

“Doing it for democracy”

“We’re doing this for democracy. We don’t want any money or incentives for this. All we want is an elected government that cares about the people”, one group of young graffiti artists painting Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) themed artwork in their neighbourhood told Minivan News.

“The thing is, if we don’t get involved and try to guarantee a better life for ourselves, why would anyone else bother? I’m all for MDP, especially after the rest of the political lot brought about the coup d’etat. That is the ultimate shove of their boot against the people, a blatant admission from the ‘baaghees’ that they have no respect or concern for the common man,” said Ahmed Affan, a 26 year old man, an accountant who volunteers in his free time with a team hoisting MDP flags across the streets of Male’.

Another 23 year old volunteer who frequents MDP campaign offices during his free time to help out with banner and t-shirt printing explained his own motivations: “With the best manifesto and policies, I want MDP to win of course, I volunteer to help as I believe our artwork and ideas would get the message across in additional ways to the public and help gather more support.”

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) teams also told Minivan News that they were voluntarily engaging in campaign decorating.

“It’s ‘Zaeem’ [Supreme leader – referring to former President and Leader of PPM Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] who has done the most for our poor country. We will do whatever he wants of us. We are determined to have our candidate [Abdulla Yameen – half brother of Gayoom] have a clear win in the election, and we are spreading this message to as many people as possible,” said a 37 year old man hoisting PPM flags and putting up posters down a street in Galolhu.

One team of PPM volunteers refused to speak with Minivan News, stating, “Our leadership refuses to speak to you, and that means we have nothing to say to you either.”

“Heartfelt support” vs “just for the money”

Aishath Zubaira, a 63 year old supporter of President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who has posters of her preferred candidate on the walls of her residence, says she supports him “with heart and soul”.

While Minivan News spoke with two different groups streaming the streets with strings of small ‘Forward with the Nation’ coalition flags, they had contradicting reasons for doing so.

“Waheed’s a capable man, and the majority of his supporters are mature and, well, kind of elderly to be honest. There are few young people like us who are aware of just how much Waheed can do for this country, so we need to come out and help make him more popular,” said a 43 year old volunteer, holding a dozen or so rolled up posters sporting photos of Waheed with his running mate, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Another man who appeared to be in his late twenties, who introduced himself as “Issey”, put up posters and distributed copies of the coalition’s manifesto. “It doesn’t matter which candidate’s campaigning I am doing, it’s not even like these ugly flags and photos will make a difference for any party,” he said.

“I sometimes even go with the Jumhooree Party guys. Point is, this is an excellent time to make some money on the side and I’m going to make the best use of it. But then, I know who I’m voting for and no one’s got any business asking me who it is.”

“They spend like crazy, we earn like crazy”

A 31 year-old man working at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) told Minivan News – on condition of anonymity – that he works in one of Jumhooree Party (JP) coalition’s campaign teams of six to ten persons each.

“When we finish putting up the strings of flags across a street, we need to ring a number that the party has given us. Then a party official will turn up with a file which has information on when and where the teams are active. They will put a tick confirming the job is done and pay us in cash on the spot. We get about MVR 3000 (US$195) a night on average,” he explained.

“Some teams wait a while after the official has left and then cut off the recently hung flags, thereby allowing some other team to earn from the same street a few days later. It’s probably not right, but well, the politicians spend like crazy when elections near, and so us lucky folks earn like crazy.”

Another young volunteer laughed when asked for his reason for being so actively involved in campaign activity, “Every JP graffiti artwork that goes up is a job done for about MVR 10,000 (US$650). We’re economizing the situation when there is a demand for skills like ours. Nothing wrong with that, eh?”

According to local media reports, Police have arrested at least eight people for cutting off lines of flags of various political parties in late August, though police media officials were not responding to calls at the time of press for confirmation.

Visit our facebook page for more pictures as Male’ dresses for the election


8 thoughts on “Loyalty, support, money: The motivation behind Male’s political decoration”

  1. Wrong. Lack of any decent entertainment is the reason for the hoohaa in politics.

  2. If it is MDP its loyalty and democracy. If its anyone else then it must be the money! A well balanced article in my opinion.

  3. I guess I should cut more JP flags. Help my countrymen earn more money.

  4. Our youth have experienced, seen and learned what happened during the 30 year golden rule of MAG and Co., including the clown, Gasim.

    They also see the situation the incumbent traitor president "puppet" Waheed is in, how helpless and hopeless he is.

    Except for those like the Mahloof type, who grew up on the spoils of the 30 year golden rule, our youth have seen performance and the difference it can make when a proper leader who wishes good for the people come to govern!

    Why the "Golden Yellow" colour is mightier than the rest is very clear!

  5. To move away from several years of a dictatorship that lost the trust of the people down the line, we need patience and commitment.

    Revolutionary firebrand rhetoric is just going to polarize people even more thus making it easier for vested interests to exploit the resulting inertia towards change.

    Whoever assumes the presidency this year, political parties and other stakeholders must come together to fix what is currently a strained and ailing system. What we need in terms of institutional reforms are;
    - Changes to the local governance system which is unsustainable.
    - Amendments to inherent contradictions within the Constitution that prevent the functioning of our chosen system of governance (presidential.
    - A reversal of the current trend that threatens to land the education system in the hands of Saudi-Pakistani-trained Islamic fundamentalists.
    - Sincere efforts to strengthen the nascent free media which currently lacks the standards to maintain public interest and some semblance of confidence in their output.
    - A move from patronage towards meritocracy, even if that means the top posts may be reserved for those with academic and political clout. The use of empty-headed puppets who spout nonsense for a dumbed-down electorate (Ali Waheed, Alhan, Nihan, Topy, Baarashu Shifaz etc.) will, I hope, gradually decrease with growing awareness among the voting public.
    - Training and institutional changes to the judiciary, which at present is too much of a political tool.
    - Strengthening vital independent institutions and getting rid of others who are just a drain on the taxpayer's money.
    - Consensus between political parties on some basic rules of competition and also agreement on what the system is. At the very least, all concerned should be committed to the democratic system rather than trying to reverse it.
    - More responsiveness on the part of policymakers to our youth. They must not be ignored or left to be easy pickings for criminals, extremists and other harmful elements.
    - Making public servants more efficient in order to restore seriously damaged trust in government services. It is not just foreign investors who are disgusted by the system but locals have been complaining about it for ages as well. Making the human resource pool more efficient requires better workplace management. Currently even the tiniest department of the government works on a patronage system where political affiliation and loyalty to a boss who is appointed politically decides the career of individuals who are often doomed to remain as this-and-that officer (trainee) unless the powers-that-be decide that he/she would be a useful puppet.
    - A serious and immediate reversal of the trend that has seen our security forces becoming more and more independent and politicized.
    - Recognition that our local institutions are too weak at present to provide any form of tertiary training. This would mean that we need foreign help to supplement the small pool of credible lecturers and administrators to run a tertiary-training center. Foreign help should come in the form of government-to-government help ideally because our administrators are all too adept at seeking out poorly-educated con-men from nearby countries who will help to perpetuate the current situation.

  6. I shall never say never! tsk tsk has something brilliant to say after all! Judos brother. Keep no.4 in mind. It is not the best ship, but the only one sailing to the destination you wish to go to.

  7. Still we see peolple putting in heart and soul Rather than heart and mind.

    The familial ties a inbred ingroup connections still rule tbe day. iam fraud this is happening on both side as well, when MAG rule ended there was a lot of familial ostracizing and marfinalizing going on in the quaint islands, which might have caught little maintream attention.

    Its going to happen in cycles iam afraid.


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