“I can’t believe this,” said a young man standing next to me as the whole nation watched Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically-elected President of Maldives, announced his resignation on live television – an ‘unexpected’ move that has left some ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members and its supporters disheartened and angry while the jubilant opposition continues celebrations.
Nasheed’s untimely resignation came soon after approximately 100 members of police and military forces joined the opposition-led demonstration on the streets of capital Male’, taking over the state broadcaster and culminating into what the government by late morning was calling a military coup against the administration.
In the midst of the rapid political change, the common people remain – bewildered and uncertain of the future. They are all asking one question: what will happen next?
Former Vice President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was sworn into the presidency this afternoon. Although he has promised to uphold the ‘rule of law’ he has not yet made any clear statements on how the executive will proceed or of a strategy to reform the cabinet.
Meanwhile pressure is mounting as opposition parties are jockeying to form a national unity government that will remain in power until the presidential elections scheduled for next year. However, some members of the public are not pleased with the idea.
“Let’s see how our new president implements his ‘rule of law’. To start with he has to form his cabinet from an iththihaad [coalition] – there would be too many people making demands to be in the cabinet. Secondly, I wonder what manifesto he is going to implement. MDP’s? Well, it should be but I don’t think he will. So I guess he will be implementing a manifesto that the public never voted for. Thirdly, he needs laws passed from the Majilis [parliament] where he doesn’t have a single member,” Aishath Aniya, a civil society activist, wrote on Facebook. She continued, “I would be surprised if his government lasts for six months.”
Ahmed Nadheem from Addu city also told Minivan News that he does not wish to see an “administration backed by the armed forces for more than six months.”
“No one or party owns this land, it is ours,” he interjected. “I want an administration truly representing the people, elected directly by the people in a vote in the next six months. An interim government backed by the military means in simple terms, you cannot go against the wish of the military. The longer this administration remains in power, the more is the likelihood of it completely dictating the terms,” he claimed.
However, for many others the issue of major concern is the threat of political instability to economic security – 70 percent of the economy indirectly relies on tourism.
A comment on Minivan News read, “My heart cries out for Maldivians. They will need a lot of soul searching to see where exactly they are steering this fragile and vulnerable nation. Continued unrest and turbulence will threaten the very life blood of the economy which is already under stress from the looming European recession. The people need to rally around a leader who would rise above party and petty politics and do what’s best for the country. ”
A 42 year-old local businessman added that the economic policies and contracts signed during nasheed’s administration can be revoked; therefore, it is important to ensure that economic progress is not compromised for political gain, he said. “An attempt by the opposition’s to take over the airport from India’s GMR group would likely set a bad precedent for the foreign investors,” he noted.
Furthermore, a tourist resort operator told Minivan News that the Maldives’ “paradise image is deteriorating” with the news of political instability spreading across the global media, ultimately putting the whole tourism sector at risk.
“First the December 23 protest, then the spa closure and now the resignation of President. These things are setting a really bad image for Maldives,” he explained.
Several comments also indicate buildup of mistrust in the country’s security forces, which played the key role in leading to president’s resignation.
A skeptical comment on Minivan News said that “along with Myanmar, Pakistan and Congo, we [Maldives] have joined the prestigious club of democratic nations where the men in uniform trump the vote of the people” while another asked, “could any president rely on them?”
However, those optimistic about the change describe this historical change as the “dawn of a new beginning” where people have got a second chance to set the country in the right direction by working “inside the chart.”
Another prophesised, “there is an end for every tyrant.”
Some have identified individual members of the former government to whom they hope to see justice served. “The corrupt MDP rulers should be prosecuted and pay for their crimes – Reeko, Razee, just to name a few, prepare for your corruption scandals to open up,” wrote one commentator.
Meanwhile, a list of 57 former government figures and senior Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members have reportedly been placed on a travel blacklist.