The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) celebrated their eighth anniversary with thousands of people participating in last night’s march and spectators lining the streets of the capital.
The excitement was palpable as thousands came out of their neighborhoods, crammed the sidewalks and climbed on top of any available structures to watch the parade spectacle and take photos. Countless people were seen waving and shouting from their windows and balconies as the anniversary parade circled around Male’.
MDP has claimed upwards of 15,000 parade participants – some social media estimates were upwards of 20,000 – took part in the event. Minivan News observed the protest parade stretching the entire length and width of the nearly two kilometre long thoroughfare of Majeedhee Magu.
Protesters represented a variety of demographics including children, youth, the elderly, disabled, women and men, organised into groups, some carrying giant MDP flags, while others waved yellow ribbons, fans or pom poms.
Groups of women were twirling yellow umbrellas adorned with frangipani flowers (the party’s symbol) or carrying signs with the slogan ‘ehburun’ (meaning a one round victory). Some young men played volleyball while others in the parade drummed a festive beat.
Women and men alike were shaking yellow pom-poms and dancing in the streets to music remixing dance beats with phrases from former President Mohamed Nasheed’s speeches.
The Dhivehi lyrics translated to “MDP is a ship for all seas, This party is not going to sink, We will not fade away, You can arrest us, jail us and kill us but MDP’s ‘fikuru’ (ideology) can no longer be eradicated/wiped out from the Maldives”.
Countless parade participants, including port workers, were also adorned with yellow construction hats, while two young men wore milk and banana costumes in recognition of a previous Nasheed speech in which he discussed the importance of child nutrition, and pledged to ensure every school child had a suitable breakfast.
There were constant chants of ‘ehburun’ by the parade participants and crowds lining the main thoroughfares of Male’ that comprised the parade route. The parade ended at ‘Usfasgandu’, MDP’s protest area located near the Tsunami Monument, where applause and shouts from thousands of supporters could be heard echoing through the streets as members cut the party’s birthday cake.
Introducing multi-party democracy
“The MDP was the first political party to be registered eight years ago – we are the largest and oldest party – and we are built on people’s hopes,” MDP’s Youth Wing President Aminath Shauna told Minivan News.
“We wanted to celebrate that and show the people’s strength, which we definitely saw last night. The parade was a way to show that while we are a political party committed to political reform and social change, we can still have fun,” said Shauna.
“We wanted to make it very colorful and an opportunity for all kinds of people to participate, and they did, children, youths, mothers and fathers, as well as elderly MDP supporters, the parade had activities for everyone,” she continued.
“There hasn’t been an event like this – not at night with all the lights and music – since MDP’s February 17, 2012 rally, and that was more of a spontaneous protest,” she explained.
“The MDP has consistently had large numbers of people’s support and participation, but this event was by far the most comprehensive.”
“There was not a single spot empty on the sidewalks and people were cheering and waving from their windows and balconies. At least 15,000 people were out in support of the parade in Male’ alone,” she claimed.
“I have not seen that many people come out and even watch Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) parades on Majeedhee Magu. There is a huge strong base of support in the islands as well, even in the UK Maldivians living abroad celebrated, social media is showing the quite broad spectrum of MDP supporters,” said Shauna.
“This event was significant because MDP is so young. I don’t think any country would see a ‘people’s party’ come out of nowhere – based on sheer public support – and be able to maintain a peaceful stance after so much brutality and injustice,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News.
“It’s also significant that MDP’s eighth birthday coincides with the [upcoming] elections.”
“On MDP’s eighth birthday what we are seeing is unprecedented. After eight years we are still completely the ‘people’s party’, which we’ve seen from the amount of public support,” Ghafoor continued.
“People came out all over the country to celebrate, even on small islands in the most unlikely places they had [MDP birthday] cakes and meetings, it’s incredible,” he said.
Former President Nasheed meanwhile tweeted on the occasion,
MDP’s strength is built on the hopes of the people. Congratulations to all supporters and members on the 8th Anniversary of MDP. #MDP8Yrs
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) June 26, 2013