Government investigates accused MPs’ “dark and evil schemes”, while UK issues travel advisory

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a travel warning for the Maldives following recent political turmoil in the country, urging caution around “large political gatherings”, while debate on the political deadlock has spread to the House of Lords in the UK Parliament.

During Question Time, the UK Labour Party’s Lord Foulkes expressed “disappointment that President Nasheed seems to be reverting to the bad habits of his predecessor”, following the detention of People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdulla Yameen, and urged the government to pressure the Maldives to restore “democratic freedoms”.

Conservative Lord Howell, also State Minister for the FCO, responded that the government was “pursuing full encouragement through our high commission in Colombo and other means to ensure that democratic development continues.”

Nasheed’s restoration of his cabinet ministers was “a step forward”, Howell promised.

Conservative Lord Naseby pointed out that the Maldives “is no longer a protectorate of the United Kingdom… and that being the situation, what role do we have at all to interfere in what is in fact the Maldivian exercise of democracy as they interpret it?”

Yameen meanwhile remains in MNDF custody on the Presidential Retreat ‘Aarah’, although appears free to communicate with the media given that Minivan News was able to contact him yesterday.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – and the government – insist that the MP and high-profile businessman is under ‘protective’ custody after demonstrations outside his home last week turned violent.

Yameen has told local media he does not wish to be detained in ‘protective’ custody. The MNDF have also refused to present him before the court on a court order, raising some international eyebrows.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair stuck to that story, insisting Yameen was being “protected” rather than “detained”.

Zuhair also claimed Yameen’s custodial protection was not unconstitutional, as the opposition has claimed, although Minivan News is still awaiting clarification from government lawyers as to how this is so.

“The MNDF is working absolutely within the constitution,” Zuhair said. “Yameen is being held by the MNDF, not the government. If Yameen is concerned about this he will be able to challenge it in court.”

“Dark and evil schemes”

Beyond the debate over Yameen’s detention, and recent court cases concerning the legality of his arrest along with that of Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, Zuhair said that given the severity of the allegations against them, neither could be considered prisoners of conscience.

“I cannot describe these people as political leaders – they are accused of high crimes and plots against the state,” Zuhair said.

“These MPs are two individuals of high net worth – tycoons with vested interests,” he explained. “In pursuing their business interests they became enormously rich during the previous regime, and now they are trying to use their ill-gotten gains to bribe members in the Majlis and judiciary to keep themselves in power and above the fray.”

“They were up to all sorts of dark and evil schemes,” Zuhair alleged. “There were plans afoot to topple the government illegally before the interim period was over.”

Zuhair explained that the government felt obliged to take action after six MDP MPs came forward with statements alleging Yameen and Gasim had attempted to bribe them to vote against the government.

The opposition PA-DRP coalition already has a small voting majority, with the addition of supportive independent MPs, however certain votes require a two-thirds majority of the 77 member chamber – such as a no-confidence motion to impeach the president or vice-president.

“In one incident early on in this administration, following the President’s return from Italy, they set up a telephone and a video camera in a committee room in parliament, brought a judge to sit in, and then tried to get two members of the president’s delegation swear on the Qur’an under oath that the President was drinking alcohol,” Zuhair observed.

The privatisation of Male’ International airport had clashed with the vested interests of the accused MPs, Zuhair claimed, sparking the current political debacle.

“Gasim was concerned the new airport might take the charter flights he had intended would be landing at the new airport he is building in Maamagilli,” Zuhair alleged, “while Yameen is a third party supplier of fuel at Male International Airport through the Maldives National Oil Company, which has representation in Singapore.”

The fuel trade is the most immediately lucrative part of the airport deal, Minivan News understands, and is a key reason behind both GMR’s interest and the government’s decision to award the contract to the Indian infrastructure giant. GMR has told Minivan News it will amalgamate the trade under one umbrella, a decision that will likely affect current third party suppliers.

Meanwhile Opposition DQP leader Hassan Saeed, who opposed the airport privatisation and is currently lobbying in the UK for international support for Yameen’s release, “is receiving huge legal fees from both Yameen and Gasim,” Zuhair claimed.

NGOs speak

A coalition of NGOs including Madulu, the Maldivian Democracy Network, Huvadhoo Aid, Transparency Maldives, Maldives Youth Action Network, HAND and Democracy House, meanwhile issued a statement “categorically denouncing the undemocratic actions of the three Powers of the State, at a time when democracy is in its infant stages in the Maldives.”

“We believe recent political and civil unrest is a consequence of these three arms of the State disregarding the spirit of the Maldivian Constitution,” the NGOs said. “We believe a culture of manipulation of the law to infringe upon the rights of one another has developed and that the three arms of the State have failed to give each other due respect.”

“It is not responsible on the part of the parliament, that they should pass laws that undermine the powers of the executive.

“It is unacceptable that the executive, should use its powers to harass and deter the functioning of the parliament, to disrepute the judiciary and to try to exert undue influence on the judicial system.

“The lack of consistency in the rulings of the courts, and actions which undermine the trust of the people in the judicial system are contrary to the high standards which are expected of Judges. We call upon the judiciary to work to restore the people’s faith in the judicial system.

The NGOs added that “other concerned State institutions” have also failed to “give due regard to the situation” and have acted irresponsibly.

The coalition also urged political parties to refrain from bringing violence to the streets, but condemned the security forces “for stepping outside the boundaries of the law with regards to arrest and detention” and the recent distribution of private telephone conversations by the media containing implications of corruption behaviour among MPs.

Between a rock and the Maldives

The government well aware of its status as international darling on climate change, but Nasheed appears willing to risk international censure for the sake of isolating Yameen while the state accumulates evidence in the background. Police were preparing to “make a splash” on the subject, Zuhair hinted.

However even if this evidence is obtained, demands from the international community – and opposition – that the government respect the rule of law and the judicial system, mean the government is faced with the new problem of legitimising its case against the businessmen and opposition leaders, now that allegations of obstruction have been levelled at the judiciary – including, yesterday, from the police themselves.

The government has been urging public respect for the judicial system – and the President’s Political Advisor Hassan Afeef has stated that the government will abide by any rulings from the Supreme Court.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), tasked with reforming the judicial system, has three sitting judges as members and vested interests, according to the President’s outspoken member on the commission, Aishath Velezinee.

“Of the 207 of the judges currently in office, 39 have degrees or higher. Some left school before grade seven, meaning they haven’t completed primary school,” Velezinee noted.

In addition there are seven sitting judges found guilty of a criminal breach of trust; five with allegations of a criminal breach of trust; two being prosecuted for an alleged breach of trust; one on trial for sexual misconduct; two have been found guilty of sexual misconduct; one was found guilty for an offence which had a prescribed punishment in Islam; and another who has both been accused of a criminal breach of trust, and found guilty of sexual misconduct – a total of 19 with documented criminal history.

Behind the scenes the executive is racing to nominate new judges before the interim period concludes on August 7, when sitting judges are granted automatic tenure.

However nominations for any new judges will have to be approved by the Majlis, which was cancelled this morning on points of order that developed into a scuffle outside.

“[The MPs] are trying to derail the process,” suggested Zuhair. “They are also panicking because they have no way of knowing who is going to be [implicated] by these corruption charges.”

As for tourists reading the today’s travel advisory urging caution in the capital, Zuhair observed that they “should be happier to know the top dollars they are paying are not being used for corrupt purposes.”

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Elections bill blocks 25% from voting if not amended, warns Transparency Maldives

The Local Council Elections Bill, adopted by parliament on May 4, will potentially exclude one fourth of the population from voting unless it is amended, according to a statement from Transparency Maldives (TM).

The bill, which has been sent back to parliament by the president and is now being reviewed by committee, required people to vote in their home constituency and contained no capacity for remote voting. With many islanders working in the capital Male and other locations around the Maldives such as resorts and industrial islands, TM warned that nearly 55,000 people could be restricted from voting.

“Our basic concern is that 25 percent of the voting population will lose their right to vote unless this bill is amended,” said Aiman Rasheed from TM.

People had the option to travel, he acknowledged, “but pragmatically speaking that is not going to happen. If everyone in Male’ left to go vote, entire operations would shut down.”

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan explained that the sheer scale of the Local Council Elections, with potentially upwards of thousands of candidates across the many island councils, was a logistical and administrative challenge the independent Elections Commission (EC) would be unable to deal with.

“I strongly believe the EC does not have have capacity to conduct such an election with thousands of candidates. Their budget for holding elections in 2010 is around Rf 22 million,” he said.

“We are genuinely concerned about this election because our constitution says we have to hold it – on July 1 last year – and we are far behind. If government is genuine, we should do everything to make it as inclusive as possible.”

Nihan noted that the government had put forward the bill at the same time as the decentralisation bill, and criticised the ruling MDP for miring it in “many other amendments”. DRP had passed the Local Council Elections Bill “just as the Attorney General sent it.”

MDP MP Eva Abdullah observed that “MDP proposed an amendment but DRP shot it down because they had the majority at the time. Now the opposition has conceded the voting issue, we are hoping this will be quite speedy.”

Nihan however said “it was a DRP idea to make it more inclusive.”

Rasheed from TM said he would not comment on the politics of the bill, but noted that “Both major parties want to remove the restrictions on people’s ability to vote.”

“We understand the administration and logistical challenges, but there are alternatives like postal ballots. During previous elections the EC has been proactive in finding a solution,” he said.

The EC said it would not comment, other than to say it was “prepared to run the election however the Majlis decides.”

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Comment: Such is this mob rule called ‘democracy’

The freedom to think, which we Maldivians claimed for ourselves by ousting a dictatorial government and replacing it with a ‘democratic’ one, appears to have rendered us incapable of rational thought.

There appears not a single principle that is not up for auction in the market of ‘public opinion’. Everything from our faith to our humanity carry with them a political price tag. At the helm is a government which oscillates so wildly between the political right and the left that any keen observer would suffer more repetitive strain injury to the neck than a spectator at a Wimbledon tennis final.

Take for instance the decisions by the Youth Ministry first to maybe-allow, then to disallow and then to definitely-allow, the Muslim televangelist, Dr Zakir Naik, to provide Maldivians with The Biggest Event of their lifetimes.

The latest decision, perhaps by no means the last, must have been arrived at after much soul-searching and in-depth analysis. It must, no doubt, have taken into account the experience of another country where sports grounds were taken over for ‘religious activities’. The Taliban turned Kabul’s main stadium into a hub for ‘religious devotion’, treating their masses to spectacles of execution, death by stoning, hanging and amputations. No doubt the audience departed much enlightened about ‘true Islam’.

Public opinion is a tricky idol at the altar of which to worship. The government must be perplexed at the opposition to its agreement with the United States to relocate some of the ‘Enemy Combatants’ or ‘Illegal Detainees’ from Guantanamo Bay to the Maldives. Why is a society that is so eager to stress its Islamic purity, and promotes its ‘100 percent Muslim’ status with the same zeal as a restaurant promoting a coveted Michelin star, opposed to relocating to their lands these people who have been so utterly wronged by the United States? Did not the eminent Dr Naik himself assert that the 11 September 2001 attacks were an ‘inside job’? By this very learned logic alone, these detainees can be nothing but innocent.

The opposition, however, is not willing to pay any heed – either to the venerable Dr Naik or to empirical evidence. Hosting these ‘convicts’, they cry, would make our country ‘a target’.

No thought is spared to consider:

(a) for a person to be labelled a ‘convict’, they need to first be convicted of an offence defined by law. Most of the detainees have never been charged with a crime let alone convicted of one.

(b) If they were ‘terrorists’, why would then a terrorist organisation attack us for sheltering them? Should they not, by the same logic, then be beholden to us?

(c) No country, other than the United States, has ever attacked another for ‘harbouring terrorists’. And, in light of the disaster that has been the ‘War on Terror’, no government is likely to disregard (or be allowed to disregard) international law again – at least in living memory – to the extent that the neo-conservative Bush government did.

Now the new US government is seeking to relocate these victims of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in modern history. We are hardly going to be top of President Obama’s list of countries to attack next by ‘harbouring’ them.

“Even a country like the United States would not take them,” cries the opposition.

Even a country like the United States? Is this the extent of our liberalism? That we assume that any Western democracy is right, no matter how obviously wrong it is?

‘Public opinion’ – yes, that old chestnut again – and a highly right wing and conservative establishment are preventing President Obama’s government from closing the atrocity that is Guantanamo Bay. The ignorance of a vast majority of the American public, whose fears the Bush administration played like a maestro does an orchestra and are held aloft at a crescendo by Fox News, that bastion of balanced journalism, are now being uncannily echoed in the national theatre of Maldivian ‘public opinion’.

“We have not been told anything! We don’t know why they are in prison!” The opposition is hysterical, claiming to have been left “totally in the dark”.

It is hardly the government’s business to plug the gaping holes of ignorance in the opposition’s knowledge. Over 700 of the 50,000 ‘Enemy Combatants’ that the US apprehended in their War on Terror have been held in Guantanamo Bay. A vast majority of them are innocent. Information on how they were treated in US captivity is widely and easily available in the global public domain from the legal memos that deprived the Detainees of the Geneva Convention to those that redefined ‘torture’ as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ to detailed prison logs that demonstrate what these innocent victims were put through in the name of ‘intelligence gathering’.

Profiles of over 500 detainees held at Guantanamo, diligently compiled by law professor and counsel to two detainees, Mark Denbeaux of Seton Law Hall, are also available for public perusal should one care to concern oneself with such minor details, in addition to the profiles compiled by Cage prisoners.

Given that the number of detainees currently being held at Guantanamo is 181, this information would contain within it details relating to the unfortunate souls destined for the Maldives to find ‘sanctuary’ among their ‘100 percent Muslim’ brothers and sisters.

Deliberate ignorance does not justify selling our humanity for the dubious pleasures of political gainsaying.

It is well and good for the government to advise those agitating against these dogmatic opinions and beliefs to organise themselves and form a viable alternative to the blatant evangelism of the religious right. This, however, becomes near impossible if the government remains unclear where it stands, and vacillates from one end of the political spectrum to the other in any given week.

There is a reason why liberal Maldivians cannot form a coherent whole in their own country – the space in which their ideas can flourish diminishes by the day as the government gives in inch by inch, and the extreme religious right takes mile after mile.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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New French Ambassador meets President Nasheed

The new French Ambassador to the Maldives, Christine Robichon, presented her credentials to President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday afternoon.

President Nasheed and Ambassador Robichon discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and way to strengthen cooperation.

The president thanked the government and people of France for their assistance to the Maldives, especially their cooperation towards the democratisation and reform process.

The ambassador said the French government supported President Nasheed and his effort to combat climate change, as well as the new democratic government of the Maldives and their respect of human rights and good governance.

She added the French government was willing to continue building strong relations between the two countries that had been established during the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.

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President Nasheed meets Finnish counterpart

President Mohamed Nasheed arrived in Finland yesterday morning, continuing his European tour.

President Nasheed met with Finnish President Tarja Halonen. The two presidents discussed climate change and democracy.

A press conference was held after the meeting, where President Halonen welcomed President Nasheed and expressed confidence that his visit would strengthen relations between the two countries.

President Halonen said climate change was a great issue to Finland and they were willing to work with the Maldives to find a solution.

President Nasheed congratulated the Finnish president in her strive to promote women’s rights and said the Maldives was committed in promoting gender equality.

President Nasheed said democracy and good governance were as important as financial assistance in combating climate change. He said citizens as well as governments needed to strive to protect the environment.

President Nasheed also spoke of establishing democracy in the Maldives and said he was confident Finland would support the Maldives in consolidating and strengthening its democracy.

President Nasheed will meet the Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, Mari Kiviniemi and representatives of the Finnish tourism and business sectors.

He will also participate in a seminar on climate change and leadership which is being organised by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

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Comment: The heady brew of religious extremism, democracy and public opinion

This government is legless, three sheets to the wind, incapable of walking a straight line, has blurred vision and cannot remember from one second to the next what decision it made yesterday, never mind last month. If only this was heaven, the real mother of a hangover that is sure to come could have been avoided.

But alas, this is real life, and it is time this government stopped being intoxicated by the sense of achievement that has come with having given the Maldives deliverance from an autocracy. Wake up, and smell the theocracy that is in the air. Is it not sobering enough?

Wahhabism is in the Maldives to stay. Osama bin Laden made it clear that his ultimate aim is to establish an Islamic Caliphate across the globe. There are many who are willing to die for the cause, and many of them are now in the Maldives.

If the government continues to oscillate, gutless and indecisive, in the current manner, the Maldives could easily become the first member of this envisioned Caliphate. Twice now the government has changed its mind about bringing in new legislation regarding the sale of alcohol. Twice now it has back-tracked, citing ‘public opinion’. What is at stake here is not the availability or lack thereof of alcoholic beverages, but the ability of the current government to be a strong and capable leader of the nation.

Who is the ‘public’ that the government cited? The Wahhabi clerics? Has it come to the stage now where a Maldivian man is only a Maldivian man if he wears a bushy beard that covers his face?

Is a Maldivian woman only a Maldivian woman if she has covered herself from head to toe, or at least covered her hair with a Buruqa that complements the figure hugging PVC cat-suit she has on?

Is a Maldivian only a Maldivian if s/he is happy to listen to the Qur’an or some Dharus or another all day, every day?

Is a Maldivian only a Maldivian if s/he believes that women are inferior to men?

Is that the ‘public’? And what is ‘opinion’? Even if one does not buy into the elitist position that public opinion can never be informed enough for it to ensure that all democratic decisions are informed decisions, it is a valid question to ask of this government: what has informed this ‘opinion’ to which you have once again bowed? How has this ‘public’ arrived at this ‘opinion’ that has you so cowed?

Opinion, by definition, is a judgement or view based neither on fact nor knowledge. When the lack of knowledge is used by a particular group of people to ensure – through religious propaganda – that everyone holds the same view, what is expressed is not an opinion but dogma. Religious dogma.

The majority of Maldivian people are not free to think for themselves any more. After thirty years of being told what to do – from good table manners to good praying etiquette spelled out by the Great Leader – and being denied the opportunity to develop intellectually as free thinking people; the void where knowledge should have been is now being filled with unrelenting religious propaganda that saturates the Maldivian airwaves.

Every single medium of the various types available in the twenty first century is being utilised by these well-organised and well-funded Wahhabbis. They have numerous websites (dhiIslam.com; Dharuslive.comClick4Islam.com; Raajjeislam.com; Islam MaldivesDharuma.net to name but a few) and a strong presence on social networking sites and YouTube. They organise public sermons and lectures covering everything from Valentine’s Day to good husbandry and housekeeping. They fly in international scholars to preach their message and convince the youth that life is better lived after death.

To respond to this well-organised, well-oiled invasion of our country, this brutal rape of our identity in broad daylight, this daily negation of our rights under the name of Islam by suggesting that all ‘beloved citizens who might harbour what might be considered extremist ideas and opinions’ should perhaps ‘moderate and soften their ways of thinking’ makes President Nasheed look as effective a political leader as a newly crowned Miss World breathlessly avowing her goal to attain world peace.

‘Might’ harbour what ‘might’ be considered extremist ideas and opinions? Where is the doubt coming from about the extremism of their ideas? They are openly and clearly saying that women are inferior to men. They are indoctrinating Maldivians to believe that Wahhabbism is the only form of Islam that Allah recognises. Might be considered extremist?

Yes, public opinion is vital to democracy. There is, however, no system in place to effectively measure public opinion in the Maldives. There are no regular polls, no surveys, no studies to gauge what the public’s view of anything is. Nobody has their finger on the public pulse, just a hand around its throat.

Hiding behind the buzz words of democracy is not going to deliver Maldivians democracy – it may be rule by the people for the people, but it might well be worth remembering that people at religious boot camp with Wahhabbis may not have had the freedom to arrive at a considered opinion about anything of their own free will. ‘Freedom of opinion’ as a democratic right extends not just to freely expressing an opinion but to freely forming it as well.

Staggering from one side to the other (a foreign policy that finds allies in counter-terrorism; a domestic policy that is victim to an extremist Islamic sect) and bending over backwards to appease both sides while trying to stand upright; that kind of behaviour is far better suited to a public house than to the house that runs the public, would you not agree?

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to minivan.new[email protected]

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DRP denies rumours of internal dispute over primaries

Reports of internal disputes in the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party over whether to hold primaries in the run up to the party’s congress are incorrect, the party has claimed.

Despite a court case the between DRP leader elect Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen, and earnest debate over whether the party will hold primaries rather than automatically put its leader forward as a presidential candidate, the DRP insists the party is united.

DRP spokesman Ibrahim Shareef said ongoing rumours over splits in the party were untrue.

”People think the party is dividing because these are the days before our elections, so we are competing with each other – that’s why some people think we are having internal disputes,” Shareef said.

Shareef said in reality there were no internal disputes in the party.

However former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and DRP member Umar Naseer claimed that among the DRP MPs there are MDP supporters ”who wear blue T-shirts and pretend to be DRP supporters but actual fact are MDP supporters.”

Umar said it would be “very beneficial” for the party if the amendment of to hold a primary election was approved, as ”everyone must have the right to run for the presidential election.”

He said that he had not yet decided whether to do so himself.

Spokesman for the former president Ibrahim ‘Mundhu’ Sharef said rumours of internal strife within the DRP were being spread to encourage people to dislike the party.

Mundhu said ”the DRP is a democratic political party, and we solve all our problems peacefully.”

He claimed the DRP’s large membership base supported the party because of the love they have for former president Gayoom “and not for money or by force.”

In contrast, only 18 per cent of the population supported MDP “according to several polls we took.”

MDP spokesman Ahmed Haleem claimed that disputes were occurring within the opposition party naturally “as it changes into a democratic party. This happens in the early stage of any democracy,” he said.

“The DRP was largely based around former president Gayoom,” he said, “and their disputes over whether to elect a presidential candidate through a primary is due to the number of undemocratic people in the party.”

“Hopefully the DRP will become a democratic party very soon,” he added.

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Political parties scramble for independents

As the opposition takes the lead in the Maldives’ first-ever multi-party parliamentary election, the fight for the independent candidates has become more crucial than ever in determining where the balance of power will lie.

Persuading as many independent candidates to join its party may be the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s only hope of fending off its greatest fear: an opposition majority that will thwart the government’s every move.

Speaking to Minivan News today, independent candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who is winning in Kulhudufushi constituency, said money might be one of the factors in swaying candidates to join parties.

“There will definitely be a lot of lobbying and persuasion and understandably so,” he said. “I think the fight has already begun…there’s a lot of persuasion going on to take the platform of a party or at least work with them.”

Although the final results are yet to be announced, provisional results from the Elections Commission show opposition parties, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the People’s Alliance (PA), have a total of 36 seats while the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 25 seats.

So far, independent candidates are winning in 13 constituencies.

Battle

Addressing press on Sunday, DRP Vice President Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the results revealed the combined victories of DRP and PA as well as the party’s endorsed independent candidates would amount to a majority.

Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi said on Sunday the MDP was in discussions with “three or four” independent candidates.

“They will play a very important role,” he said. “Even now PA and DRP have an alliance so if we don’t get enough independent candidates we might not get a majority and it will be difficult to get bills through.”

Didi added he did not believe any of the candidates were truly independent and would have affiliations with one of the two main parties.

“Most likely they will join MDP because most of them have made promises to their constituents and they will need government support to fulfil them,” he said.

Similar views have been echoed by other party members including Mohamed Zuhair, press secretary at the president’s office, who said: “One or two hardcore independents may remain, but the rest will definitely get absorbed.”

DRP Secretary General Dr Abdulla Mausoom said the elections results showed the public preferred candidates who were aligned to a political party.

Mausoon said before the election many were sceptical about whether candidates would remain independent but he declined to comment on whether his party was in the process of negotiating with independent candidates.

Independent

In disagreement was PA leader Abdulla Yamin who said he believed candidates would retain their independence. “That is what they convinced the public and that is how they campaigned. For me to find out that they have joined a party, I would be very disappointed.”

Yamin said he would accept either MPs or members of the public who wanted to join his party, but added, “I think the MDP needs them more.”

Although technically still a member of the DRP, Nasheed said he would not be joining a political party and his ties with the party had been “severed” over the past few months.

“I’m definitely going to remain independent, but I will come to the assistance of the MDP for political reasons only if the opposition was to reject genuine bills or try to pass a vote of no confidence,” he said.

Members of the MDP have expressed concern that an opposition parliamentary majority will submit a no-confidence motion against the president.

Under the constitution, a vote of no-confidence can be taken if the president violates a tenet of Islam; behaves in a manner unsuited to the office of the president; or is unable to perform his duties.

“I don’t want this government to fall and I don’t want an opposition parliament to take advantage because of an MDP minority. I will only take the national interest at heart,” said Nasheed.

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