Former President Nasheed performs live techno-rap debut at campaign concert

Former president Mohamed Nasheed performed live at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) music concert on Thursday (August 31) as certain supporters donned t-shirts proclaiming their presidential candidate an ‘Eco rock star’ ahead of his techno-pop-rap debut.

The ‘Emmen Ehburun’ (‘Everyone one round’) music show (August 29) showcased some of the Maldives’ most popular artists and a variety of musical styles in an effort to galvanise voters to participate in the September 7 presidential election.

The lively campaign event was hosted by MDP MPs Eva Abdulla and Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy, and drew a crowd of nearly 4,000 people near ‘raalhugandu’, Male’s surf point, adjacent to the Tsunami Monument. A broad demographic of women, men, teenagers, small children accompanied by their families, and the elderly gathered to watch the show.

Maldivian rock band Eman’s Conspiracy fired up the audience with their unique style – some of the male band members sported women’s flower-print stretch pants and jumpers – and witty lyrics. One song joked about police breaking up protesters by tickling their stomachs, in reference to the Maldives Police Service’s violent crackdown on protesters, and former Civil Service Commission Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan’s dismissal in November 2012 over allegations he sexually harassed a female staff member by caressing her stomach.

After their performance the crowd around the stage rapidly multiplied and surged forward in anticipation of Nasheed’s performance. Cheers and shouts of ‘ehburun’ erupted from the audience as Nasheed took the stage with DJ Umar.

The ‘Eco rock star’ launched into an original rap spun by DJ Umar to a techno remix of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’. Nasheed’s on-stage excitement was contagious, with onlookers energised by his political lyrics and unique techno-pop-rap musical style.

Although audio clips from some of Nasheed’s speeches have been set to techno house music and have been endlessly echoing through the Maldives since the controversial transfer of power in February 2012 – this is the first time the former president has sung live. (See below for translated lyrics and video of Nasheed’s performance).

Nasheed may have stolen the show with his techno-pop-rap musical debut, but the artists that followed kept the crowd in a fevered frenzy.

Famed boduberu (traditional singing, drumming, and dancing) group Harubee, two time winners of the Maldives Boduberu Challenge and invitees to multiple international events, riveted the crowd with renditions of classic Maldivian songs. The ladies in the crowd were particularly enthralled with lead singer Ibrahim ‘Mandey’ Mamdhooh, who forewent his drum in favour of impassioned singing and dancing.

Men and women alike were headbanging in the ‘pit’ that formed in front of the stage during Maldivian metal band Traphic Jam’s performance. Their rock performance and political protest song lyrics – “Anni (Nasheed) was there when I went to bed, when I woke up it was a baaghee (traitor)” – resonated with the youth who shouted the lyrics in time with the band.

The ‘Emmen Ehburun’ show resonated with young MDP  supporters, several of whom in the crowd described the eclectic mix of music as “habeys” (awesome) and that “Anni’s performance was epic”.

DJ Umar featuring former President Mohamed Nasheed:

“Fasten your seatbelts. We are cleared for landing. We will only rest after taking the oath of office as the President of the Maldives on November 11, 2013.

The people of the Maldives have seen, they have weighed, the people of the Maldives have decided to give this election to the Maldivian Democratic Party. We will win this election in one round. In one round. In one round. Forward, forward, forward, forward. Forward with the Maldivian nation.

Come. Come out with us, roll up your sleeves, and come out to develop this country. Our country has seen how things happened during 30 long years – our people has seen that. It was quite recently that education in the English-medium began in Maldivian schools. In our three years, we built 240 schools, in our three years we changed Maldivian schools to single session.

The people of the Maldives are yearning again for a Maldivian Democratic Party government. The people of the Maldives are yearning again for compassionate, good governance. We will come back. We will return. We will provide good governance for the people of the Maldives.

We cannot secure the change we seek without connecting the islands of this country with public transport. The people of the Maldives want development. The people want housing. We all want the same things. We want a good life – public transport, good healthcare when we’re sick, a good education for our children, we all want good governance.

We will come back. We will beat the traitors and win this election in one round. The people of the Maldives are not ready to leave this country to a coup. The people of this country want to establish a government of the people in the Maldives.

Forward, forward, forward. Come. Come out with us to develop this nation. We will not step back. Our courage will not slacken, our resolve will not be shaken. We will come back. We will offer good governance for the people of this country. The Maldivian Democratic Party will always remain with the people of the Maldives. Our prayer is always for a better way than this for our country. This country is rich in natural resources. We can develop and achieve progress. We can find a better way than this for our youth.

We want development. We want entertainment. We want housing, education for our children. We want compassion, social security. The Maldivian Democratic Party is a party that makes pledges and fulfils pledges. God willing, we will deliver on our pledges. Our country is headed towards a safe shore. Come out with us. Come out. We will secure our country. We can see the horizons of the Other Maldives. We have come out seeking this country’s development. We have always had one goal.

You would have heard the pledges of political leaders. When they go to an island first they’ll meet a fisherman. The fisherman will say, ‘Seytu [literally shopkeeper, used to refer to Gasim], my boat is on land.’ And Seytu will pledge a boat for every fisherman. In the middle of the island he will meet a teacher. The teacher will say I want a laptop and Seytu will say, ‘a laptop for every teacher.’ That is not a political pledge. Political pledges are those that can be fulfilled through a policy. The Maldivian Democratic Party manifesto is one that has been costed and budgeted. We are a party that makes pledges and fulfils pledges.

God willing, we will win this election in one round. In one round, one round, one round. Valhamdulillah. Thank you very much.”


Thousands of voters failing to re-register to vote in Male before August 7 deadline, warns Elections Commission

Only 11,000 out of an estimated 65,000 Maldivians have registered to vote outside of their permanent residence for the September 7 presidential election, with many unregistered voters confident they will not encounter problems voting on election day.

Despite this confidence, many of these same voters have also cited confusion or a lack of awareness about registration and voting regulations.

While public response to the voter re-registration process has been poor, Maldivians can only re-register until August 7, after which time the window of opportunity will end, Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek told local media.

“We urge everyone to pay special heed to the re-registration. Once the deadline ends, we won’t allow any more chances because we need to verify the forms as well,” Thowfeek explained.

The EC has received some registration forms from political parties that are taking part in the process, which Thowfeek hopes many people are using to re-register to vote prior to the deadline.

The 54,000 person voter registration shortfall has prompted the EC to establish a voter registration desk in the Raalhugandu area – Male’s surf point, adjacent to the Tsunami Monument in Henviru ward – openly nightly from 9:30pm to 11:00pm.

To try and understand what is preventing so many Maldivians from registering to vote, Minivan News spoke to a cross-section of youth – individuals between 18 and 35 years-old – and asked: 1) Whether they plan to vote in the September’s presidential election; 2) Where they plan to cast their vote; 3) If they have registered to vote in that location; 4) If they have checked the voter registration list previously published in the Government Gazette, or with the EC.

An overwhelming majority of those questioned expressed passionate excitement about the upcoming elections and said they plan to vote, and enthusiastically voiced support for a particular political party. However, many of the same individuals were unaware – and even unconcerned – about the voter re-registration process.

“Yeah, I’m gonna vote here in Male’. I think I’m registered, cause a guy from the [island] council talked about it and he took a photocopy of my ID card,” said a 20 year-old, originally from Haa Alif Atoll now living in Male’.

“I didn’t check the [voter registration] list. What does it contain – the list of people who can vote this year?” he asked.

Maldivians originally from the atolls now living in Male’ have also said they find the voter registration process for the Male’ Dhaftharu – a special registry for people who are Male’ residents, but are from other islands – to be “too complicated” or “time consuming”.

“‘Ehburun’ – I support the [Maldivian Democratic Party] (MDP)!” exclaimed a 25 year-old safari boat worker from Shaviyani Atoll, who lives in Male’ with his wife and young children.

He said he plans to vote but has had “no time” to research the voter registration process or check the voter registration list and juggle family and work responsibilities. His wife is also politically passionate, and believes they will have no issues voting on election day, but has not checked the voter registry.

Numerous individuals do not think they need to re-register to vote, especially if they voted in a recent election or if they plan to vote on their home island.

“I will be registered on my island. I’ll be able to walk into the polling station on my island and vote, no problem. I have not checked [the status of] my registration, because there’s no need,” said a 22 year-old who is working and studying in Male’.

This sentiment was reflected almost verbatim by a 21 year-old from Meemu Atoll who works in a private business office in Male’: “I don’t know if I’m registered, but there’s no need. I’ll go to my island on election day and be able to vote no problem.”

Those who plan to travel back to their home islands to vote are completely confident political parties will provide boat transport on election day, and that weather causing rough seas will not be a problem.

Those who plan to travel to their islands – from atolls in the far north to the far south of the Maldives – are indiscriminate about which political party boat they will take, even if it means they will be accepting transport from a party they will not be voting for.

University students studying in Male’ have also told Minivan News that because “transportation is difficult” they are currently looking for scheduled trips to their home islands, but will ultimately have to seek out political party boats traveling from Male’ to the islands on election day. The transport provided by political parties tends to be more “luxurious” than regular ferries, some said.

These college students feel because they are studying full time, and many simultaneously work full time jobs, the EC registration process is too complicated and not flexible enough to accommodate their schedules.

Additionally, they “do not trust political parties enough to register through them”.

Meanwhile, many resort workers are still unsure of the location they will be voting and therefore have not registered to vote.

“I’m not sure if there will be a ballot box on the resort. We have not been informed by the resort management,” said a water sports instructor working on a resort near Male’.

He explained that the Maldivian staff also have not been informed if the resort will provide time off or transportation to another island to vote – and they were not notified during the 2008 presidential election either.

“I want to vote, but even if I knew where I should be voting, I only get one day off, so I cannot come to Male’ to register,” the water-sports instructor added. “There needs to be an online registration system.”

Another resort worker noted that he recalls a voter registration SMS reminder  “bouncing around a while back”, but is still unclear on whether he even needs to register to be eligible to vote.

The EC earlier revealed that only 56 of the country’s 100 resort islands had agreed to allow ballot boxes for staff to vote.

“As an alternative, we’ll place boxes in the islands closest inhabited island and they’ll send their employees [to vote],” Thowfeek said at the time. “Resorts cannot stop their staff from going [to vote] because we have an understanding, an arrangement with them. If they try to stop [their employees from voting] we will take the necessary actions [against them].”

Traveling abroad for work during election has also created problems for some Maldivians.

“If we travel we will miss the election. There should be an early voting system,” said a 25 year-old working in Male’.

Even individuals actively involved in campaigning for a particular political party and assisting with the voter registration process for their constituency are not entirely clear about the re-registration process.

“I’m not sure when the deadline is,” said a 23 year-old campaign volunteer who works in Male’.

“I’m definitely voting for MDP,” declared one 22 year-old in Male’, however though he said he has been very active organising various events – political and non-political – in his neighborhood, he did not think he needed to register to vote.

Voter apathy

While the lack of voter registration awareness has not deterred many Maldivian youth from confidently believing they will be able to vote on September 7 without issue, there are some individuals who feel so politically disenfranchised they are choosing not to vote.

“It won’t matter whether I vote, nothing changes for us, we are mistreated by police under every government administration,” said a 22 year-old working in Male’. “Only politicians and their friends have rights, no one else does.”

“I don’t feel like voting since no one will be willing to do anything good for the citizens. When it comes to voting, they’ll tell us it’s our right. But when we go to get our rights, there’s no rights for us,” said a 23 year-old Maldivian studying abroad in Sri Lanka.

“For instance, what about the parents of the murdered guys? Where do they go to get justice for their murdered sons?” he asked.

“You see there’s no candidate that I would like to vote for. I hate each and every one. Everyone [running for president] is out for their own good, no one is going to help the country develop. Neither is any citizen going to get benefits,” he added.

Some Maldivians are planning to vote if the elections continue on to a second round, but say they do not think it is necessary to vote in the first round.

“MDP has so many supporters they don’t need my vote. Ehburun! But if they don’t win in the first round, then I’ll vote in the second,” said a 25 year-old Male’ resident.

EC Hotline Help

The EC has stressed that they wish to hear any and all issues, concerns, or complaints voters may have in regard to the upcoming elections.

“We are here to listen and check into any problems,” said Thowfeek. “Anyone can call the EC regarding any problem, we currently have 12 lines and will increase the number of reception lines as demand increases.”

Currently. the EC hotline is staffed 8:00am to 8:00pm, however as elections day approaches the line hours will be extended, Thowfeek explained.

Maldivians can call or SMS to determine where they are registered to vote, which political party they are registered with, to report any problem or difficulties, and to seek any information.

The Elections Commission hotline is 1414.

The SMS codes for enquiries are as follows:

SMS PPR(space)(ID#) – current political party registration
SMS Voterinformationsystem(space)(ID#) – respective polling place location based on voter registration

Additionally, voter registration, including political party affiliation, can be verified in the Maldives’ government gazette.


Judge refuses to officiate MDP-themed wedding

A judge from Kanduhulhudhoo Island in Gaaf Alif Atoll has refused to officiate a wedding decorated with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s presidential campaign slogan ‘MDP Ehburun’ last week, reports local media.

‘Ehburun’ (one round) is a reference to the MDP’s pledge to win the September 7 presidential election in the first round.

The Kanduhulhudhoo Magistrate Judge Hassan Didi refused to proceed with the marriage vows because the table set for the marriage ceremony was “decorated with the words ‘MDP EhBurun’ in bold letters,” according to CNM.

“I refused to officiate because ‘MDP EhBurun’ was written. I do not object to the color or arrangements used for decoration. But we cannot conduct a wedding to promote a certain group,” Didi told CNM.

“I told them that it would be better to have a phrase such as ‘Baajjaveri Kaivenyakah Maruhaba’ (‘Welcome To A Happy Wedding’),” he added.

The families of the couple then changed the table decorations, before the judge would proceed with the wedding, Didi explained.


Thousands rally in Male’ for MDP’s eighth anniversary and carnival parade

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,