Will the new President’s ‘conciliatory mode’ last, asks the Eurasia Review

Soon after he took over, the first thing President Yameen did was to take a swipe at the losing candidate Mohamed Nasheed, by declaring that “People have proved that they do not want a puppet of foreign powers,” writes Dr S Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.

Better sense prevailed and soon he quickly made some conciliatory gestures to make up for that indiscreet statement.

Though Nasheed lost, nearly fifty person of the electorate had voted for him and this cannot be ignored. The international community also stressed that the new government in view of the close contest, should engage the opposition in a conciliatory manner.

Some appointments have been disappointing. The selection of Umar Naseer, a loose canon as the Home Minister is one. This perhaps has been done more to quieten him and as part of the deal with the Jumhooree with whose cooperation Yameen has come to power. It may be recalled that Umar Naseer in losing his bid for becoming the party candidate for presidentship in the PPM had abused Yameen of having used the convicted and the drug smuggling network to get elected. He was out of the party for a while and now he says that he either wants to join the PPM or the Jumhooree again!

The appointment of the Foreign Minister is another disappointment. Yameen’s niece and Gayoom’s daughter Dhunya Maumoon has been elevated and reappointed as the foreign minister. In one of the first interviews he gave, Yameen said that his priority would be on the Maldives- India relations that had taken a downturn in the last two years. As a minister of state in Waheed’s government, Dhunya looked after the foreign relations and the relations with India deteriorated mainly because of her.

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Poll-Ball Should Go Back To Court For One Last Time: Eurasia Review

“The judges of the Maldivian Supreme Court may not have divined that their ‘Majority verdict’ in the ‘Presidential poll case’ could contribute to avoidable delays, which definitely was not their intention,” writes N Sathiya Moorthy for the Eurasia Review.

“Yet, the court’s 16-point guidelines for re-polls, issued while annulling the 7 September first-round, as scheduled and conducted by the Election Commission (EC), may have caused avoidable interpretations, hence delays, too.

‘Bogus voters’ and ‘fraudulent votes’ were among the major issues on which the court had adjudicated. However, the prescribed cure has proved to be as problematic as the perceived ailment. The court’s guideline for the contesting candidates to attest a fresh voters’ list prepared by the EC, based on other guidelines contained in the Majority judgment, has led to an ‘unfinished task’ of a kind.

Two of the three candidates in the fray, namely, Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP), declined to sign the voters’ list, saying that they needed more time than the 24 hours available to them, for verification.

The third candidate, Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the front-runner in the annulled first-round with a high 45.45 percent vote-share, readily signed the list, just a day ahead of the first-round re-poll, scheduled for 29 October as per the Majority verdict.”

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Fears of judicial process being used to derail election justified: Eurasia Review

Will anyone believe that the highest court in Maldives has met three times at midnight in the last three weeks to give executive directions to the Elections Commission in the conduct of the presidential elections, asks Dr S Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.

Of these, two of the recent meetings were to satisfy a particular individual who after requesting the court to postpone the elections by a month, is now using all means to ensure that fresh elections do not take place on the 19th as rescheduled by the Election Commission.

On October 11, the Supreme Court met at midnight to order the Election Commission to restart from scratch the process of re registering an estimated 65,000 voters who wished to vote at a place different from their home island.

Following these orders, the political parties had to rush with the new finger print forms to re register through the department of National Registration. There were long queues of thousands of people waiting to be re registered and the computer systems also broke down. Still the assistants processing the forms had to do it manually and issue receipts pending the restoration of the system. The task undertaken was a stupendous one and yet the staff worked overtime to complete the registration before the deadline.

The MDP has pointed out that it is “extremely concerned” that the Supreme Court is interfering in the electoral process for political reasons, “issuing unconstitutional rulings and acting with impunity.”

The Election Commission Chief said on 13th that “there are groups of people who want to block the vote . . . those who know that they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult.” This is certainly a reference to Abdulla Yameen the PPM candidate.

The PPM supporters went to the extent of even obstructing the smooth conduct of re registration on the 15th and threatened the officials. The Maldivian Police took its own time to come to the scene (five hours) and remove the protesters.

President Waheed also appears to be indirectly supporting the PPM candidate. Though he formally withdrew his candidacy yesterday in his speech on Eid-al-Adha, he made a mischievous comment that there is “room for doubt”over the integrity and fairness of polls. He is still the chief executive and it is surprising that he not only abdicated his functions to the Supreme Court, but also has taken sides in the ongoing difficulties experienced in the conduct of the presidential elections.

The Human rights committee of the UK’s Bar has pointed out that the verdict is troubling in the context of the ongoing international criticism concerning lack of independence of the Maldivian judiciary and lack of adequate separation of powers.

In an earlier paper of June 14, 2013 (Paper 5509) I had mentioned that there is a fear of the judicial process being used to prevent Nasheed from contesting. These fears appear to be justified now.

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Nasheed to ‘go it alone’ in run-off: Eurasia Review

Presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim appears to have been upset over the election results. He said that he will not accept the results announced by the Election Commission. He also alleged that over 10000 voters who were not registered had voted in the elections, writes Dr S Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.

It is doubtful whether Gasim would succeed in his court case in the face of the findings of many neutral observers. It also looks very doubtful whether Gasim would whole heartedly support Yameen Abdulla as their relationship has a bitter history.

Perhaps Nasheed must have taken these into consideration in deciding to go it alone and not go for a coalition with other parties. His experience in the first term where he was unable to get along with those who voted for him like Gasim, Hassan Saeed and others must have made him decide not to go against coalition this time.

On the other hand the other candidate Abdulla Yameen, Gayoom’s half brother will have no compunction to use every card available with him to show that not only the country but also Islam will be unsafe under Nasheed. Some of his supporters may also resort to “India bashing”.

Already the rabid leader Sheikh Mohammed Shaheen Ali Saeed of Adhaalath party has declared that he would join the PPM of Yameen. Some allegations are already being made that the GMR will be brought back to run the international Airport of Male to favour India in case Nasheed is voted to power.

With all other groups ganging up against Nasheed which we saw in the first round itself, it looks that it is not going be an “easy walk” for him in the runoff.

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Elections looking smooth – but what about transition period, asks Eurasia Review

Despite the heat generated by various political parties in the campaign, there have been no major incidents of violence and it looks that the elections will be gone through smoothly on September 7, writes Dr S Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.

The Election Commission has wisely decided to start polling earlier by 7.30am itself and conclude by 4:00pm. The idea is to minimise possible disturbances that often occur after sunset and this I believe has been done on the advice of police.

The police have generally been alert and the Police Commissioner has given detailed instructions on ‘do’s and don’ts’ on the election day. These efforts are laudable. The only jarring note that I noticed was the statement issued by the Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz that the police will continue to refuse any orders they decides are “unconstitutional”.

Who is the Police Commissioner to decide whether the order is unconstitutional or not? This statement has intrigued the political parties, particularly the MDP which has declared that its main task is to reform the police, military and the judiciary.

Riyaz is a post coup appointee and is also a person who was actively involved in the overthrow of President Nasheed. So is the Defence Minister and my concern is- Will they accept the election results in the event the present regime does not come to power? Will they create a constitutional crisis?”

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Maldives turning into ‘terrorist haven’: Eurasia Review

A Nasheed government would “need external assistance to keep this strategic island nation out of the hands of Islamic extremism Wahabism and Salafism,” writes Bhaskar Roy for the Eurasia Review.

“It is known that an increasing number of youths are going to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to study in Madrassas, which impart extreme religious education and encourage jihad.

“Finances are also coming in from Saudi, Kuwaiti and other NGOs. This happened in Bangladesh in the 1990s and early 2000, leading to a burst of Islamic terrorism, which continues to haunt the country.

“A new group called the Hifazat-e-Islam, Bangladesh (HIB) recently tried to hold the government hostage, demanding Sharia Law. The Hifazat had backing from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) and the main opposition party. But the government in Bangladesh was strong enough to put down the challenge. This is not over, however.

“What kind of chance do the moderates in Maldives have when the Wahabis and Salafis launch their siege? In Maldives, the women and girls are increasingly taking to burkha/hijab in fear of retribution. With bans on anything remotely seen as un-Islamic, there is no breathing space or food for the mind. The Maldives is a country of around 1,200 islands, reefs and atolls, with barely 400 of them inhabitated. Around 30 per-cent of the country’s foreign exchange comes from tourism. The tourism industry is under attack with alcohol being prohibited in most places, extending gradually to tourist resorts. When dress codes are extended to tourist resorts, this industry will die.

“The strength of religious extremist groups lies in keeping the people poor, uneducated and unenlightened. Men from such backgrounds easily become soldiers of religious jihad as is seen in Pakistan, for example.

“The Maldives, under the current disposition, has all the potential to become a sanctuary for jihadists. If Waheed wins the elections later this year, India will become one of the jihadi targets. People in Maldives have links with the Al Qaeda and Pakistani organisations, like the LeT. Islamic extremism today is no longer handled by individual organisations. They have become an industry with organisations supporting each other. Lone-wolf terrorism that was recently witnessed in UK and France is a new challenge.

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India should monitor developments closely: Eurasia Review

“All indications are that every effort will be made by the authorities in Maldives to prevent [former President Mohamed] Nasheed from contesting [in elections scheduled for later this year],” writes S Chandrasekharan for the Eurasia Review.

“The Maldivian President’s Spokesman Masood Imad had said that the elections will free and fair but will be ‘exclusive’ – in the sense will exclude those not meeting the legal criteria. The intention is clear- use all means constitutional or otherwise to prevent Nasheed from contesting.

Nasheed has already threatened that any verdict barring him from contesting the elections would result in a lot of people rising against the decision and trigger a very dangerous political insurgency.

From the Indian point of view the situation needs careful monitoring. It is hoped that international pressure to have a free, fair and more importantly, an ‘inclusive’ election will continue.”

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Keeping Nasheed Alive: Eurasia Review

India has a moral obligation to see that former President Mohammad Nasheed, who was arrested by Maldivian Commandos on March 5, 2013, in alleged response to a court order to face trial in a case pending against him, remains alive,” writes B. Raman for the Eurasia Review.

“Even though he might have been arrested ostensibly in pursuance of a court order, his arrest is a breach of faith on the part of the Waheed Government. He left the Indian High Commission, where he had taken sanctuary, in response to assurances regarding his safety and security.

India, which played a role in the negotiations that led to his leaving his safe sanctuary in the High Commission, is a guarantor of the assurances given by the Waheed Government regarding his safety and security.

India should immediately make it clear to former President Abdul Gayoom, who has allegedly been playing an active behind-the-scene role in advising the Government of Waheed, that it will hold him and Waheed personally and morally responsible for the safety and security of Nasheed and that should anything untoward happen to him while in custody India would act in the appropriate manner to ensure that solemn assurances given to India by the Government are not violated with impunity.

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Common sense after CoNI: Eurasia Review

As the best hope of unraveling the tangled events surrounding Nasheed’s resignation on February 7, the failure of the CoNI ought to put to rest attempts to determine what happened on that fateful day, writes Daniel Bosley for the Eurasia Review.

CoNI represented the light at the end of the tunnel that has been the country’s attempts at political reconciliation since February. Assembled by Presidential decree and reconstituted by international request, the inquiry has become increasingly important as parallel all-party talks failed to get off the ground.

The revelation that Nasheed’s representative on the commission, Ahmed Gahaa Saeed, was unhappy with the report on Monday suggested that its public release on Thursday would be a disappointing anti-climax. His resignation on Wednesday confirmed it.

It also confirmed the reality that no legal document, governmental report, or political opinion will ever change the differing versions of events that are indelibly scored into the hearts and minds of Maldivians.

After six months of going round in circles, it is time to face reality and find the best way to heal the nation – starting from where it is today – on the edge of a precipice.

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