President Waheed delivers farewell addess

The farewell address of President Dr Mohamed Waheed was aired across Maldivian television today, as the nation prepares to choose his successor in tomorrow’s run-off.

In a pre-recorded speech, Waheed discussed his rise to power, his record in office, and the future of the country.

Waheed is currently in Singapore, having left the country yesterday evening with no definitive date set for his return despite drawing MVR 525,000 (US$34,000) from the state treasury for an official visit to Malaysia and Hong Kong.

After deciding to remain in office beyond the expiration of his presidential term on Monday, Waheed promised his resignation would follow tomorrow’s polls had determined his successor.

“As the elected vice president of this country, my constitutional duty was to take over the wheel of this country in that turbulent moment. To direct the nation’s ship to a safe harbor amid the fear of strong winds, strong currents, and rain,” he said.

“To make use of a torn social structure and to dig out the Maldivian economy from a deep pit. To put out the fires at the state’s most sacred institutions and straighten the nation’s ranks. To straighten the nation and establish chain of command.”

Discussing his decision to remain in office this week, Waheed argued that  it would have been difficult from a legal perspective for him to have handed the power of the state over to the speaker of the majlis – as a motion in the chamber and the constitution had called for.

“Hence, even though I do not want it, as head of state, I continued in the position because maintaining the rule of law ascertaining that the security forces ranks are in order is my responsibility. But I repeat, continuing the government on a court order is not my wish.”

Taking office

Regarding the circumstance of his rise to the presidency following months of unrest and the sudden resignation of his predecessor President Mohamed Nasheed, Waheed used his farewell speech to defend his actions.

He argued that himself and Nasheed – contesting in tomorrow’s run-off against Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – had taken office together with the aim to move beyond the Gayoom era.

“However, due to the manner in which the vice president’s role was stated in the constitution, and the manner in which President Nasheed conducted his government, I did not have much responsibility as vice president. I did not have a role in decision making.”

“I was not happy with some of the decisions made by the government in times of rivalry and turmoil. No matter how difficult, I believe decisions must be taken within the law. My conscience believes decisions must be resolved through discussion and consent.”

“Hence, I cannot agree with things that have been done outside the law in the spirit of jealousy and revenge. I was not informed of how the government wanted to proceed as President Nasheed and I had not spoken after January 31.”

The outgoing president went on to describe a number of unconstitutional acts allegedly carried out towards the end of Nasheed’s tenure, including the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Waheed also alleged that the government ordered the military to use rubber bullets against mutinying police on February 7.

“It is not justice when the head of state resigned following the escalation after a matter that could have been solved through talks or giving in went unresolved and then accused the police and military of unlawful acts. It is not fair.”

“When the man who took hold of the wheel to carry out his constitutional duties makes out his ministers and others who came out to serve to be traitors, there is no way falsehood can become truth. And there is no way that truth can be changed.”

Track record

Waheed defended his government’s record, pointing to the return of civil servants salaries reduced under Nasheed, the extension of health insurance to expatriate Maldivians, and the ‘rescue’ of the recently publicly listed Maldives Airport Company Ltd from Indian investors.

“MVR 2 billion was paid for the previous government’s unpaid bills. 6 new resorts were opened, and 871 beds were added. A total of 2034 students received loans in 2012 and 2013 under the student loan scheme and were given the opportunity to gain higher education,” he argued

He also defended his record in improving the country’s international foreign relations, focusing on his rejection of foreign influences.

“The previous government had changed the long-standing non-aligned, independent and Islamic character of foreign policy. Hence, in global currents, our ability to raise our own voice was limited and we were in a situation where we were facing pressure to change our constitution and do things our legal framework does not allow.”

“Foreigners must not be invited to influence the Maldivian state’s powers. This must not be something that has any political weight,” he continued.

Looking to the future, Waheed called for an inclusiveness government to succeed his.

“The division and anger of the past must be set aside and we must work together united to ensure a prosperous future for our children. Our country is too small to marginalize certain groups and proceed. Our population is too small and we are too interconnected.”

“At the same time, we should keep in mind that our actions today are an example for our children and hence we must lead by example. We must show them that differences and disputes cannot be resolved through force and that compromise is not a weakness.”

Read full speech


Majlis returns no-confidence motions against president and defence minister

The People’s Majlis has returned the no-confidence motions against President Dr Mohamed Waheed, and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, arguing that the pair’s appointments had expired on November 11.

Following Waheed’s decision to stay in office beyond the end of the constitutionally specified term, Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid wrote a letter informing Waheed that he was no longer in command of the country.

A motion passed in the Majlis to hand interim power over to the speaker was overruled by the Supreme Court as the presidential election took place on Saturday (November 9).

“Today, as the head of state, my responsibility is to protect the country’s highest interests. Many Maldivians, international organisations and countries are pressuring me to resign and temporarily hand over the government to the People’s Majlis Speaker. On the other hand, even more citizens want me to stay on, to continue with administration of the country, to carry out my duty,” Waheed told the nation on Sunday evening.


Nasheed to face Yameen in run-off as polls mirror annulled Sept 7 results

No candidate has reached 50 percent in the Maldives’ much anticipated revote, with the uncertainty over whether the country would return to the polls at 7:30am tomorrow morning as scheduled after second-placed Abdulla Yameen indicated that he would refuse to sign the voter registry.

Just as in the annulled first round Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed finished ahead, with Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen finishing in second place.

The Jumhooree Party’s (JP) Gasim Ibrahim – whose displeasure with the first round eventually led the Supreme Court to order a re-vote – again finished in third place, missing out on the second round.

The Elections Commission is due to announce provisional results later this evening, with present vote percentages near-mirroring those of the annulled first round – although the vast majority of incumbent President Mohamed Waheed’s first round five percent support appears to have transitioned to the PPM, giving it a decisive lead over the JP.

Despite winning a clear place in the run-off, Yameen said he would be unwilling to consent to polls before November 13.

“No election is not going to happen tomorrow. The simple reason being that the Elections Commission is not prepared for that. The Elections Commission does not have a list that has been pre-signed by the candidates. What they have is a fresh list. So a fresh list for us to review and sign, for verification we need at least 48 hours. So the list they have we are not sure whether that is the list they had for today’s voting,” Yameen claimed.

“So until and unless we are able to ascertain that this is the same list, we are unable to sign that. So the Elections Commission is not prepared. What they are claiming is that they have the same list but unfortunately if it were the same list our signatures or our representatives’ signatures would have been on the list. But unfortunately these are fresh sheets. So we are not sure whether this is the same list we used for voting today. So primarily it is a shortcoming on the part of the Elections Commission. It’s nothing to do with PPM or any other party,” he alleged.

Polling began at 7:00am today and continued without major incidents before closing at 3:30pm. Today’s morning turnout appeared notably less than the 88 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the September 7 poll, however the numbers picked up later in the day leading to an anticipated turnout in the low 80s.

Concerns remain over the fate of the second round, however, with both JP and PPM leaders initially reluctant to sign the necessary electoral register for the run-off.

“It looks as if they are not so keen on fulfilling their duties and responsibilities. Signing these lists is a duty given to candidates and their reps by the Supreme Court,” said Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.

The JP would later accuse the Elections Commission of anti-campaigning by revealing the party’s reluctance to sign the new lists.

Signature of the lists was mandated within the Supreme Court’s annulment ruling, with the government aligned party’s prior reluctance to sign leading to the delay of the previously scheduled election on October 19.

Midway through today’s polling, the JP’s Youth Wing Leader Moosa Anwar submitted a letter to the Supreme Court, requesting that the second round of elections scheduled for Sunday be annulled.

Anwar argued that the short period between rounds would deprive candidates of the opportunity to campaign, or to endorse a run-off candidate.

As tonight’s result became apparent, the MDP released a statement criticising attempts to further delay the election.

“Our opponents are, once again, trying to subvert democracy by refusing to sign the voter lists for tomorrow’s election,” said MDP Deputy Chairperson Ali Shiyam.

The MDP called on the international community to do all they can to ensure an elected president is sworn in by the constitutional deadline, which expires at midnight on Sunday (October 10).

“The international community must apply pressure – including targeted, punitive sanctions – on those individuals who seek to undermine Maldivian democracy,” the party stated.

Arrangements for an interim period were addressed in the Supreme Court today, where a Majlis motion to have the speaker of the house assume the presidency was overruled by the court’s insistence that President Dr Mohamed Waheed remain in power.

The same four judges who supported the annulment of the first round of the election voted to uphold their original ruling, meaning that President Waheed and his government would remain in power.

Waheed, who had withdrawn his name from today’s ballot following a poor showing in September, has previously stated that he has no desire to remain in his post beyond the end of his term.

Elsewhere today, however, officers from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) began circulating an appeal calling on their fellow soldiers not to obey “unlawful” orders issued by President Waheed or his political appointees, following the expiry of his presidential term at midnight on November 10.

“We do not believe there will be a president and a Commander in Chief on 11 November 2013 if there is no president elect,” read the document signed by 73 officers described by one MNDF source as the “backbone of the military”.

“And we believe the positions of President, the cabinet and all individuals  in political posts will expire at 12:00 midnight on 10 November 2013… Hence, we call on all soldiers to respect the Constitution,” the soldiers stated.

The MNDF promoted over 300 soldiers on Friday.


Azima appointed special advisor to President Waheed

Less than one week after being removed from her position as Attorney General, Azima Shukoor has been appointed as Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

The Maldivian Democratic Party had filed a no-confidence motion against Azima, arguing that she had demeaned the constitution, parliamentary powers and the integrity of the Attorney General’s post by advocating against the Elections Commission in September’s vote annulment case.

The appointment comes despite President Waheed’s term being constitutionally scheduled to end in just seven days. Whilst the Supreme Court has suggested he could legally continue in his role until a replacement is selected, the Majlis passed a motion last week providing for the speaker of the house to take over during any interim period.

Waheed himself has said that he does not wish to stay in office past the November 11 deadline. The re-scheduled election is due to take place this Saturday (November 9).


Gasim calls for state of emergency to pursue criminal prosecution of Elections Commission

Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed to take action against Elections Commission (EC) members for allegedly violating the constitution “even by declaring a state of emergency.”

Speaking during a debate at today’s sitting of parliament, the JP leader contended that EC members had violated the constitution by allegedly “speaking against article 113”, which states that the Supreme Court shall have sole and final jurisdiction to determine all disputes concerning the election of a presidential candidate.

EC members should face criminal prosecution for allegedly divesting the constitution of its power and authority, the MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili insisted.

Following the presidential election on September 7 in which he came third with 24 percent of the vote, Gasim alleged electoral fraud and contested the results in the Supreme Court, which subsequently annulled the polls on October 7.

The business tycoon went on to call upon President Waheed to “act in accordance with the constitution even by declaring a state of emergency” as failure to do so would see “the nation fall outside the bounds of the constitution.”

Chapter 11 of the constitution empowers the president to declare a state of emergency for 30 days “[i]n the event of natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression”.

However, the declaration of the state of emergency must be submitted to the People’s Majlis for approval within 48 hours, after which parliament has the authority to revoke the declaration.

Asked about Gasim’s appeal at a press conference today, President Waheed said the EC faced a number of serious difficulties and that the commission had done a lot of work within a short period.

“I don’t believe this is the time to take legal action against them. There is still room to work together to resolve the issue,” he said.


Gasim’s remarks came during a debate on an early day motion submitted by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim calling on Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid to assume the presidency if a president-elect cannot be sworn in on November 11 as stipulated by the constitution.

The motion without notice – a non-binding motion that opens the floor for a one-hour debate – also called for the immediate resignation of President Waheed, contending that his administration had obstructed the constitutionally mandated presidential election from taking place.

Article 110 states, “Elections for the office of President shall be held within one hundred and twenty days to thirty days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term.”

Presenting the motion, Azim noted that the constitutional deadline to conclude a presidential election expired on October 10. He argued that amendments to the relevant laws as well as interim arrangements with the Speaker assuming the presidency was necessary to avoid a constitutional void after November 11.

While the Supreme Court judgment annulling the September 7 election stated that the current president could remain in the post after November 11 in the absence of a president-elect, Azim said that the judgment was “unconstitutional.”

“If extra time beyond that given by the constitution is needed, under the principle of necessity, to complete a specific task as specified in the constitution, it does not necessitate the end of a legal government in place. That such a government will continue to exist under the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ under such circumstances is recognised by both constitutional and legal jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court stated in the case summary of its judgment.

In the parliamentary debate on the motion today, MDP parliamentary group leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, contended that the Maldivian state has lost its democratic status as citizens have been deprived of “one of the most important bases of democracy.”

Constitutional void

Pro-government MPs meanwhile spoke against the MDP’s motion, insisting that the Supreme Court was the highest authority on constitutional matters.

“We have to accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” MP Riyaz Rasheed said in response to MDP MPs arguing that the EC did not have to abide by the guidelines imposed on it by the Supreme Court judgment.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – legal reform minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – argued that the speaker could not assume the presidency after November 11 even if President Waheed resigned.

Nasheed explained that the constitution did not specify a process to be followed in the event that a president is not elected by the end of the five-year presidential term on November 11. The constitution only specified a process for fresh elections if the president or vice president resigned before the end of their terms, he said.

Article 124(b) of the constitution states, “In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.”

“However, this constitution does not say what should be done if a president is not elected within the period in which it must be done,” Nasheed said.

If President Waheed resigns after November 11, Nasheed suggested that parliament should amend the constitution to specify a process to be followed in the absence of a president or vice president after the end of their terms.


President addresses nation on Eid-al-Adha, expresses doubt over fairness of upcoming election

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has today said he will not be backing any particular candidate in the election rerun scheduled for Saturday (October 19), while highlighting what he claimed was “room for doubt” over the integrity and fairness of this year’s polls.

Speaking via local media on the occasion of Eid-al-Adha today, President Waheed, who this week announced he would not be contesting in Saturday’s election, said all Maldivians would share the success of the winning candidate.

During the now defunct presidential poll held on September 7, President Waheed obtained 5.13 percent of the popular vote, finishing last of the four candidates contesting.

The president was quoted in local media as refusing to accept that he had only taken just over 5 percent of the ballot that was annulled by the Supreme Court.

“There are some people who believe that, since it was decided that I gained only five percent of votes in the election, I have no right to speak for the Maldivian people. I don’t accept that, because it is the result of a void election, and because given my post, every action I take affects a large group Maldivian people,” he was quoted as saying in Sun Online.

The outgoing president said that it remained the duty of all Maldivian heads of state “to bring happiness and joy in to the hearts of the people, and to save them from the uneasiness and conflict that has engulfed the country”, according to a summary of his speech provided by the President’s Office.

Dr Waheed, who was elected to office as vice president in the country’s first democratic multi-party election in 2008 as the running mate of former President Mohamed Nasheed, took office himself on February 7, 2012 on the back of a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

Waheed became the president in a controversial transfer of power, alleged by Nasheed to have been a “coup d’etat” orchestrated by his then vice president and political opponents

Addressing the nation on greater Eid – Eid al Adha – President Waheed said the best care had been taken of the “treasure” Maldivian citizens had trusted him with five years ago.

However, questioning the integrity of the election currently scheduled to be held on Saturday (October 19), he claimed that division and vengeance was now widespread in society, adding that it had now become very difficult to differentiate between fact and fabrication.

The election on September 7, which saw an 88 percent voter turnout, was unanimously considered credible and democratic by more than 1000 local and international election observers, before the country’s Supreme Court annulled the vote over allegations of voter irregularities.

According to the President’s Office, unspecified individuals were now creating conflict and hatred in society for the purpose of political gain, though no further clarification was given on the comments.

“However much you deny it, the truth would still be the truth. However much you try to defend it, a lie would still be a lie,” stated the outgoing president, whose term is constitutionally set to end on November 11 this year.

Former President Nasheed was the front runner with 45.45 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Dr Waheed’s own former election running mate, (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali Leader, has said he is now backing Nasheed in Saturday’s election.


JP, PPM fail to agree on contesting election with single candidate

Jumhoree Party (JP) presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim will individually contest the election rerun scheduled for Saturday (October 19), after failing to agree terms with his rivals on uniting behind a single candidate against the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal confirmed that talks between Gasim and fellow candidates President Dr Mohamed Waheed and MP Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had failed to result in an agreement to form an election coalition.

President Waheed announced Friday (October 11) that he would be withdrawing from the election rerun set for October 19, after polls held last month were annulled by the Supreme Court.

Waheed, who came in last place during the now defunct first round of polling on September 7 with 5.13 percent of the popular vote, said he had taken his decision in the “greater interest”of the Maldives, citing concerns about the integrity of the independent Elections Commission (EC).

The election, which saw an 88 percent voter turnout, was unanimously considered credible and democratic by more than 1000 local and international election observers.

Local media has meanwhile quoted the president as saying he would not back back any particular candidate ahead of the vote, despite previously pledging support to the PPM ahead of the cancelled run-off vote that was to be held on September 28.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said he could not officially confirm the president’s stance on not backing a candidate at time of press.

The decision means that just three candidates will contest Saturday’s poll; MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen of the PPM and Gasim Ibrahim of the JP.

Ajmal said that with Dr Waheed, Yameen and Gasim failing to agree on terms for fielding a single candidate to stand against Nasheed, the JP’s candidate would contest the polls individually along with his running mate Dr Hassan Saeed, as he had during the vote on September 7.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday (September 12), Gasim accused the PPM of being the main obstacle in agreeing to back President Waheed as a single candidate against Nasheed.

“I said the others must choose that path as well. Then it will be President Waheed who will contest elections. [I asked for that] because that is the path for success. However that did not happen. I myself told PPM’s President, [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] that I was ready to do that,” he told local media during the press conference.

“When I had proposed this, PPM cannot lie and say [we] did not agree to a single candidate. Politics is dirty, but it shouldn’t be this dirty.”

PPM presidential candidate Yameen has meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru he did not believe the party would receive a sufficient number of votes by uniting behind Waheed. He raised an additional concern, that the incumbent’s running mate during the September 7 vote was Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, adding that it was against the law to change a choice of running mate.

Thasmeen and his party have since pledged support for the MDP during the election.

“We cannot see a way to lawfully change the running mate. There is no way to change Thasmeen as Waheed’s running mate. So even in this sense, from a legal point of view, President Waheed is not a choice,” Yameen was quoted as saying.

The PPM presidential candidate was not responding to calls at time of press.

Cancelled vote

Gasim narrowly finished in third place during last month’s cancelled vote, taking 24.07 percent of ballots cast, with Yameen receiving 25.35 percent of the votes cast.

MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finished as front runner in the poll, securing 45.45 percent of the popular vote.  However, he fell short of the 50 percent ‘plus one vote’ needed to secure the presidency during the first round.

Despite both local and international observers praising the September 7 poll and the conduct of the Maldives’ EC, the Supreme Court ultimately backed concerns raised by the JP over alleged voter irregularities and ordered a rerun of last month’s poll in its entirety.


President Waheed withdraws from October 19 election

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has announced his withdrawal from the rerun of the 2013 presidential election scheduled for October 19, after polling held last month was annulled by the Supreme Court.

Waheed, who came in last place during the now defunct first round of polling held on September 7 with 5.13 percent of the popular vote, said he had taken his decision in the “greater interest”of the Maldives, citing concerns about the integrity of the independent Elections Commission (EC).

“The court found serious flaws with the election register and considered other allegations of irregularities,” stated the President’s Office yesterday (October 11).

Despite both local and international observers praising the September 7 polls and the conduct of the Maldives’ EC, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Jumhoree Party (JP) – whose candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim finished narrowly in third place with  24.07 percent of ballots cast – by ordering a rerun of last month’s poll in its entirety.

Subsequent Supreme Court rulings have since overturned the Election Commission by ordering it to give candidates the choice whether to stay on the ballot paper or withdraw from the election, as well as demanding the entire elections re-registration process be restarted less than 10 days before polling.

While Dr Waheed has stood down from contesting the election rerun, the President’s Office said he would continue with his duties until his term expires on November 11, when the constitution requires a new head of state to be sworn in.

“Disputes arising out of the first round have caused serious disagreements among the political parties, the Elections Commission and the Supreme Court. During the remaining time, the President will do his best to maintain peace and stability, to ensure the election process continues with greater fairness, and to steer the country through these difficult times,” read the statement.

“Although President Waheed scored the least number of votes in the first round, he continues to be highly respected for the calmness with which he has managed the country, and for maintaining peace and stability in the nation.”

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls at time of press to clarify whether the incumbent would be lending his support to another candidate standing in the election.

President Waheed last month announced he would be backing Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen in the second round run-off vote that was scheduled for September 28.  The run-off was delayed and later cancelled by the Supreme Court.

Yameen had finished in second place on the cancelled September 7 poll with 25.35 percent of the votes cast. He was scheduled to compete against Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed, who secured  45.45 percent of the popular vote – falling short of the 51 percent needed to secure the presidency during the first round.


Comment: Maldivian Democracy – Where to from here?

“Maldives can never have stability through elections which has opposition Maldivian Democratic Party presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed’s name on the ballot”

“We will not hand over [power] through an election, [we] will not hand over even if he gets elected”

“Election fraud should be investigated and the election commissioner should resign”

– Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed

These are not political statements. This is not political discourse. This is not democratic discourse. We call ourselves a democracy – a young democracy. But these statements are the symptoms and early warning signals of a failing democracy.

Failing democracy

There are different versions and theories on what a ‘true democracy’ is, even though I believe that term is flawed to the core. No system is perfect and a ‘true democracy’ is too ambitious an aspiration to be realistically achievable. At the same time, democracy is also not just giving everyone above 18 a right to vote and a right to represent.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) runs an annual survey for a ‘Democracy Index’, which rates various sovereign countries across the world on how effective they are as democracies. They rate countries on five arameters which are commonly accepted as relevant for judging the strength of democracies: 1) Electoral process and pluralism; 2) Functioning of government; 3) Political participation; 4) Democratic political culture; 5) Civil liberties. While this annual ‘Democracy Index’ typically covers around 160 – 165 countries across the world, the Maldives is not ranked. One can go through the details of this index here and build their own perspective on how well are we doing on this.

My summary view on the state of Maldivian democracy based on an assessment of these parameters is that we are a democracy on ventilator, desperately gasping for life. The statements by a vice presidential candidate highlighted above are a reflection on the sanctity of our electoral process, rather the lack of it. No only this, ours is a democracy where the Supreme Court decides on the sanctity of electoral process based on a ‘secret report’ by the police without even giving a chance to the Elections Commission, or anyone else, to see the report – let alone comment on it. At the same time, one only needs to see through the various actions of the current government to see that we clearly fail on the parameter of functioning of government, with the rampant corruption and decisions that are typically taken under the influence of one of the president’s allies or the other.

President Waheed has been sanctioning millions of dollars’ worth of favours to the people who put him in power – £5million payments to Grant Thornton to stop corruption investigations against Abdulla Yameen, and the arbitrary 99-year lease extension for Mamigili airport are just a couple of cases in point. The recent decision by Waheed’s cabinet to sell MACL shares in the course of a week, while being totally silent on the valuation or process for sale as well as the role of the Majlis or the privatization board in the same is a further example of absolute failure of governance, which is marred by corruption, in our democracy.

Civil liberties, or the lack of them, is the most significant problem for us today. None of the media houses are independent since their owners are aligned with one political party or the other – a case in point is a recent headline in a national electronic newspaper which said “Nasheed doesn’t have time’ for second round presidential debate” while referring to the cancellation of MBC’s presidential debate. Brutal crackdowns on anti-government protestors are a norm of the day and tolerance for the opposition view is totally amiss from governance.

As for a democratic political culture, our country is being run by a ‘president-by-chance’ who has no popular support and who has been totally inept at maintaining public order, largely because he represents the old order and vested interests who brought him to power. It is only political participation that is the last remaining hope for the Maldivian democracy, and I am proud to say that we may be one of the best in the world on this parameter, but I fear we are starting to view our democracy in this very narrow perspective.

Constitutional void or civil disobedience or much more?

It is apparent from the discussion above that Maldivian democracy is faced with a number of challenges that threaten its very existence. What started in February 2012 was a political turmoil. Where we are at today is a constitutional void – where no one knows who has the power on which matters, and everything is a question of interpretation of the constitution. The more worrisome aspect, after this Supreme Court judgement on validity of elections, is where do we go from here?

Whether the Supreme Court had the power to cancel the second round or not is still in question – the executive was only too happy to implement its orders anyhow without regard to the powers of the constitutional institutions such as the elections commission. Whether they were right in annulling the first round, on the basis of a report the existence of which is in question, is an even bigger question. Parliamentary supremacy is a bit of an unknown concept in our democracy and anyone and everyone seems to challenge it based on their convenience – be it challenging the position of the speaker, or validity of seats of opposition MPs, or the simplest of things like not destroying the audio systems just to stop the other side from making their case.

The questions are many and there are no clear answers. Can the elections commission ensure a free and fair election with the high level of control that has now been given to the Maldives police? Will the Maldives’ police, who are led by a man recently reprimanded by integrity commission for his anti-Nasheed activism in the forces, really allow a free and fair election? Will any election in which Nasheed wins, despite any odds, be conceded as a free and fair election? What will deter the losers of the re-election from running to the Supreme Court again pleading some other kind of foul play and getting the elections annulled once again? Will Nasheed supporters accept a defeat calmly and with grace, without crying foul play, having received 45 percent votes in the annulled elections? Now that the sanctity of the electoral process has been undermined significantly, what is the way out of this situation?

Using undue influence over the Supreme Court to play with the electoral process is not an acceptable answer for one side of the political spectrum. Disqualifying the most popular candidate from contesting the elections or not letting him take power – even if he wins the election and possibly even a re-election – is clearly not a plausible answer for the other side. This is a stark conflict and everyone is getting involved. Even the MNDF is getting politicised and polarised, along with the customs, air traffic control, and resort employees. That this conflict will only escalate further is increasingly likely and the recent arson attack on pro-opposition Raajje TV is an early warning signal of how bad things can get, if not checked in time.

Where to from here in search of solutions?

A conflict where a large proportion of people with a political voice start looking at every action of the state with suspicion is mostly avoidable. No one likes conflict and certainly not a violent conflict. With everything that is going on in the rest of the world – in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere – no one wants a conflict in the much more peaceful Maldives. Given the polarised nature of this conflict, it is important for order to be established in the Maldives sooner rather than later. Leaving internal institutions in the Maldives to chance upon a solution after a prolonged conflict is not what is required at present and may even be counter-productive.

Clearly, the Maldives needs the international community’s support to ensure that this conflict is not prolonged and is resolved for good with this round of elections. Moreover, it is not in India’s interests to see any prolonged conflict in its backyard, for such conflicts allow an opportunity to other countries to start playing an active role where they have been largely absent till date. It is important for India to establish diplomatic supremacy once again in the Maldives.

Ever since the suspicious transfer of power in the Maldives in February 2012, Indian engagement in the Maldives has largely been reactive. It has been on the ‘back-foot’ since February 2012 with the rising anti-India voices from some quarters of the political spectrum. President Waheed went back on his word to the Indian prime minister in cancelling the GMR agreement, and the much prolonged ‘Nasheed-holed-up-inside-Indian-high-commission’ drama in February 2013 only exacerbated discord. India has reacted well to manage some of these situations, though Indian diplomacy has failed on a few fronts, particularly in failing to gauge the allegiance of the current government of President Waheed.

The current conflict in the Maldives provides a perfect opportunity for India to take charge of the situation. The re-election is an opportunity to set the Maldives in order and to define Indian diplomatic supremacy in the region. It has to play an active role in building domestic as well as international consensus on whatever is required to ensure that the re-election, now that everyone seems to have accepted it, is free and fair and actually results in a smooth and consensual transfer of power on November 11. The number of diplomatic options India has are endless, but just strongly worded statements don’t seem to be enough of a deterrent to the various political actors in the Maldives. On the other extreme, far-fetched options like an international peace-keeping force or any sort of ‘boots-on-ground’ is totally out of bounds as well. While some sort of economic sanctions are a plausible diplomatic action, these haven’t been much of a deterrent in many cases across the world.

A possible tourism-embargo will hit the various political actors involved in this conflict and would force them to tow the democratic line such that the starkly polarised domestic politics could be sorted out once and for all. This is a call that has been made by the MDP as well, and has been welcomed and criticized in equal measure by various people across the socio-political spectrum in the country. Having said that, it is such details of what and how that India has to play without becoming actively involved in the local politics and without taking political sides. India has to build international consensus on what carrots and which sticks need to be used to ensure that any dubious dealings no longer stymie Maldivian democracy.

Maldivian democracy is on life-support and it needs international help, especially from India, to help it come back to life again after the 11th November.

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