Democracy survey reveals crisis of confidence in democratic institutions

The Maldives’ first survey on public attitudes towards democracy reveals a deep crisis of public confidence in key democratic institutions, local advocacy group Transparency Maldives has said.

Of a 1000 randomly selected individuals, 62 percent said they have no confidence in parliament, while 58 percent said they have no confidence in political parties. Respondents who reported no confidence in the local government and courts stand at 50 percent and 46 percent respectively

The ‘Democracy at Crossroads’ survey also revealed extraordinarily high levels of cynicism, with 92 percent stating they believe politicians lie to get elected and 86 percent saying the government does not care about ordinary people.

Cynicism has “corrosive effects on democratic life,” the report said, claiming it drives citizens away from active participation in the public sphere which in turn increases impunity and corruption.

Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed called on the state to take “extraordinary measures” to regain the trust of the public. Citizens too must step up efforts to hold public officials accountable, he said.

Despite bleak findings, the survey shows citizens are interested in politics and are relatively knowledgeable about politics and active in the life of their communities.

Crisis of confidence

Maldivians gave political leaders a low score with none rating better than average. Former President Mohamed Nasheed received the highest rating at 48 percent while incumbent President Abdulla Yameen received the worst at 26 percent.

Maldives’ 30-year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom received an average rating of 42 percent while Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim received a rating of 41 percent.

The survey also found Maldivians had more confidence in the state’s authoritative institutions than its representative institutions.

Respondents were significantly more likely to report they had more confidence in the army (34 percent) and the police (32 percent) than in political parties (8 percent) or parliament (11 percent).

The report, however, noted “striking” divisions on opinions regarding the security forces.

Although one third of respondents said they have “a great deal of confidence” in the army and police, the same proportions report they have “no confidence at all” in the army (29%) and the police (32%).

Maldivians are troubled by the status quo, the survey found, with 50 percent saying they are dissatisfied with the way democracy works. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 said they were “not at all satisfied” with democracy in the country.

Further, a staggering 84 percent said power is concentrated in the hands of too few people.

The Maldivian public is more likely to have negative associations with the idea of democracy than in other transitional democracies. A majority of respondents linked democracy with instability, poor economy and lack of order.

Meanwhile, 77 percent identified politic issues – which includes conflict, corruption, and the party system – to be the most important problem facing the country. In contrast, only 10 percent said crime was the biggest problem and 8 percent rated the economy and unemployment as the biggest challenge.

However, 90 percent believed dialogue is the way to solve the country’s problems. But 1 in 3 people did believe that violence is sometimes a necessary response to social injustice.

The survey also found that Maldivians scored significantly higher than other populations in their support for the value of individual responsibility at 73 percent. Support for gender equality was much lower at 38 percent, with women more likely to reject gender equality.

Generational differences

The survey results indicated a significant generational gap in attitudes towards democracy, with younger people systematically less likely to be satisfied with democracy than older people. 55 percent of those in the 18-25 age group said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Moreover, a majority of those less than 35 years of age said they have no confidence in representative institutions. Those over 46 years of age are twice as likely as their younger counterparts to say they have high levels of confidence in these institutions.

The young are markedly more cynical, but are more democratic in their outlook. They are more likely to disagree with idea that economies work poorly, less likely to think democracies are unstable and that “there is too much argument” in democracies.

Support for gender equality is significantly higher among the young.

Read the full report here.


“Our rivals do not know elections”: Nasheed

Speaking at a campaign rally in Haa Alif Atoll Dhidhoo Island, former president and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has called on his rivals to compete in elections instead of using the courts to obstruct presidential polls and disqualify MPs from the parliament.

Nasheed’s comments follow the Supreme Court’s stripping of MDP MP Ali Azim and MDP aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Mohamed Nashiz of their seats, and the Criminal Court’s sentencing in absentia of MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor to six months in jail for disobedience to order.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) council member Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed is seeking the disqualification of DRP Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s seat, citing his failure to pay decreed debt as per a 2010 court verdict.

Presidential polls have been set for November 9 after the Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 and the police obstructed the Supreme Court ordered revote on October 19 after the JP and PPM refused to approve the voter registry.

“Our rivals do not know elections,” Nasheed said, adding that the only time his rivals had participated in elections was the multi-party elections of 2008 in which the MDP had defeated 30-year ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Instead of campaigning and strengthening their political parties, rival PPM and Jumhooree Party were inciting hatred and engaging in back biting, Nasheed alleged.

“These people are a group, in other words a gang. There is no way they can participate in peaceful political activities,” he added whilst calling on PPM’s Abdulla Yameen and JP’s Gasim Ibrahim to compete in presidential elections.

Nasheed emphasized that the constitution exists to protect the citizenry’s rights, and that the judiciary, executive and legislature existed to uphold these rights.

“It is always, we, the citizens, who will say the last word in the Maldives,” he said.

Neither MDP nor EC want a vote: Gasim

Meanwhile, the JP’s Gasim Ibrahim has accused the Elections Commission (EC) of collaborating with Nasheed to obstruct free and fair polls on November 9.

“Neither the MDP nor the Elections Commission want to hold a vote. I accuse the Election Commission of doing things according to MDP’s wishes. I hear [the EC] does things the way Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed wants,” Gasim said at a press conference on Sunday.

The JP had sought and won an annulment of the first round of president held on September 7 at the Supreme Court, after narrowly placing third in the polls. Since then, the JP has continued to accuse the EC of fraud and tampering with the voter registry.

The EC wants Speaker Abdulla Shahid to assume the presidency at the end of the current presidential term on November 11 and hold polls afterwards, Gasim alleged.

“[T]hey want Abdulla Shahid to assume the presidency and then do this [hold election]. I think that is their spirit. This does not come as a surprise,” he told the press.

The Majlis last week passed a resolution to hand over presidency to the Speaker in the absence of a president elect on November 9. JP and the PPM boycotted the vote.

If no candidate gains over 50 percent in the November 9 polls, a second round is scheduled for November 16, five days after the end of the presidential term.

According to local media, Gasim has also said he favors a military takeover to Speaker Shahid assuming the presidency. He has called for President Dr Mohamed Waheed to continue beyond his term.

“Is it better for a man who is selected to assume the presidency? Or the Military? What is the difference? On one side they are stealing [the presidency] and doing things outside the law. Isn’t it better that our military takes over the country to save the country and maintain peace? It is their responsibility to ensure safety and peace in this country,” Channel News Maldives (CNM) quotes Gasim saying at a press conference on October 31.

The November 9 election is the EC’s fourth attempt to hold presidential polls. When the JP sought the vote annulment, the EC had scheduled a second round for September 28. With a verdict pending on the eve of elections, the EC decided to proceed with polls the next day.

However, the Supreme Court issued an injunction ordering the security forces to halt election preparations. Shortly afterwards, on October 7, the court annulled the September 7 polls and delineated 16 guidelines to hold polls by October 20.

The guidelines required all presidential candidates to sign the voter registry. However, with the JP and PPM refusing to sign the registry, the police stopped the election an hour before polls were to open.

Gasim on Saturday reiterated that he was ready to approve the voter registry if it was compiled properly. However, he alleged the EC had accepted reregistration forms with fingerprints like “a blot of ink.”


November 2 election date not possible: Elections Commission

The Elections Commission (EC) has this morning said that expediting the presidential polls by one week is not possible after all three candidates requested the election be moved from November 9 to November 2.

The EC has said that the commission lacks the facilities to do so in such a short period.

Speaking to the press outside the EC, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate and former president Mohamed Nasheed said that the three candidates would nevertheless continue to discuss concluding the presidential elections by the end of the current presidential term on November 11.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen also said he had not yet given up hope.

Yameen had requested a meeting with Nasheed and the Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate Gasim Ibrahim at 10:00pm last night after the People’s Majlis passed a resolution to hand over the presidency to the Majlis Speaker – MDP MP Abdulla Shahid – in the absence of a president-elect by November 11.

The PPM and JP had boycotted the Majlis vote, but the resolution passed with the support of 39 MDP and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs.

Speaking to the press outside Traders Hotel last night, Yameen said the three candidates had wanted an elected president to be sworn in at the end of the current presidential term on November 11.

“The most important matter we agreed on was to meet the Elections Commission tomorrow to ensure this election is transparent, credible and acceptable to all citizens. The first aspect of that is to expedite the date for the first round. If the elections [commission] can do it, to hold the election on next Saturday, [November] 2. Along with that, the second round, at the latest on November 9,” Yameen said.

He reiterated that the voter registry must be acceptable to all parties. He claimed the voter registry could be compromised as it was maintained electronically.

The candidates had asked the EC to start verification of re-registration forms immediately and to revise its work plan to hold elections by November 9.

“All of us three candidates want the election to be a fair decision by all citizens. To ensure we do not have to go to the courts again. We will not be unreasonable in this matter. Nasheed, Gasim and Yameen want this list to be accurate,” he said.

Current schedule, past record

According to EC timeline, a draft of the final voter list is to be publicized on November 1 and 2 and re-registration forms will be sent to the Department of National Registration on November 3 for verification.

The voter registry will be finalised, printed and sent to presidential candidates on November 4. Candidates will be asked to sign the voter lists on November 5 and 6.

Qasim said the three candidates will give the EC as much leeway as possible in expediting elections.

“We agreed, on November 11 an elected president must be sworn in. The three candidates [agreed] to give the Elections Commission as much leeway as possible while upholding the basic principles of the Supreme Court,” he said.

Expressing support for an election on November 2, Nasheed said he hoped two rounds of the presidential election are held before November 11.

“We spoke and agreed not to view each other with hatred, or think the other to damage the other, not to take that path, to do what we can to facilitate the development of the nation for the citizens,” Nasheed added.

The November 9 poll is the EC’s fourth attempt at holding presidential elections. The JP sought a vote annulment at the Supreme Court after narrowly placing third in the first round of presidential elections held on September 7.

With the Supreme Court verdict pending as the second round of elections approached on September 28, the EC decided to proceed with polls. However, the Supreme Court issued a midnight injunction ordering police to halt elections preparations.

Shortly afterwards, on October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the September 7 polls, citing widespread electoral fraud despite unanimous domestic and international observer praise of a free and fair electoral conduct.

The apex court ordered a revote by October 20 and delineated 16 electoral guidelines for including obtaining candidates signatures on the voter registry and obtaining police help in dispatching ballot boxes and papers to polling stations.

However, the EC was unable to proceed with polling after police forcibly halted the election at the eleventh hour following the government’s refusal to facilitate polls without the PPM and JP having approved the voter registry.

The PPM and JP have accused the EC of fraud and have called for members to resign.

In an interview with Television Maldives (TVM), EC president Fuwad Thowfeek said the EC requires at least 21 days to hold an election. Fuwad said he could not ask his staff to work like “pharaonic slaves” again.

“The Elections Commission believes it will take us 21 days to hold an election at the earliest. So if we start immediately, November 9 is the earliest date, with a shortened time frame for tasks,” he said.


“Personal Pledges”: JP Candidate Qasim Ibrahim vows to fulfill wishes from individuals

Jumhooree Party (JP) leader and presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim launched a new pledge on Tuesday – three days ahead of the re-scheduled election – titled ‘Personal Pledges’, vowing to provide each citizen with a “more dignified life”.

Speaking at a press conference held to reveal the new pledge Gasim’s coalition partner, former interim Deputy President of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer – stated that the new pledge would “benefit and be a long-term advantage to every individual Maldivian citizen without any discrepancies between one another”.

Naseer stated that the JP candidate is currently sending letters to members of the electorate detailing the new pledge. Along with the letter, a form with a list of applicable pledges that citizens can request is to be sent to each citizen, which needs to be filled out and returned to the JP campaign offices.

“If you beloved citizens, God willing, elect me as President in this year’s presidential election, I pledge to fulfill one or more of the pledges listed in this letter preferred by each citizen so as to ensure a dignified and respectable life for every citizen,” the letter reads.

It then goes on to state that, if elected, Gasim would assign “an annual amount of MVR1.5 billion from the state budget to fulfill these personal pledges in accordance to a law or regulation which will be passed to support the matter”.

The categories in the attached list are: aid/loans, advance to newly begin building houses, purchasing of flats, costs to complete houses, materials needed for a household, funds to start-up a business, funds to expand a business, course fees/tuition fees/school fees, funds to receive treatment abroad for permanent illnesses, repayment of loans, repayment of debts, and payment of house rent.

It ends with an additional column titled ‘other’, which, according to Naseer, can be used to request for anything not already listed in the form.

However, the party does not detail – either in the letter or the press conference – any application for the deadline.

JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz said that this was done deliberately so as to let the electorate know that if Gasim is elected, their requests will be processed even if submitted at any time in his five year term.

“The thing is, we will only be able to fulfill the pledges if we win the elections and come to power. And so we decided to not specify dates as the people can continue submitting their ‘Personal pledges’ at any point in time during Gasim’s five year term,” Ramiz said.

“Now, once elected, it doesn’t matter to us who is submitting a request – whether it is someone who voted for Gasim or not. We will fulfill their wishes regardless of who they might have voted for,” he continued.

“We are getting an extraordinary amount of support for this pledge. I don’t know yet what the exact number of submissions are, but I am confident that we can tell just by using commonsense that such a pledge will be receiving immense support. After all, for over 30 years even to date, the average Maldivian citizen cannot make ends meet, even married couples are unable to find time to sleep together as they are forced to share rooms with children due to population congestion. Therefore, I am sure this pledge is being very well-received,” he stated.

Elections Commission Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar told Minivan News today that the pledge has not been brought to the commission’s attention. He further said, if it the matter is submitted as an official complaint to the commission, it would investigate whether the failure to provide a deadline to submit pledges by citizens exerts undue influence on the elections.

An official from the Anti Corruption Commission, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated that the commission members “wished to refrain from commenting on the matter at the current time”.


Campaigns, celebrations and a supposedly vehicle-free evening: Eid in Male’

The Maldives celebrated Fitr Eid on Thursday, August 8 with Eid prayers at the Maafannu stadium, state organised parades, music shows, traditional games and vehicle-free streets.

Several presidential candidates contesting in the September 7 presidential elections also organised separate events on the day.


In celebration of Fitr Eid Male’ City Council, the Transport Authority and the Maldives Police Service declared that motorised vehicles would not be allowed to drive on the streets of the capital city Male’ and Hulhumale’ between 4-10pm on Thursday.

A message tweeted by the official Twitter account of the police, which was later deleted, stated “Fitr Eid to be a day of no motorists so violators will be persecuted”, with an attached statement reading that any motorists driving without a special permit from the Transport Authority would be prosecuted under the Transport Act.

According to Transport Authority records by late 2011 the number of motorcycles alone in Male’ – an island with an area of 5.8 square kilometres and populated by over 103,000 people according to a 2006 census – will be 42,062.

Residents of the highly congested city anticipate the annual traffic-free event, and as a results the streets are filled with persons of all ages.

Despite the cautionary announcements, Minivan News spotted a number of motorcycles and a large number of private cars on the streets during the time allocated for the ‘no vehicle’ event.

In addition to this, Minivan News also observed three state vehicles accompanying President Mohamed Waheed’s coalition-organised walk with his political supporters.

One incident observed by Minivan News occurred at 6.15pm on Medhuziyaaraiy Magu.

In one instance, a white police van containing four male officers wearing the camouflage uniform of Special Operations forces drove down Medhuziyaaraiy Magu at 6:15pm at high speed without warning siren or flashing lights, swerving through about a dozen young children on toy vehicles and their families.

Parents pulled children out of the way of the police van with seconds to spare and turned around and stared at the police van in shock. A number of parents started making comments about the “reckless behaviour” of the police force.

The police van stopped about 12 feet away, and the four police officers stared back at the families. The officers spoke amongst themselves and seemed amused. When none of the gathered parents made any move towards the vehicle, the officers laughed loudly, waved and made gestures with their hands at the shocked pedestrians before speeding away in the same manner.

One of the parents present at the place told Minivan News, “I am shocked and outraged, but I shouldn’t be. I already knew we are in a police state, and what better can I expect when I am marking Eid in what is now their country.”

“Look at the state the security forces are in. This country needs a complete overhaul of its systems. Leave aside protecting us from petty criminals, we need to first think of how to protect ourselves and our kids from the police themselves,” said another young mother.

“Why bother having a traffic free Eid in name alone if the police are going to speed around crazily, if every government car is allowed on the street, not to mention half the private cars. This event is a farce, just like everything else in this country. Anyway, I spotted that police van’s license plate number, I’ll see if the Police Integrity Commission has anything to say about this,” another pedestrian added.

A police media official told Minivan News that “police will always keep foremost a concern for public safety, even if trying to reach a crime scene as quick and possible”, adding that such incidents would not occur.

Once the license plate number was shared, the official denied that the said police van had been on the streets at the time of the incident, adding that he would look into it.

According to police, 41 people were fined for unauthorised use of vehicles.

Campaigning on Eid

Following Eid prayers, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, former President Mohamed Nasheed and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom separately met with citizens to exchange Eid greetings.

President Waheed received people at the former Presidential Palace of Muleeaage, and was accompanied by First Lady Ilham Hussain.

Former President and Leader of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom held an Eid greetings event at Nasandhura Palace Hotel.

In addition to his wife, Nasreena Ibrahim, PPM’s Presidential Candidate and Gayyoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen and his running mate Mohamed Jameel Ahmed also joined him in greeting ministers, former state officials and members of the public.

Former President and Presidential Candidate Mohamed Nasheed conveyed Eid greetings outside Bandaara Mosque directly after joining Eid prayers.

During the allocated traffic free hours, both President Waheed and the Jumhooree Coalition’s Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim held separate walks on the streets of Male’ with their supporters.

The Jumhoree Party also organised an “entertainment afternoon” for children as part of the party’s Eid celebrations.

Celebrations broken up by Police

While a large crowd gathered in Henveiru for a grand ‘Eid Show’ organised by local telecom operator Dhiraagu, a number of smaller celebrations were broken up by police.

An attendee at a show held on Fareedhee Magu told Minivan News that police had split up their show, with one officer stating that it was “un-Islamic” to enjoy music and dancing on Eid.

A traditional game on Eid is called ‘fenkulhi’ [watergame], where coloured water is thrown at each other by friends and neighbours.

The game was played at a number of locations around Male’, with one photo circulating on social media showing MDP candidate Nasheed joining a group of youngsters in the game.

An eyewitness told Minivan News that one such group playing in Maafannu ward of Male’ was ordered by police to stop playing the game. He also alleged police had “roughed up the boys unnecessarily”.

A police media official denied any such incidents.

“I don’t think anything like that happened. I mean, there are no records of such events,” he said.