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South Asia: The unfolding of present political situation in the Maldives

By Srimal Fernando and Samarth Kavoori

Maldives took a strange turn along the path of democracy with the imposition of a nationwide state of emergency on 5th of February 2018. After the Supreme Court of Maldives overturned the original criminal sentences against nine of the opponents of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom whichincluded the Former President Mohamed Nasheedthe  former  Vice PresidentAhmed Adeeb and ordered for their release.  Hours after the state of emergency was declared, the security forces arrested the Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoomas well as two Supreme Court Judges which included the Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, the international scenario became more tense. The turbulent period experienced by the Maldives is a matter of concern for India and its neighbors for the past couple of months. The problem of legitimacy continues to trouble Maldivian Politics. It is impossible to assess the overall impact on the nature of the current changes in international relations after the declaration of state of emergency. On political indicators, the Maldives is ranked as a ‘Partially Free’ nation, according to the Freedom House Index, as of 2017.

A lack of neutrality in the Maldivian democratic system became apparent. Within the islands domestically, there is the emergence of new forms of youth participation. The political analysis shows a few actors that have the will, as well as the ability to comprehend the democratization process in the Maldives. In Yameen’s case, the statecraft derives a great deal from his personality as compared to his values or ideologies. During his successful 2013 Presidential campaign Yameen offered a vision for the Maldivians focusing on socio-economic upliftment for the Islanders. Yameens economic policies and development projects in the Atolls led to some success. In the 2014 general elections the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) led by Yasmeen accounts for 44 seats of the 85 seats in the Parliament.

The real problem for Yameen is not economic, it is rather political. Adeeb was Yameen’s ally, handpicked in 2014 to be the Vice President. Former President Nasheed was the most aggressively anti-Yameen and pro-Indian democratic leader in the Maldives as well as Gayoom to an extent despite his support for Yameen in the 2014 presidential election knew that maintaining consistently pro-Indian stand would help smoothen relations with the international community. Yameen was keenly aware that good relations with Delhi and Colombo were vital to his regimes stability. The Maldivian leadership has miscalculated its current position by distancing relations from India and moving closer to China and Saudi Arabia. Pakistani General Bajwa visited the islands after Yameen lifted the 45-day emergency which went into turbulence. General Bajwa, expressed Maldivian’s as brothers of Muslim nations. India’s snubbing of the Maldivian government attracted favorable attention from Beijing. As Maldives foreign policies towards the India and the West change, so did the New Delhi orientation towards Male. These changes had far-reaching consequences and to a large extent the tourism sector, which was the backbone of their economy.

Unable to recognize his limitations, President Yameen with a sense of superiority and has antagonized those whom he should have sought after as his allies such as Former President Abdul Gayoom, Former Vice-President Adeeb, Gasim Abraham (Burma Qasim) from the Jommahorrea party, a presidential candidate in the 2013 presidential elections. Public opinion at home rapidly turned against Yameen’s administration as well. In the recent past, lessons of history were not favorable for Yameen’s government. Two years after Yameen came to power, he had a divided cabinet. Since 2015, Gayoom had been expressing his reservations, and in 2016, he refused to endorse the Maldivian President Yamen’s policies. Twelve legislatures were sacked for defecting the Progressive Party.

Within just three years of Yameen’s landslide victory, the story of Yameen’s and PPM’s (Progressive Party of Maldives) decline can most conventionally see its beginning in late-2016. The smoothly functioning PPM political machine was already breaking down. By the end of 2016, street protests in Male had become widely generalized. The more media attention these protests attracted, the more similar protests occurred in other parts of Maldives such Addu and other islands. On the other hand, larger sections of Maldivian lawmakers representing, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP ) led by former president Nasheed which holds 26 seats in the Parliament, Jummhorea party which holds seven seats, and the faction of the Progressive party that supports Gayoom cannot trust the president to stick to his policy agendas. All this pressure is aimed to get President Yameen to leave both domestically and internationally. No political opposition in the Maldives is strong enough to make Yameen’s government fall. Compared to Gayoom, Yameen may not have experience, though he does not lack advice. Internal pressure for change will last, the analysis shows that there are few actors that have the will and the ability to lead a democratization process in the Maldives currently. The Results reflect the fact that the Maldives is revenged by turbulence.

Additionally, there are stronger external interests connected to the stability of the Maldivian regime due to its geo-strategic location. Maldives’ opposition seeks the United  Nation   and international mediation to end the current political crisis. On balance then it seems reasonable to conclude that a government, which is democratic and people-oriented, should have a clear vision for the future for the Maldivian people to achieve clarity in the direction towards a democratic society. In an attempt to avoid the problems, many political parties in the Maldives such as Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Jumhooree Party (JP) , the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) must join forces to stabilize the situation.

As the country looks towards the next Presidential elections this year the opposition needs to work together for a common candidate. As the President Yameen and especially the PPM controlled Parliament  or Majlis need to make concessions in the cause with the opposition. On the other hand, the international community needs to find a middle path to solve the crisis between the ruling president and the opposition to bring about a peaceful solution to the current situation. Before the next Presidential election release of the former president, Mamoon Abdul Gayoom and safety of President  Mohamed Nasheedis an important factor, and the safety of the other political prisoners is a concern for a free and fair election. Finally, the strength of public support for any given solution is particularly important for the future stabilization of Maldives.

Srimal Fernando a research scholar and an editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa, and  Samarth Kavoori  a  Scholars of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, Business at Jindal School of International Affairs ( JSIA)

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