Cor­nered Democ­racy

Pres­i­dent Has­san’s decision to fill his key cab­i­net with for­mer dic­ta­tor Gay­oom’s loy­al­ists may bring un­cer­tainty and un­rest to the South Asian na­tion.

Southasia - - Maldives -

The in­fant democ­racy in the Mal­dives seems to have been pushed to the corner fol­low­ing the blood­less coup in Fe­bru­ary. The new Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Wa­heed Has­san has of­fered old wine in new bot­tles by hir­ing his key cab­i­net mem­bers from among the loy­al­ists of the for­mer dic­ta­to­rial regime of Mau­moon Ab­dul Gay­oom, to stay in power and keep the wheel rolling.

How­ever, whether it would help to con­tinue the demo­cratic process that be­gan just three years ago in 2008, or would cool down or fuel in­ter­nal un­rest is yet to be wit­nessed. The ar­chi­pel­ago of 1,192 coral is­lands, famed for its se­cluded re­sorts, is be­ing keenly ob­served in the global per­spec­tive.

The murky sit­u­a­tion was fur­ther spiced af­ter for­mer au­to­cratic ruler Mau­moon Ab­dul Gay­oom, who ruled the Mal­dives for three decades, threw down the gaunt­let by re­turn­ing from Malaysia to the cap­i­tal Male on March 6. The for­mer dic­ta­tor’s ar­rival con­vinced spec­u­la­tors and the ousted Pres­i­dent Nasheed that the coup against him was mas­ter­minded by

By Syed Moaz­zam Hashmi Gay­oom with the help of the nexus of rich re­sort own­ers play­ing the tune in the po­lit­i­cal or­ches­tra.

The re­sort own­ers, of­ten termed the god­fa­thers of Mal­di­vian pol­i­tics, have been nom­i­nated as the main cul­prits ig­nit­ing and fur­ther fu­el­ing the mutiny against democ­racy on the crutches of Is­lamist par­ties, in or­der to es­cape the tax net, which could have gen­er­ated mil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue that Nasheed tried to in­stall. Some 50,000 Mal­di­vians of the to­tal 330,000 in- habi­tants are em­ployed in the tourism in­dus­try that gen­er­ates 30 per­cent of Mal­dives’ US $2.1 bil­lion econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures. How­ever, un­of­fi­cial es­ti­mates ac­count tourism up to 80 per­cent of the repub­lic’s rev- enues.

The be­gin­ning of a new demo­cratic era in Mal­dives af­ter the 2008 elec­tions brought to the fore the for­mer hu­man rights ac­tivist Nasheed as the first demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent of the In­dian Ocean na­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, Nasheed who had been jailed and tor­tured sev­eral times dur­ing Gay­oom’s regime was bruised again through his deputy, Wa­heed Has­san. He re­placed Nasheed as the new pres­i­dent in Fe­bru­ary and is mak­ing hec­tic ef­forts to seek le­git­i­macy for his gov­ern­ment with the for­mer boss fol­low­ing the trail. To fur­ther ce­ment his foothold in the pres­i­dency, Has­san ac­com­mo­dated Gay­oom’s loy­al­ists in key of­fices.

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