Chal­lenge from the ‘Sunny Side’ of Democ­racy

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Anees Jil­lani Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan and a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

The Mal­dives ex­pe­ri­enced its sec­ond elec­tions on Septem­ber 7 af­ter the re­vival of democ­racy in 2008. For­mer Pres­i­dent Nasheed, who was de­posed by the Army and re­placed by his Vice Pres­i­dent, Mo­hamed Wa­heed, in Fe­bru­ary 2012, got the largest num­ber of votes, 95,224 (45.45 per­cent of the to­tal). His chief op­po­nent, Yaamin Ab­dul Qayy­oom, half-brother of for­mer Pres­i­dent Mau­moon Ab­dul Gay­oom, could get only 25 per­cent votes. Wa­heed could man­age only 10,750 votes (5.13 per­cent). The to­tal num­ber of votes polled was 211,000. The num­bers may ap­pear amus­ing to the peo­ple of In­dia and Pak­istan where can­di­dates even in a univer­sity elec­tion get more votes.

The Repub­lic of the Mal­dives, how­ever, is a tiny coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of only 350,000. De­spite this, the coun­try is in a po­lit­i­cal mess, with politi­cians un­will­ing to come to a set­tle­ment ac­cept­able to all. Cor­rup­tion is ram­pant as the stakes are high since those in power have ac­quired many of the 1,190 co­ral is­lands formed around 26 nat­u­ral ring-like atolls, spread over 90,000 square kilo­me­ters, on long-term lease. Highly lux­u­ri­ous re­sorts have been built on some of them with the rents go­ing into mil­lions of dol­lars ev­ery year. It is not sur­pris­ing then that the pow­er­ful can­not agree to share power.

The fact that bases and ports can be built on some of the atolls make the coun­try a lot more ap­peal­ing to coun­tries with a stake in ship­ping lanes pass­ing through the In­dian Ocean. As such,, coun­tries like the United States, China and In­dia con­tinue to in­ter­fere in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of the Mal­dives.

Ap­par­ently, for­mer Pres­i­dent, Nasheed is close to In­dia. This was am­ply proved when he sought asy­lum in the In­dian High Com­mis­sion a few months ago when the po­lice tried to ar­rest him.

Mau­moon ruled the Mal­dives from 1978 to 2008, thus be­com­ing the long­est-serv­ing leader in Asia. Mer­ci­fully, he de­clared ear­lier this year that he would not be con­test­ing the Septem­ber elec­tions. But then his half-brother Yaamin jumped into the fray on be­half of Mau­moon’s Pro­gres­sive Party.

Since no can­di­date out of the four who con­tested elec­tions was able to se­cure a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, under the con­sti­tu­tion, the two can­di­dates who won the most votes were sup­posed to go to the sec­ond round, polling for which was sched­uled for Septem­ber 28.

How­ever, just four days be­fore the run-off polls, the Supreme Court sus­pended the elec­tions while ex­am­in­ing a pe­ti­tion against vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties filed by Qasim Ibrahim, a busi­ness ty­coon and head of the Jumhooree Party, who man­aged to get 24 per­cent votes in the first round. The Elec­tion Com­mis­sion had ear­lier re­jected his al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties as he had failed to sub­stan­ti­ate them.

Not­with­stand­ing the bit­ter­ness in the wake of the Supreme Court’s lat­est rul­ing, the elec­tion was ex­pected to be a tough one for Pres­i­dent Nasheed as Yaamin, Qasim and Wa­heed had joined hands against him. The ac­ri­mony sur­round­ing the elec­tions, and then the de­lay in hold­ing them, is not good for the Repub­lic of the Mal­dives. It is feared that po­lit­i­cal tur­moil will con­tinue and may ac­tu­ally worsen.

Nasheed and the sup­port­ers of his Demo­cratic Party con­tinue to lament his un­law­ful ouster in Fe­bru­ary 2012. There­fore, they would not be sat­is­fied with any­thing less than Nasheed com­ing back into power which they con­sider his due right. On the other hand, the group led by the for­mer au­to­cratic leader Mau­moon and cur­rent Pres­i­dent Washeed, may not be will­ing to see Nasheed in power ever again.

The sit­u­a­tion is quite sim­i­lar to the tug of war we wit­ness in Pak­istan af­ter ev­ery few years be­tween the PPP and its op­po­nents. We all know what the out­come is in such cases: mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion. As a well-wisher of the Mal­dives, ev­ery Pak­istani hopes that the coun­try does not go through what we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing for the past 66 years.

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