By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
Former President Nasheed in his five-day visit to Delhi began the first meeting saying that he is in Delhi to ” to impress the Indian people to have early elections.”
Having recognised the new regime in a hurry, India is in no position to change its stand. Despite two visits by the Indian Foreign Secretary to Male to convince the new regime for early elections and an undertaking by President Waheed that he would, it looks that there will be no early elections.
With Gayoom having returned to the island, is should be known to everyone that President Waheed is not the master and the decisions are being taken by Gayoom and his followers who are all over in the new government!
Gayoom’s daughter Dunya who is the Minister of state for foreign affairs admitted to the Sunday times that her father would be working “behind the scenes” and playing an advisory role to the President.
This point that Gayoom would be calling the shots was mentioned by Nasheed also. He said “whether we like it or not- the government is now in the hands of the elements that belonged to the three decade long authoritarian rule of Gayoom. President Waheed may be the face of the government- but if you look into it, you will see that he has neither the say nor the control of a President as outlined under the Maldivian constitution.”
This is very much true. Soon after landing in Male, Gayoom ruled out early elections. In his latest speech on 16th April, he has brought in the issue of religion and the sovereignty of Maldives on those ( India included) who are insisting on early elections. He said that international calls for elections are driven by a “special motive” that poses a direct threat for the Maldives’ sovereignty and religious heritage.
His daughter Dunya Maumoon had also said earlier that until the country’s state institutions – the judiciary, the election commission and human rights commission are strengthened it would be impossible for a vote to be held. In other words, what she means is that the present regime is in no hurry to hold the next elections.
Others who are not in support of early elections have cited that the law and order situation is not conducive for early elections. Four elections were held in the last one week- two to Majlis and two the local councils and there were no incidents at all.
The fact of the matter is that early elections will not be held and Gayoom has said the last word.
There were press reports yesterday that President Waheed had declared that elections will be held by July 2013- that is three months ahead of the schedule date. With this declaration there is no more space for any further negotiation or dialogue between the MDP and the parties now in the government.
This also means that the “All Party Road map talks” sponsored by India has also been abandoned once and for all. Has India got any leverage to change this position? It has the leverage but it is unlikely to use it. This must have been the assessment of the current regime in Maldives and this will be firmed up when President Waheed makes an official visit to India in May.
The CMAG ( Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group) has threatened to consider “further stronger measures” against the Maldivian government unless the composition of its committee of National Enquiry is revised in the next four weeks. The MDP has demanded that the commission should have a neutral member preferably from the international community to enquire into the incidents leading to the removal of Nasheed.
The present government appears to be in no mood to revise the membership of the commission. In all probability, the commission headed by a person who was the Home Minister during Gayoom’s regime may not be seen as neutral and its findings will lack credibility.
The results of the four bye elections- two to the Majlis and two to the local councils have not been in Nasheed’s favour. The MDP could bag only one local council seat. The opponents of Nasheed claim that the results are a verdict on the legality of the present government and the Presidential spokesman went to the extent of claiming that it was a mandate for President Waheed to continue!
What are the choices for Nasheed? He has plenty of international support but this is unlikely to change the developments on the ground. The street protests now organised by the party cannot be continued indefinitely. When this question was put to Nasheed, he said that his fears are that the movement will go “underground.” Added to this will be the attempts of the present regime to prosecute him on the incident of the arrest of the chief criminal judge Abdulla which in turn will have repercussions on the law and order situation in the country. The MDP can create problems for the new regime and a country that is dependent on tourist industry, the government cannot afford to have a serious law and order situation.
One can expect a period of instability in Maldives in the days to come.
I suspect that in the next elections to the Presidentship whenever it is held is going to be on the theme of “protection of Islam.” It was on this slogan that Nasheed was toppled and it was this weapon again that the opponents of Nasheed are going to use in the next elections. The present “unity government” is unlikely to put up a “unity” candidate. Already Gasim Ibrahim has declared that he would contest the elections to protect Islam. There are many others who would also contest to protect Islam. It will be interesting to watch how they compete with each other.
Nasheed needs to have patience and has a special responsibility to ensure that the movement against the current regime does not turn violent.
About the author: SAAG
SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.