Follow @southasiaanalys

Maldives: Presidential Elections: Will the transition be smooth?

Paper No. 5548            Dated 22-Aug-2013
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.
The United Kingdom Foreign Office issued a statement last month welcoming the steps taken in Maldives towards a free and fair elections and called for a peaceful transition to post electoral politics. My  worry is on the last part. - the transition period.
Despite the heat generated by various political parties in the campaign, there have been no major incidents of violence and it looks that the elections will be gone through smoothly on September 7.
The Election Commission has wisely decided to start polling earlier by 7.30 A.M. itself and conclude by 4PM.  The idea is to minimise possible disturbances that often occur after sunset and this I believe has been done on the advice of Police.  The Police have generally been alert and the Police Commissioner has given detailed instructions on dos and don’ts on the election day.  These efforts are laudable.  The only jarring note that I noticed was the statement issued by the Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz that the Police will continue to refuse any orders it decides as “unconstitutional.”  Who is the Police Commissioner to decide whether the order is unconstitutional or not? This statement has intrigued the political parties, particularly the MDP which has declared that its main task is to reform the Police, Military and the judiciary.
Riyaz is a post coup appointee and is also a person who was actively involved in the overthrow of President Nasheed.  So is the Defence Minister and my concern is- Will they accept the election results in the event the present regime does not come to power?  Will they create a constitutional crisis?
Another reason for this fear is that all those involved in the 23rd December Rally that culminated in toppling President Nasheed subsequently, have come together and are contesting under the banner of the Jumhoree party of Gasim Ibrahim.  Dr. Hassan Saeed of DQP who wrote that virulent pamphlet against Nasheed and Umar Nasser, formerly the deputy leader of PPM is also in this clique.  Add to this, the support now being received by Adaalath party.  
President Waheed in one of his weak moments in reply to a question, described the Adaalath party as a fundamentalist extremist party and this gave the party an excuse to walk out of President’s coalition now being described as the “Nation Forward Coalition.”
One good development is that former president Nasheed has been allowed to contest the presidential elections.  I thought that more than anyone else or institution, the judiciary may come in the way of letting Nasheed contest.  But it has not happened although one could hear some grumbling from other groups. 
After submitting the papers on the 18th, Nasheed told the press- “Today we submitted the election forms and begin the task of restoring democracy to our country.  It has been a slippery slope but we have come a long way.  Despite all the barriers and hurdles that were put in our way, we never gave up.”
The case against Nasheed for arresting the Chief Criminal Judge Abdulla Mohammed is still pending.  What is more no action has been taken against the judge so far for all his mis doings.  Another case of immoral conduct of a Supreme Court Judge has also come to notice.  A video showing the judge Ali Hameed in a compromising position with two blondes in a Colombo hotel is in circulation and the Judicial Service Commission has rejected the plea for his suspension for want of “sufficient evidence” though one of the clips shows clearly his face!  This is the state of the judiciary in Maldives and one of the major tasks of the new regime would be to clear it up.   
There are four contestants in the election fray- Gasim Ibrahim of Jumhoree supported by the DQP, Adhaalat and remnants of the breakaway PPM of Umar Naseer.  Next is the present president Waheed of GIP supported by the DRP.  Surprisingly Waheed is contesting as an independent candidate and so is the DRP whose leader Thasmeen Ali is the running mate.  Despite tall claims, Waheed could not muster a membership of 10,000 to be recognised as a party by the Elections Commission!  The third is the PPM-the party of Gayoom led by Yameen his step brother with Dr. Jameel former Home minister as his running mate and finally Nasheed from the MDP.  Nasheed had chosen an educationist Musthafa Luthfy as his running mate.  
In the current election, 240302 voters will be eligible to vote - an addition from the last 2008 elections when there were 209294 voters.  Nasheed claims that he would be able to muster a majority of over fifty percent in the first round itself with no need for a second round.  Others assess that there will be a second round polling and if this happens, Nasheed has a lesser chance.
The result would depend upon how Male and Adu vote in the elections.
Two presidential candidates Nasheed of MDP and later Yameen of PPP were invited to Delhi and they met the Prime Minister and other important minsiters.  It is good that India took the initiative to show its support and looks like making amends for what it did to Nasheed in endorsing the coup against him with great speed!