The Origins of the Maldives’ Election Controversy

Riots erupted in the Maldives in February of 2012 when the then president, Mohammad Nasheed, resigned under the threat of violence. Nasheed was elected in 2008 in the Maldives’ first democratic presidential election following a 30 year dictatorship under Gayoom and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

Nasheed 2011

(Nasheed addresses Human Rights Council September 2011)

There were mass protests by opposition when President Nasheed fired Justice Abdulla Mohamad on January 16. Justice Mohamad was head of the criminal court and President Nasheed ordered that he be arrested for failing to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the previous PPM administration.

This was not the first time Nasheed clashed with the judiciary during his presidency. He claims that the judiciary are under the thumb of the old regime.

Justice Mohamad is a public supporter of the former authoritarian president Gayoom and stands accused by the Judicial Services Commission (the Maldivian judicial watchdog) of having two children, the alleged victims of sexual assault, act out their assault in the courtroom. Mohamad has protected himself from investigations with court injunctions.

JJ Robinson, editor of the Maldives based Minivan Newsclaims that:

“of the 200 judges and magistrates in the country…50% of them have less than a Grade 7 education and 30% of them have actual criminal records: everything from child abuse to terrorism…these are not independent, impartial, moral-free thinkers.”

Hasheed wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times on February 8 where he alleged that his resignation was nothing short of a “coup” and accused his former deputy Mohamed Waheed of taking part in a conspiracy to oust him. He also claimed that “Islamic Extremists” had abused new free speech laws to throw “anti-Semitic and anti-Christian slurs at my government, branding as apostates anyone who tried to defend the country’s liberal Islamic traditions and claiming that democracy granted them and their allies license to call for violent jihad and indulge in hate speech.”

Nasheed’s resignation prompted his supporters to protest which was met with severe police reactions including tear gas and the alleged beating of member of Nasheed’s party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Following the resignation the new president, former deputy Waheed, issued a statement saying that the rule of law would be upheld “at any cost” and denied that any coup had taken place. Warrants were issued for former president Nasheed’s arrest.

Nasheed’s government had a positive relationship with India and so he took refuge at the Indian Embassy in early 2013 in the Maldivian capital of Male when charges of abuse of power were leveled against him. Nasheed maintained that these charges were a “politically motivated sham.”

After 10 days in the embassy he left and was arrested. If convicted he would be excluded from the elections being held in September. His supporters feared for his life as he was being held in an infamous prison on a remote island. Many of his supports were forced into exile as well.

However international outcry motivated the EU to state that the polls would “not be credible without Nasheed“. The UN and India followed suit, both calling for free and inclusive elections.

The Maldives goes to the polls on September 7 and anti-NGO Transparency Maldives will have over 400 volunteers working throughout the country on election day. It’s a waiting game to determine the Maldives political future.

But most mainstream media has paid very little attention to the Maldives. Most media outlets have not covered the story at all and those who do go out of their way to avoid stating that a coup occurred or whether police abuses of MDP members and supporters are still ongoing.

“Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office. The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.” – Nasheed ‘The Dregs of Dictatorship’ Feb 2012



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