When I walked out of Alfresco – STO Trade Centre quadriangle cafe, I wondered to myself at the uniqueness of Maldives. We are a nation who embraced a multi-party democracy almost overnight. We struggled, but the momentum was short lived. There was little bloodshed and minimum suffering by a minority at best, during the peak two years of transition from an independent nation which was an Egyptian style democracy to a multi-party Muslim liberal democracy.
It was there, but the reform movement gained momentum with the death of Maafushi Jail inmate Eevan Naseem who was beaten to death by the National Security Service men and the firing on inmates that followed. Later, during the 2003 Presidential elections in October of the same year, the Maldivian Democratic Party registered in exile in Colombo as the country’s opposition party. However, Maumoon was elected to the Office of President with an overwhelming majority. The opposition to his regime grew in numbers and culminated in the August 12-13, 2004 “Black Friday Uprising” which suffocated the National Security Service to a surprise death almost. It was followed by Emergency Rule under Article 144 of the constitution which saw the mass imprisonment of the opposition. Later on Boxing Day, the country was hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami which gave cause for the President to pardon all the detainees.
The opposition movement grow and MDP was synonymous with the opposition to “dictator” Maumoon. The freedom of assembly and criticism of the government allowed enmasse by the government for the first time in the history of in June 2004, gained momentum in 2005 and the government allowed political parties during the same year, under a presidential decree.
MDP – the largest opposition group, was the first political party to be registered followed by DRP – the party of the President and the members of his cabinet and their supporters. Democratizationi of the country became a tug-of-war between the MDP and the DRP with minor interventions by Adaalath Party formed by religous clerics.
As Dhivehi Observer was replaced in its exclusivity as a medium of dissent, by printed media in the country; and constitutional assembly charged with revising the constitution gained momentum; the hate-mongering and character-assassinating strategy advocated by DO Sappe and picked up reform-minded activists became less popular. Anni, the Chairperson and Leader of the opposition MDP, which was the largest opposition party; changed seemed to change his activist stand and turned to more mainstream political strategy, as he contested in the party primaries to elect a presidential candidate from the party for the upcoming presidential elections.
Just before that, the constituent assembly Chair was finally handed to Gasim – one of the first promoters of MDP who joined the DRP and became Finance Minister after he was released from detention following the tsunami. Now, almost two years after; he has delivered on his promise to give a new constitution to the country in time for Presidential elections.
But then, everything has changed. “Zaeem” (Leader) Maumoon has announced his running mate just a day before ratification of the new constitution, Gasim has joined the newly formed Republican Party and is expected to be elected as its Presidential Candidate, ex-Attorney General Hassan Saeed who advise to President Maumoon allowed multi-parties under the old constitution by decree is refusing to join a political party but run for President as an independent candidate, ex-Attorney General who was elected MDP President has been made defunct by his own Party, ex-President of MDP who was also the Chair of the Constituent Assembley’s Drafting Committee believes he will win the presidential elections though he has the support of only two elected parliamentarians including himself, and MDP is suddenly left with just 3 seats in parliament – same as the People’s Alliance party formed by the first group of ministers and deputy ministers to leave the DRP and the government. All this culminated in our political arena in just under four years.
The people who hated dictator Maumoon to their guts and almost worshipped their hero Anni, now despise Anni more than Maumoon. Most of the leaders who were in the frontline of MDP has left and joined the recently formed Jumhooree or Republican Party. They are now the party with the most number of elected seats.
The National Unity Alliance which was seen as a ray hope for those who wished to oust Maumoon from power after thirty years has turned out to be a complete failure; and there is talk that after all, People’s Alliance may join in an alliance with Maumoon’s DRP along with other smaller parties. Hassan Saeed who was instrumental in introducing multi-parties may finally have to fight an uphill battle on his own with his ex-cabinet colleauges.
Jumhooree Party is growing exponentially, and may very well see a future alliance with MDP in addition to Adaalath who said that they would favor Gasim to be President – if that is the way to get rid of Maumoon. The strength of JP has shocked all so much that we may see the MDP activists target their political activism to the “new enemy” in favor of the “former enemy”.
The person most instrumental in bringing about the freedom that we so cherish today, Anni; is likely to be left to run in the Presidential Elections 2008 by just himself and his grassroots supporters, denied the support and backing of those who shared the leadership of the cause with him.
What a story!