The Maldivian Democratic Party was first started by Mohamed Nasheed, his relatives and friends mostly in exile. It’s successful Presidential win in 2008 with the help of smaller coalition parties paved way for the country to be one of Asia’s example of a democracy. After all, a small country like the Maldives is a perfect nation to be an example for it’s bigger neighbors on what a democracy can really look like. After 2008, Nasheed spent more time on making his own documentary to boost his international PR, then to actually take the chance given to him to micro manage everything to make sure democratic changes succeeds during his term. Maybe it was his inexperience in politics that eventually led to his fall, or maybe by getting too close to the wrong people he lost his goal for democracy.
After losing power to what he claimed was a coup, he took advantage of the international contacts he had gained in many of the world’s mainstream media and used it to his advantage against what he saw as an autocratic ruling government led by his opposition. After his opponents President Abdulla Yameen of PPM (Progressive Party of Maldives) won the next elections with their own coalition, one thing they did not expect is the long game and the seriousness of international military interest in the Maldives. Countries that had a long term interest in controlling Asia for themselves was not happy with the new found friendship between China and Maldives.
Maldives was prospering in it’s development around the country. New roads, new infrastructure, new parks, football fields, etc. With all this, while being the opposition party again, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed there were issues of corruption in all big projects and started their campaign against President Yameen’s government. Then there was the sudden disappearance of a secular journalist in the country, together with rise in street crime and other social problems the country faced.
MDP leaders campaigned for transparency in governance, zero tolerance to corruption, fighting against street crime, finding justice to what they claimed was the killing of an innocent journalist. All of this became their core values against the PPM government. As the elections came near, MDP leaders, without consulting their members, started their campaign of maximum pressure internationally with Indian military advising them every step of the way.
Indian news regularly had high level government officials debating on the issue of Maldives, as if the Maldives was Indian territory. One even claimed that ‘there is a reason why the ocean is called Indian ocean’. This inconceivable level of logical context, even though it has no value under international law, it was being discussed as if it was.
Even though President Abdulla Yameen, the leader of the Progressive Party in Maldives was popular in the beginning of his term due to his vision of developing the country instead of talking big politics, the international pressure on the country was becoming harder every month in the last two years of his term. Many internal politics within his own government did not allow him to success in his vision earlier. Adding to that the lack of experience on international relations and geo-politics by his government at the time did not help in countering the MDP offensive and propaganda against his party.
As election time came in 2018, the Maldivian Democratic Party won with ease, as the hopes and promises of change given by them brought many to decide there needed to be a change in government. One thing that is for sure about Maldivian voters is that they get tired of every government once they push their power too far for the people to accept.
With a some help from their international media contacts, they were able to amplify their message to voters. 23rd September 2018, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih from MDP won 134,705 votes (58.38%), compared to 2013 first round of election win of Abdulla Yameen with 96,052 votes (41.62%). The statistics does show some bigger picture for political strategists to think about properly.
The moment MDP won the election, former President Nasheed met high officials from the undemocratic nation of Saudi Arabia and that led to the newly elected President Solih and most of MDP’s top figures came under the influence of Saudi Arabia. This was the first mistake they made because once you allow powerful undemocratic nations control you, you have no space or even moral stance to defend democracy and journalism. A clear example was the inability of the MDP government, party, and politicians to openly question Saudi Arabia for the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi.
The Maldivian Democratic Party that carried out long online campaigns of red balloons all over their social media to condemn what they claimed was the PPM government’s cover up of the disappearance of a Maldivian journalist. Now that MDP is in government, with all the power they could ask for, they stood and still stand deaf silent against Saudi Arabia and it’s Prince which the CIA (US Intelligence Agency) themselves believed is responsible for the torturing and killing of Washington Post journalist Kashoggi inside the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.
The United Nations investigated and declared the same in their finding. But the Maldivian government, led by the country’s first ever democratic party stayed silent because for them oil money is now more of a priority than human rights. This speaks volume to how easy money can influence loyalty in Maldives, even to those who made themselves a human rights icon.
Next, after Nasheed being elected as the new speaker of Parliament, he went on his own campaign to make sure the the MDP government led by President Solih does not achieve much for the country. Nasheed had quickly split his party into two, as he still eyed to be the leader of the country, not just the parliament. Within this, he was lobbying different Ministers and MPs to be on his side and not on the side of the government.
President Solih was seen as a statesmen like President who did not involve himself in too much political drama. Instead he looked to solve this without making it into a conflict. One problem was this strategy was fine the first year, but as the second year of his term ends, unless he changes his cabinet to people who he can trust and to those who has no personal agenda in play, then he is most likely to lose the elections as his popularity is dwindling with the inefficiency of most of his Ministers.
The MDP led coalition government’s ongoing secrecy on the Indian military base being built in the country, allegations of corruptions on nearly all large government projects (with many bids being changed multiple times after receiving initial bids), the lack of development in the country compared to President Yameen’s time, the lack of transparency, accountability and other factors are all contributing to the current government’s eventual downfall in the next election.
Everything that PPM was accused of doing, MDP seem’s to be doing it faster and bigger. At the end, what does this mean for the country and it’s future? There seem to not be a balance in Maldivian politics, as people are getting tired of politicians going over the limit of their patience and understanding. Distrust in party politics is growing, with some youth campaigning for voters to vote for independent candidates that has no high level party history, in the next elections.
Since the Maldives is still a young democracy with the young population getting more politically aware that their future is at risk if the country goes downhill, anything is possible in the next elections.