- The Opposition leaders are kleptocrats and power grabbers says MDP leader
- President-elect Solih of the MDP is currently head of a coalition
- The main challenge will come from difficulties arising from coalition politics
With the defeated Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen losing his case in the Supreme Court for annulling the September 23 Presidential Election on grounds of “rigging”, President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be assuming office, as scheduled on November 17.
But Solih is expected to face multiple challenges, both in the immediate and in the long term.
Of course, outgoing President Abdulla Yameen will remain a challenge given the fact that he had secured 41.6% of the votes in the September 23 election. But, principally, the challenge will come from difficulties arising from coalition politics.
Though President-elect Solih is from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), he is currently head of a coalition.
He was the Joint Opposition candidate at the election.
This means that he is duty bound to carry his coalition partners with him in whatever he does as President (as per the constitution of the Maldives).
But these partners could make problematic demands as Maldivian political history shows. They could pester Solih with unreasonable demands in terms of power and privilege.
“The opposition leaders are basically kleptocrats and power grabbers,” said an MDP leader close to Party Chief Mohamed Nasheed.
But these partners could make problematic demands as Maldivian political history shows. They could pester Solih with unreasonable demands in terms of power and privilege
Coalition partners also tend to fight each other, forcing the coalition head to spend time and energy in firefighting instead of attending to State affairs.
But coalitions appear to be inevitable given the Maldives’ divisive and fractious political culture.
However, they have proved to be a failure. Coalitions are formed only to crack up.
For example, several political parties, led by Mohamed Nasheed’s MDP, formed a coalition to bring down the 30-year long dictatorial government of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008.
But it did not take long for the coalition to break up after the goal of removing Gayoom was achieved.
It was in June 2005 that dictator Gayoom allowed political parties to register. The main parties which registered were the MDP led by Nasheed; the Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) led by the then President Abdul Gayoom; the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and the Adhaalath Party (AP) led by Islamic fundamentalists like Sheikh Imran.
Come 2008, a series of mass agitations led by Nasheed’s MDP resulted in the Maldives’ getting a new democratic constitution and in the holding of the archipelago’s first multi-party Presidential election.
In the election, the DRP candidate and incumbent President Abdul Gayoom lost in the second round. Gayoom received 45.75% of the vote against 54.25% his opponent Nasheed of the MDP-led coalition got. Nasheed became President and Mohammed Waheed Hassan of the Gaumee Ittihad Party became Vice President.
At the Parliamentary Elections held in 2009, the Nasheed-led MDP got 30.81% of the votes and secured 26 seats in a parliament of 85 members. But Gayoom’s DRP, with 24.62% of the vote, received more seats (28), giving ground for a conflict over legitimacy. However, Nasheed’s Government faced many challenges arising from an economic downturn, huge debts, over-spending, and youth unemployment and drug abuse. Taxation on goods was introduced for the first time, causing unrest among the citizenry.
Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012, after weeks of agitations especially after he got the military to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, Chief Justice of the Criminal Court.
The Police had joined the protesters forcing the Army to take action against them. Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik took over the Presidency.
President Waheed announced a Presidential election, which was held in late 2013. Former President Nasheed won the most votes in the first round vis-à-vis Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of the Maldives(PPM) which was then led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
However, contrary to the assessment of international observers, the Supreme Court cited irregularities and annulled the election. In the next round, Yameen won to become President of the Maldives. But the Yameen-led coalition broke, with Gayoom breaking away and legally challenging Yameen’s take over the PPM which Gayoom had formed after he left the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
The case is now being heard. Gayoom hopes to get the PPM back. Fearing a Gayoom take over, in the last PPM convention, Yameen got himself re-elected as its President.
On September 28, 2015, there was an attempt on the life of President Yameen as his speedboat was docking at the Male jetty. Yameen blamed Vice President Ahmed Adheeb for the incident, got parliament to remove him from the Vice Presidency and arrested him. Gasim Ibrahim, leader of the Jumhoory Party (JP), has also shifted loyalties many times. He was Minister of Finance and Treasury in the Gayoom Government. But he left it to contest the 2008 Presidential election as the candidate of the Jumhoory Party (JP) which he had floated. Gasim also resigned from his position as the Deputy Leader of the Gayoom’s DRP.
But Gasim joined the MDP-led coalition in the second round of the elections in 2008, thus helping Nasheed to win against Gayoom. Gasim joined Nasheed’s Government as Minister for Home Affairs but resigned 20 days later, citing policy differences and became a vocal critic of the Nasheed regime. He is said to have funded the anti-Nasheed demonstrations in 2012 which helped oust Nasheed from the Presidency. However, a common hostility to President Yameen brought Gasim Ibrahim and Nasheed together.
Come 2008, a series of mass agitations led by Nasheed’s MDP resulted in the Maldives’ getting a new democratic constitution and in the holding of the archipelago’s first multi-party Presidential election
The same factor brought Nasheed and Gayoom together. All three had been arrested and incarcerated by Yameen. Gasim became an active partner of the anti-Yameen coalition led by Nasheed and Gasim.
However, MDP leaders say that the suave and cleaver Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will be able to manage his ambitious and shifty coalition partners.
“Solih is a fixer who can manage people by deft handling. He does his political work avoiding the limelight,” said an MDP insider.
“He will undoubtedly face difficulties with his coalition partners because, for every action as President, he will have to get parliamentary sanction. But he has the required political skill and experience to tackle these issues,” the MDP member said.
According to MDP leaders, the MDP’s main endeavour would be to keep “power grabbers and kleptocrats” out, by which he meant leaders like Gasim Ibrahim, who combine private business with a political career.
“It will be good for the Maldivian political system if parties led by kleptocrats, power grabbers and Islamic zealots are marginalized and parties like the MDP and PPM dominate the political landscape.
“The MDP and PPM are political parties in the real sense of the term while others are not,” the MDP leader said. He felt that Jumhoory Party and the Adhaalath Party could be marginalized even in the existing Parliament, if Gayoom got the PPM back through the court, and the 12 MPs who were sacked by Yameen were reinstated by the Supreme Court.