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Maldives Presidency 2013: Are we witnessing the dying throes of the MDP regime?

Male', Maldives.

Maldivian President Nasheed's militant party, Maldives Democratic Party, appears to be in self destruct mode, as it loses its grip on the country. The massive civic protest on December 23 was a wake up call for Nasheed and MDP, as over 20,000 took to the streets calling for Nasheed's resignation.

Day by day, Maldives media are choked full on news on failures of the MDP regime, its corrupt deals, its mismanagement of the economy, its attacks on the judiciary and the parliament, police and military action against civilians, and on its iron fisted approach to political opposition.

These events are exposing rifts, and even chasms, between Nasheed and his cronies versus the MDP leadership, between the Nasheed government and MDP Parliamentary group, and within the MDP leadership itself. Last night's deplorable attack on MDP Finance Minister Inaz by his own party leaders is the latest in a series of phobic actions by individual members of the MDP top leadership.

The most recent spate of MDP's kamikaze actions perhaps began with President Nasheed himself, when he pitted his "perceived" popularity against Islam, the state religion. More rationale fragments of the disintegrating MDP's National Council reportedly attempted to bring Nasheed down to reality, but failed. The result? Nasheed got just below 1,000 under his banner, while the banner of Islam got over 20,000 followers.

Recipient of the Nasheed government's largesse, corrupt MP Reeko Moosa, launched the next MDP kamikaze mission: making death threats to opposition leaders and threatening MDP street attacks on dissenting civilians. This mission was shot down point blank by Nasheed's High Commissioner to Malaysia, Zaki (Nazaki Zaki).

Nasheed again took to the skies in rapid fire suicide attack on erstwhile coalition partner and Jumhooree (Republican) Party leader, Gasim Ibrahim. Notable amongst Nasheed's suicide missions is the support given by his cabinet and ex-MDP Leaders ousted from the party leadership in March 2011. This group is emerging as Nasheed's personal core group, pitted against MDPs, the MDP current leadership and the MDP National Congress. Embattled from within MDP and from the opposition, Nasheed is bolstered by military power, as evidenced in military statements and actions following the December 23 wakeup call.

The acute political observer will most likely note the amazing similarity between these MDP internal fights and those within the Gayoom regime in its dying throes. The initial face off was between the President and cabinet against MPs and the party council. Gayoom tried all sorts of tactics such as by bringing in the party council to his cabinet and putting cabinet members in the council. All was in vain, as factions departed from cabinet and party in vocal acrimony and joined opposition ranks. The end result: the toppling of a 30 year old regime by a fledgling coalition of rivaling presidential candidates.

However, MDP's fate may not be as clear nor follow the same path as the Gayoom regime or DRP.

MDP's roots as a militant and angry protest group may give greater internal cohesion to the party than Gayoom's group which coalesced out of self interest. Additionally, President Nasheed has been very smart in ensuring that all individuals and clans in the MDP front ranks have benefited financially under his regime. Nasheed has not been afraid to show blatant nepotism and favoritism in political appointees and in the awarding of government contracts. He has consistently given financial handouts to activists at all levels, supported by housing flats, loans, direct payoffs under various social schemes and on a larger scale, under the table payoffs.

However, it is evident from the outcomes of the March 2011 MDP elections, that these activities have not bought Nasheed much voter loyalty within MDP. The MDP Elections ended in crash landings of almost all Nasheed's nominees, while non-Nasheed candidates swept the MDP seats.

It remains to be seen if Nasheed can hold onto his party, or if MDP will self destruct. Regardless of the outcome, it is evident that MDP will need a major rebranding and also affiliate itself with some other party or parties, if it is to be a serious contender in the Presidential Elections, 2013.

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