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#Maldives in Constitutional Crisis: A new National Unity Alliance to replace the failed MDP/NUA?

Male', Maldives.
Day 20 of President Nasheed's hijacking of the Judiciary, and no resolution of the resulting constitutional crisis. Civic protests continue unabated and expand into other urban centres, hundreds arrested, and the police and military brutality reach new heights. Nasheed denies that the Constitution is in force, the Executive claims the whole Judiciary is unconstitutional and the Parliament says it is on holiday and so can't attend to the matter.

The talk about town today is a proposed rebirth of the National Unity Alliance (NUA), the very alliance which brought the current dictatorial regime into power. Popular philanthropist Gasim Ibrahim's party, Jumhooree Party (JP) has come tabled a proposal for a National Unity Alliance to other opposition parties, with the proviso of a united single candidate for the Presidency 2013. While no other party has publicly said anything on the proposal, JP report that opposition parties are considering their proposal.

However, it is perplexing how the NUA can be reborn, when it is, in actual fact, still alive and running the government. Very simply, the NUA is still in force because three of the seven coalition parties are still jointly running the government: Nasheed's Maldives Democratic Party, Vice President Waheed's National Unity Party (Qaumee Itthihad-QP), and Nasheed's Political Advisor Ibrahim Ismail's Social Liberal Party. Apart from Adhaalath Party, the parties which left the NUA government were in fact those which had joined only after being defeated in the first round of the presidential elections: Gasim Ibrahim's Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dr. Hassan Saeed's Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP). Adhaalath Party exited from the NUA Government last year.

Regardless of whether the NUA is in force or not, there can be no denying that, as a government, the NUA failed miserably. The united front that was presented to the Maldivian voter disintegrated within a month of the the NUA candidate taking oath of office as President.

Apologists for the NUA, such as members of the QP and SLP who disagree with President Nasheed's policies or seek to abrogate themselves from the blame of government transgressions and failures, claim that the NUA is null and void since Nasheed has violated terms of their coalition agreements. JP and DQP gave the same arguments as reasons for their exit from the NUA.

Nasheed has demonstrated that he can violate any terms of any coalition agreement with other parties, with impunity. In doing so, he has abused the trust of the voters who voted for the NUA candidate on the strength of their party's participation in the NUA. In the same way, the parties which exited the NUA and those parties which are still in the NUA but disclaim responsibility for the Executive's actions, have abused the trust of their voters. These votes were obtained by Nasheed and by the other coalition partners of the NUA with guarantees of joint government, of joint policies presented to the voters during the campaign.

While such breach of trust and ethics may not be prosecutable under the law, and while citizen's may not be able to hold political parties and party leaders accountable for such breach of trust, Maldivians can certainly learn many valuable lessons from this experience.

Five core lessons from this bitter experience can guide voter decision making in the run up to Presidency 2013. These are:
1. The primary lesson is that a National Unity Alliance did not work this time and will not work in the future either.
2. The second lesson is that, once sworn to office, the President can, and other most probably will, violate the terms of any NUA agreement with other political parties.
3. The third lesson is that there is nothing the civic voter can do about #2.
4. The fourth lesson is that political parties do not act in a socially and ethically responsible manner, and that the civic voter has no way of holding his/her party accountable for breach of trust.
5. The fifth lesson is that the Elections Commission is little more than a registrar of political party membership and does not regulate the activities of political parties or hold political parties accountable for their actions.

The very fact that opposition parties are considering another National Unity Alliance is evidence of how far removed the top leadership of political parties are from their membership grassroots and their interests.

Leaving aside the debatable question of whether competing ambitious politicians would sustain a unified front into the next elections, it is clear from the current regime that it does not benefit the country to shove out one strong man after the next, just to install in position yet another strong man. The country and people will only benefit when national interest is given primacy and democratic processes and institutions are strengthened rather than weakened and sacrificed for private political gain and ambition.

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