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#Maldives: As MDP mobocracy terrorizes the citizenry, can elections be free and fair?

Male', Maldives.
A House of Representatives of the people (Parliament) is an integral institution of functional democracies. Finally, yesterday it too fell victim to the mobocracy presently taking over the Maldives. Following the hijacking of Parliament by a small group of MPs, Parliament sessions have been suspended indefinitely. At least, until it is able to proceed without the use of force, the criteria being given by the Parliament Speaker as the reason for suspending it.

The reasoning given by the hijackers of the Parliament defies not only logic, but the very essence of democracy. The leader of the group of Maldivians who stopped Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, Supreme Leader of the Maldives National Democratic Party (MDP) says that the objective is to force Maldives to an early presidential election. Nasheed, who resigned from the post of President on February 7th, claims that he was forced to resign at gunpoint by the military, and has called for his successor to step down and hold snap election in 60 days. The military has categorically denied it held Nasheed at gunpoint, and shows no sign of taking over the rule of the country, something which might be expected if it was indeed a military coup.

Nasheed, continues to repeat his allegations, but shows no sign of lodging his case at the Supreme Court, the court mandated to rule on issues of presidential candidacy, resignation and election under the constitution. Apart from repetitively alleging a military coup, and fingering various politicians and businessmen as financiers of his alleged coup, Nasheed has not provided anyone with any evidence to back his allegations.

The current incumbent President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Maniku, was the Vice President under Nasheed, and ascended to the Presidency under the mechanism dictated by the Constitution. President Waheed also shows no sign of going for a court ruling on Nasheed's allegations targeting the legitimacy of his presidency.

Where does all this leave the Maldivian people? Certainly, it leaves them without a Legislature. Yesterday's events leave no doubts that the Speaker of Parliament lacks the will to hold Parliament while Nasheed's MPs are rioting within Parliament Chambers backed by Nasheed rampaging on the streets of the capital, Male'. The fact that this same Speaker, every now and then, over the past three years, used security personnel to forcibly remove MPs of other parties from Chambers is conveniently forgotten.

With the Legislature thus lost to the people for indefinite time, which democratic institutions do they have? Not, it seems, a functioning Executive either. Since President Waheed brought in his National Unity Government, law and order has deteriorated. Anyone and everyone can hijack public places in the densely populated Male', riot on the streets, threaten and abuse the ordinary citizen, without any fear of the law.

The police and military who under Nasheed, dragged judges from their beds and kept them in solitary confinement, arrested political opponents for every public utterance, closed down media channels and attacked journalists, closed down commercial businesses of members of other parties, are all of a sudden so meek and timid that they would run at the buzz of a mosquito.

The collective and individual rights of the general public are conveniently forgotten as politicians, "independent" commissions, and international donors seek to placate Nasheed. Yet, as every Maldivian, young and old can see clearly, Nasheed will not be placated until he is handed the Presidency.

Yes, if, instead of the 18 guns that allegedly pointed at Nasheed's head, 18 mobs were to point at President Waheed's head, he could resign. This would pave the way for an election within two months. Nasheed conveniently achieves the very target that he is criminalizing the streets for.

However, would it yield any positive result for the Maldivian people? In the present political climate where mobs rule, and coercion and commercialized politics dictate voting, it is unlikely that any candidate can even campaign freely. It is an impossibility that voters would be free from intimidation, coercion and violence.

Freedom of assembly, equitable opportunities to campaign, for the electorate to receive information from all sides fairly, these would be pipe dreams. When the situation in Male' is such that a person is scared to disagree with the violent MDP even in a private discussion, just imaging the situation on the islands where the violent political group rules. As for equitable and balance reporting by media, this would be the joke of the century. Unless Nasheed steps back from mobocracy, and allows the Maldivian people time to prepare for a free and fair election, an election not disrupted by intimidation, coercion and violence is impossible in this country.

Given this state of affairs, in any snap election in the next 60 days, if Nasheed should win, it would be challenged by the opposition coalition. Their challenge may less violent than Nasheed's current protests, but the numbers on the street would be the same. This is because the masses turning out on the streets can be bought by any politician with cash.

Alternatively, if the opposition coalition should win, current events show that there is absolutely no chance of Nasheed accepting such a result. He would again be on the streets with accusations of vote rigging, military rule and what not.

Hence, essentially, unless the Maldivian people want to throw away over 60 million Maldivian Rufiya into the vast oceans around them, a snap election would not only beggar the national economy, but would plunge the country into greater turmoil, something it can ill afford to do. Political leaders in the country need to step back from the brink, turn away from their tunnel vision and work together for a political situation which is a win situation for the whole populace and not just for them and their clans.

Commercialization of politics

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