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#Maldives: Mobocracy wins, democracy defeated, as Nasheed hijacks Parliament

Male', Maldives.
The public outcry is widespread over yesterday's defeat of democracy by mobocracy as the Maldivian Parliament was hijacked by a small mob of MPs who support Mohamed Nasheed, the titular Supreme Leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). With his hijacking of the democratic institution of the people's representation in governance, the People's Majlis (Parliament), Nasheed has successfully undermined all three powers of democracy, the Executive, the Judiciary and now the Legislature. Nasheed resigned as President of Maldives on February 7th after weeks of continuous public protests against his military arrest of a senior judge, his declaration of all lower courts of justice as invalid, and his actions to restrict fundamental freedoms including freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and media.

The hijackers, led by Nasheed's cousin by marriage MP Ibrahim Salih and Nasheed's cousin, MP Eva Abdulla, constituted of a mere 12 out of 77 elected Members of Parliament. The hijack group entered the Parliament Chambers ahead of the scheduled session and occupied the Speaker's Chair and podium. They then tore down the national flag behind the Speaker's Chair, took the Speaker's Chair out of the Chambers, sang and danced on the Speaker's podium, and obstructed the Speaker from entering the Chambers.

Nasheed's MPs were supported by his followers who rioted on all main roads leading to Parliament, seriously injuring several police officers and damaging the property of those MPs who did not support Nasheed. A seriously injured police officer was airlifted last night to Sri Lanka for medical care. Police arrested 44 individuals engaged in the attacks. Media report that the rioters consisted of members of various Male' clubs who have the dubious reputation of selling votes for cash.

Inside Parliament, MP Ibrahim Salih's demand was an early election date for Nasheed. MDP would not allow Parliament to convene before an election date was announced, he said. However, even when this demand was agreed to President Mohamed Waheed, Salih and his group refused to allow the Speaker to begin the session. President Waheed spoke to the leaders of the rebel MP group, attempting to find a way to enable the Parliament to function. He agreed to their demand to allow Parliament to set a date for the elections, instead of the political representatives at the All Party Talks on his National Unity Road Map. As seen yesterday and on some previous occasions, the Parliament is an institution where Nasheed's MDP can dictate terms, whereas they were outnumbered at the All Party talks. However, this too was rejected by Salih.

Together with his Ministers, President Waheed waited 10 hours in Parliament premises to discharge his constitutional responsibility to deliver a State of the Nation Address to the opening session, departing only when the session was finally cancelled by the Speaker.

Yesterday, after 10 hours of obstruction during which Nasheed's MPs refused several attempts by the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid to speak with them to discuss a reasonable way to enable Parliament to function, Speaker Shahid postponed the Parliamentary opening session indefinitely.

In a press conference, Shahid explained that he had taken this decision in order not to use force to hold Parliament. He condemned the hijacking of the Parliament, saying that "most important institution of the country has been crippled".

Nasheed last night held a celebratory rally at which he announced that the road was now clear for early election as demanded by himself and his supporters. MDP last week announced that only Nasheed, holding the title of Supreme Leader of the Party, would be contesting its primaries to select a presidential candidate. Nasheed currently does not hold any elected post within his own party.

With Nasheed taking the title of Supreme Leader, MDP now has a top heavy vertical structure. At the top is Nasheed (Supreme Leader), next in the hierarchy is the Interim Leader of the Party (Reeko Moosa Maniku), next comes the President of the Party (Dr. Ibrahim Didi), next Vice President (Alhan Fahmy) and finally the Party National Congress.

That same day, the elected President of MDP, Dr. Ibrahim Didi, told local media that he too had intended to contest in the MDP Primaries, but had been convinced by party leaders that it would be divisive to the party. Dr. Didi was elected in a major victory against Nasheed's nominee for the post of Party President, his close confidante and Special Envoy in government, Ibrahim Hussain Zaki.

An early election, although unconstitutional, seems highly likely as mobocracy rules the country's political arena. The two biggest political parties opposing Nasheed's MDP, the Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last night declared that they would not participate in the All Party Talks. In an about face, MDP is now being proposed as the forum for deciding on a date for early elections.

From these rapid changes in position by MDP, it is apparent that the only outcome that they are seeking is the resignation of President Waheed, followed by an interim two month leadership by the Speaker of Parliament, at the end of which would be an election. Political pundits say Nasheed is gambling on a perceived innate characteristic of President Waheed, that he is a fearful individual who would resign at the first sign of mobocracy rule.

In short, the future direction of the country again depends not on Nasheed as portrayed in international media, but on President Waheed. Waheed has repeatedly reiterated his belief that the conditions of the country are not right for a free and fair election to be held.

Events in the Maldives clearly show that Dr. Waheed is correct in this assessment. However, it is difficult to see how he would prevail, when media report that all other parties are also essentially agreed on an early election. The future of democracy in Maldives, it seems, is determined by mobocracy, not rule of law or democratic processes and principles.

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