The Maldivian political system has been getting the pass for being a fairly young democratic system for the past two decades. With Speaker Mohamed Nasheed — marked as the standard bearer — back when he was running for presidency, and the cooperation of a disgruntled population, a vestige of democracy was installed in the country. The maturing of the Maldivian democracy seems to have instead been bogged down, in ever repetitive events.
The most recent fiasco that has plagued the tabloids has been the rift in the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which has broadly stood for shaking the foundations and bringing the elitist class down to fair ground. The rift can be dated back to the resignation of Mohamed Nasheed as President in 2012, and the subsequent shuffle in the upper echelons of the party as many, such as Ali Waheed, the former Tourism Minister — currently under indictment for abusing his position of power — renounced their loyalty in the heat of the moment, only to quickly return to the fold when the dust settled and the party could once again stabilise under the same flag.
When Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took the presidency under the leadership of Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, MDP banded together even stronger than before against him, managing to secure 22 seats in parliament in the same term. His reign, while complete with the five year presidential term, was colourful in the sense that a lot of the government’s workings were exposed to being highly corrupt — and the elites were once again, reportedly, reclaiming lost ground in terms of national influence.
One key player who no one had known of in the political sphere before his debut was Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor — who upon entering the arena of public politics took the nation by storm. The public was quite confused at first as to why all the representatives they had elected for suddenly began showing support to this very new entrant, allowing him to increase his influence from being a political nobody to becoming the Vice President’s within a few years.
How he got there, and what he’d done in that position, is still debatable, yet the general gist follows that, allegedly, a lot of bribes were distributed amongst parliamentarians as well as other influential figures to sow support for his rise to power. He was also the headliner in the MMPRC scandal, where more than USD78 million is said to have been disseminated — not even a cent of which has been recovered by the recently disbanded Asset Recovery Commission. Adeeb, a full blooded PPM-backed politician, managed to sway the influence of key MDP members, and other opposition parliamentarians at key moments. This chain of events, and the murkiness of the transparency in which things occurred, should not have naturally happened in a functioning democracy — though admittedly it has, and with the most dire of results.
A great deal of Adeeb’s alleged dealings, and indeed those of Yameen himself, came to light when an attack on President Yameen’s life resulted in accusations against Adeeb which landed the former VP in jail with the inner workings of his all too convoluted machinations unraveled, to an extent, in the public eye. Adeeb, identified as the frontman who had allegedly syphoned huge chunks of government funds and set in place plans to cover up his corruption and absolute abuse of power, was removed prematurely from office. President Yameen would go on to complete his term with the cloud of the scandal, and indeed similar allegations, hanging over his head. Then began the MDP rule once more, albeit seemingly more stable than the erratic administration under Nasheed.
Nasheed, of course, did not stray far from the seats of power for too long, quickly using the vacancy in a new constituency to get into parliament and then set himself up neatly as Speaker of Parliament — with, ironically for a party which frown upon nepotism, his cousin as Deputy Speaker. While his role is generally diminished on paper, he did not act as such; his influence, forced and unwelcome at times, helpful and invited at others, spanned over nearly every facet of the nation’s administration, including his foray into the justice system by teeing himself up for the Judicial Services Commission — arguably a blatant blurring of lines between the pillars of power.
On the other hand, a parliamentarian who has been accused by the opposition for being ‘a bench warmer’ for over two decades, in some terms, assumed the mantle of presidency with the full backing of Nasheed and his team. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took the role graciously, as technicalities would possibly prevent Nasheed from running, and has remained comfortably in his seat with repeated promises of undoing, and not repeating, the “atrocities” of the Yameen administration.
However, once again, a fairly familiar story begins to unfold, mainly being punctuated during the MDP national assembly.
A very key mover in the Solih administration is his Minister of Economic Development, Fayyaz Ismail. Not having been the most mentioned name in politics, until he had taken over the post, Fayyaz has put himself in the running for MDP’s chairperson; a move that, from the overall context, does not seem earned as his opponent is the wildly popular North Maafannu MP Imthiyaz Fahmy (Inthi).
In general channels, the people were favouring the popular, and historically vocal and party-loyal candidate, Fahmy, for quite some time. Fayyaz claims that he had only stepped up because there was no one else he deemed capable of the role — a somewhat subjective claim from a politician who is fairly less matched, at least in duration of service to party and nation, when compared to his opponent. Yet, the MDP’s National Council seemed to favour him, for reasons currently unknown, as when he requested for postponement of the elections, he won that decision by a landslide.
Accusations were flung across the board of Fayyaz attempting to stall for time to increase his supporter-base. MP Ali Azim, another quite vocal member, has also accused of Fayyaz of using his position to influence the party as well as parliament. The parliament, as it stands, favoured Speaker Nasheed, but the rift had widened to the point where his influence had somewhat dwindled and President Solih’s influence — under whose patronage Fayyaz seems to have been supercharged — had increased.
Fayyaz’s rise to power loosely mimics that of Adeeb from Yameen’s tenure. His widening sphere of influence from the top down seems more and more forced, hinting at similar tactics that the MDP parliament members opposing him have been accusing him of. Furthermore, Solih is not without nepotism either, with various family members in positions of power throughout the administration, and even in the parliament.
These observations begs the nation to question the current flow of events and to dig deeper and understand the ploys, and internal politics, of the party in power so that the public can be aware of what is happening beyond their immediate reach. The Solih administration has not kept to their word of ‘zero-tolerance’. The Solih administration has not kept to their word promise of lessening debt. The Solih administration has not kept to their word on delivering justice to the families of the disappeared and the victimised. These recent shakeups need to be watched closely. When such moves are left unmonitored, paid for in currencies of trust the government is yet to fully earn without being fully held accountable, history is doomed to repeat itself.