Two and a half years into the Ibrahim Mohamed Solih presidency, the opposition has failed in holding the government accountable in any meaningful way. The opposition coalition, hobbled together with a hodgepodge of failed political personalities — most of whom have been unsuccessful in retaining voter support while others have seen “success” as protest vote elects against the current administration — seems focused on the main goal of freeing former President Abdulla Yameen from what they term as political imprisonment. While the opposition may claim a recent swell of support, as seen in more percentage seats won in the local council election as compared to the parliamentary elections, the reality remains that most seats won were more likely protest votes against the current administration in an election that has seen historically low voter turnouts, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime the opposition seemed to lack any cohesive pledges and policy outlook other than regurgitating the former president’s key policies, and achievement points, keeping their foot firmly in the past and making no inroads towards the future. Pointing towards past achievements is not in itself a negative; however the inability to build on these to outline a plan for the future, other than “Free President Yameen,” speaks volumes of their capacity as an effective opposition.
Taking a look at recent calls among the public, for example, calling to “Fund Our Safety,” end corruption and enact rent control legislation, these are social justice movements which have seen more serious debate and consideration on social media — with no meaningful engagement by the opposition in terms of exposing better policies or even amplifying the voices of a disillusioned voter base.
Even as there have been quiet resignations, and shifting of focus from the issues, within the Solih administration when it comes to sexual harassment and the lethargic movement on investigating corruption, the opposition has failed to capitalise on these failing as they do not appear to have a better solution — or any solution for that matter.
Even where they are the loudest the focus seems to be, outwardly at least, along the worst lines. The “India Out” movement fronted by the opposition continues a dangerous cycle of xenophobia against India, portraying the nation as a non-specific bogeyman, rather than focusing on key facts and figures and asking hard hitting, and relevant, questions.
Why do we seem dead-set on borrowing from India when we already have existing debt as we languish in a pandemic hit recession? How do we protect our long term foreign policy interests by forging ever deepening ties with a nation where leadership has been increasingly Islamophobic and facist, while it also continues to force its will on its neighbours across all its borders? The opposition asks no such questions; rather it is more content to speak largely in the vagaries of “India bad; China good.” — they cannot even seem to make the most basic argument of India’s track record of outwardly using financing and assistance as “hard power” versus the Chinese approach of, ironically, using a more “soft” economics based approach.
The underlying problem when it comes to the opposition is clear; there is a dearth of ideas in relating to the larger public and their needs, and while the MDP-led administration talks a good game, even as they fail to deliver, the opposition’s only trump card seems to be to rely on the perceived successes of a past president.
Indeed President Yameen did have some measure of success with his infrastructure based projects, mainly focusing on the Greater Malé Region, and yet there has been millions of funds embezzled from the state under his watch — the voting public has made this abundantly clear.
The nation needs fresh new leadership galvanised around the ideals of equality, access, equity, justice and the rule of law — something the current batch of politicians have consistently failed to deliver on.