For the first time in the decade-long history of democratic elections in the Maldives, a single party will be getting a majority in the country’s parliament.
Following elections to the 87-member Majlis or parliament on April 6, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which fought for and secured democracy for the Maldives in 2008, is set to get around 68 of the seats up for grabs.
However, this will not be followed by the formation of a single party government. The cabinet will continue to have representatives of the now-defunct coalition which defeated President Abdulla Yameen in the September 2018 Presidential election.
“This is as per an understanding already arrived at. We do not want to upset the apple cart unnecessarily. Stability is the need of the hour,” explained Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, spokesman of the MDP.
The Jumhoory Party (JP) of parliament Speaker Gasim Ibrahim is expected to win 7 and the Peoples’ Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Peoples’ National Congress (PNC) – both led by former President Abdulla Yameen, are to get 4 and 1 seat respectively.
By Sunday morning, the MDP had officially won 43 of the 87 seats
Perhaps having a premonition that he would get a drubbing, former President Yameen did not even vote.
For the first time in democratic Maldives, the President and the parliament will be belonging to the same party. President Ibrahim Solih, who won the September 2018 Presidential election, is also from the MDP.
Stability Brought About
This will bring about much-needed stability to the Maldives, a feature the country has not experienced since the first democratic election in 2008.
The first government of 2008 formed by President Mohamed Nasheed was overthrown in 2012 by his own allies such as the Jumhoory Party and the Adaalath Party in conjunction with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his half-brother Abdulla Yameen, and the chiefs of the army and the police.
The first parliamentary elections held under the new constitution in 2009 had thrown up an unstable combination parties which hamstrung President Nasheed. President Yameen made up for lack of numbers in parliament by crass manipulation using money and muscle power.
But Yameen’s tactics alienated the masses who rejected him in the September 2018 Presidential election.
Yameen was defeated by Ibrahim Solih of the MDP, backed by a grand coalition of opposition parties. But this coalition was not built to last as it had disparate elements in it. From the very beginning, the MDP was clear that it will fight the April 2019 parliamentary elections alone and secure a good majority.
The MDP felt that it had the right credentials for aspiring for the above mentioned goal. It had the moderate, balanced, and suave Solih as President and the quintessential democrat Nasheed as the mascot of the party.
And, as the international spokesman of the MDP, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, put it, the MDP was the only party in the Maldives which had an ideology, a modern ideology that is. The Adaalath Party also had an ideology, but it was Islamic.
The MDP was particularly keen not to have the Jumhoory Party (JP) of Gasim Ibrahim to be in its camp as the JP was known as a party based on money and muscle power and basically interested in making money by using State power.
As expected, Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoory Party left the coalition and joined with the discredited PPM and PNC led by former President Yameen. But former President Gayoom and the Adaalath Party stuck to the MDP and fought the election as part of the MDP-led alliance.
It’ll Be A Coalition Cabinet
However, MDP spokesman Ghafoor made it clear that the cabinet formed after 2019 Presidential election will remain the same but for some minor changes. This is because the MDP had decided not to upset the apple cart. Therefore, the Jumhoory Party will continue to be part of the cabinet. Gasim Ibrahim’s wife Aishath Nahula is the Transport Minister in Solih’s cabinet and is likely to continue as such, Ghafoor added.
The Maldives has a Presidential system in which the cabinet is composed of non-MPs. But ministerial appointees will have to be approved by parliament.
Main Props Of MDP’s Victory
Asked to state the main props of the MDP in the parliamentary elections, Ghafoor said that there were a number of relevant factors.
The first was the stability ensured by a level-headed President Solih. The second was the excellent cooperation between Solih and Nasheed. The third was a transparent adherence to the law and the constitution. Indeed, former President Yameen was jailed for money laundering but this was done by due process. If he was let off subsequently, it was done by a court of law. Unlike Yameen, Solih did not go on a jailing spree.
The people expected Solih and an MDP-dominated parliament to completely overhaul the judiciary. The regime is determined to do that, Ghafoor said.
Not A Walk Over
However, the MDP’s battle against the entrenched forces was hard, Ghafoor said. After all, Yameen had got 41% of the votes in the Presidential election only six months ago.
“We had to work tirelessly for months to ensure that we got what we wanted. One of the secrets of our success is the structure which we gave to the MDP. It is now a well-organized party, wedded to certain principles,” he said.
Undesirable Political Culture
Up against the MDP was the stubborn and undesirable political culture of the Maldives. Political culture was the party’s main challenger.
Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed wrote in Minivan News on 23 Jun 2014: “Integrity and ethical behavior has never been a cornerstone of politics in the Maldives throughout its history. In fact, Maldivian political history is littered with examples of treacherous behavior, shifting allegiances, banishments to remote islands and assassinations, as the elites of the country jostled to assume, retain, or regain the seat of power.”
“The concept of a coalition government is actually anathema to the Maldives’ political culture and attitudes. Whether it is a sultan or a president, it has always been a one-man show when it comes to the actual wielding of power – a phenomenon that became even more pronounced in the post-independence presidential politics in the country.”
The winner takes all principle goes against coalition building. Coalitions are forged to overthrow the government, but break up soon after that due to quarrels over the spoils of office. Maldivian governments had become carnivals of kleptomaniacs Ghafoor said.
MDP leader has always been against the concentration of power in the hands of one man, be he an un-elected dictator or a democratically elected President. Absolute power has led to absolute misuse.
“These are the reasons why the MDP is keen on replacing the Presidential system by a parliamentary system,” Ghafoor said.
With a majority in parliament, President Solih is expected to be able to change the constitution,” Ghafoor added.
(The featured image at the top shows MDP leaders Ibrahim Solih and Mohamed Nasheed accept greetings from supporters after the victory)