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Maldives: President Yameen on a “Conciliatory Mode.” But will it last?

Paper No:  5613                                      Dated 28-Nov-2013
 
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
 
Soon after he took over, the first thing President Yameen did was to take a swipe at the losing candidate Mohamed Nasheed, by declaring that “People have proved that they do not want a puppet of foreign powers.”
 
Better sense prevailed and soon he quickly made some conciliatory gestures to make up for that indiscreet statement.
 
Though Nasheed lost, nearly fifty person of the electorate had voted for him and this cannot be ignored.  The international community also stressed that the new government in view of the close contest, should engage the opposition in a conciliatory manner.
 
International Reaction:
 
The UN statement pointed out that the close contest highlighted the need for the new administration to engage the opposition in a constructive manner and lead the country in the interest of all Maldivians.
 
The UN Secretary General urged all political leaders of Maldives to work urgently towards reconciliation.
 
The State Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth called upon the new government to avoid any act of recrimination or retribution.
 
Canada while praising Nasheed for being magnanimous in defeat also urged reconciliation.
 
Nasheed and the MDP:
 
There is no doubt that Nasheed took the defeat in his stride and promised full cooperation of the opposition.  In the first major rally of the party after the defeat he said that the MDP is a ship for all seas- equally fit for governance and opposition.  He stressed that freedom of assembly and freedom of expression should be defended at all costs.
 
One wonders what would have happened if the reverse had happened with Nasheed winning  by a narrow margin.  Yameen, going by the history would have in all probability got the elections annulled with the ever helpful Supreme Court!
 
It is said that the Government and the MDP are holding talks on reconciliation.
 
This process of conciliation could not have moved if if the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz had continued in his post.  Thankfully he has been ‘allowed’ to resign.  It is said that Riyaz was first offered the post of High Commissioner or Ambassador in Singapore or China and that he declined.  He is now planning to enter politics and may join PPM or the Jumhooree.
 
On a definite understanding with the government, the MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor who was holed up in the Majlis left the building unharmed after 26 days.  
 
While the PPM did not pursue the no confidence motion against the Speaker Shaheed, the MDP returned the gesture by withdrawing the no confidence motion against the Dy. Speaker belonging to the PPM. 
 
Appointments and Disppointments:
 
Some appointments have been disappointing.  The selection of Umar Nasir, a loose canon as the Home Minister is one.  This perhaps has been done more to quieten him and  as part of the deal with the Jumhooree with whose cooperation Yameen has come to power.  It may be recalled that Umar Nasir in losing his bid for becoming the party candidate for presidentship in the PPM had abused Yameen of having used the convicted and the drug smuggling network to get elected.  He was out of the party for a while and now he says that he either wants to join the PPM or the Jumhooree again!
 
The appointment of the Foreign Minister is another disappointment.  Yameen’s niece and Gayoom’s daughter Dhunya Maumoon has been elevated and reappointed as the foreign minister. In one of the first interviews he gave, Yameen said that his priority would be on the Maldives- India relations that had taken a downturn in the last two years. As a minister of state in Waheed’s government, Dhunya looked after the foreign relations and the relations with India deteriorated mainly because of her. 
 
Mundhu, former spokesman in Gayoom’s regime is back in President’s office as a minster.  He is an active and an ebullient personality and is a good choice.
 
It is good that Aisath Bisam former Attorney General was not reinstated in the same post but given an advisory role in the President’s affairs for legal affairs.  
 
Elections to the Local Councils and the Majlis:
 
The local council elections are set for 18 January 2014 to be followed by elections to the Parliament (Majlis) on 22nd March 2014.
 
The attempt of President Yameen would be to get a majority for the PPM or its coalition in both and particularly in the parliamentary elections.  Now that PPM is not in a majority in the parliament, the cooperation of MDP is needed now, but once and if it gets a majority it is not certain whether Yameen would continue with this reconciliation mode.
 
Another development that needs to be watched is how long the honeymoon between Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim, the leader of Jumhooree would last.  Both are strong personalities and were not  known to be on good terms even in the best of times.  
 
But for the present, till the Majils elections in March, it looks that the reconciliation mode will continue!
 
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