Maldives – National Consensus versus Retributive Justice to Dictate Stability
The suspense is now over; President Abdullah Yameen has conceded defeat in the Presidential elections held in the country on 23 September. “The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results from yesterday,” President Abdulla Yameen said in a televised address. “Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him,” Yameen said as per news agency AFP.
The verdict of the people was clear with the opposition candidate winning over 38,484 than the incumbent President
The joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won with 58 percent votes. This is the highest any presidential candidate has received in the country which in the past has seen elections in two rounds due to more than one candidate.
This year there was a straight context between Solih and the incumbent President Abdullah Yameen.
The path to re-election of President Yameen seemed assured with his main rivals either in jail or in exile. He imposed a state of emergency earlier this year after refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to release detained political leaders. Thus election was widely seen as a referendum on whether democracy will survive in the country as Yameen rolled back many of the democratic freedoms introduced to the nation.
There was also scepticism as to whether he would relinquish power easily and would use the armed forces and the courts in combination to overturn the people’s verdict. However the large margin made this impractical so was pressure from the international community.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs generally reticent and deliberate to respond to developments issued a press release early on 24 January when it was evident that Solih was the winner.
The release said, “We welcome the successful completion of the third Presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won. We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest. This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law. In keeping with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening our partnership”.
On 25 September, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi called Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and congratulated him on his victory in the Presidential elections held in Maldives yesterday.
The Prime Minister also conveyed his good wishes for the strengthening of democracy, peace and prosperity in Maldives under the leadership of Mr Solih.
The relations between India and Maldives had reached an all time low under President Yameen who is playing what some analysts have said to China-Pakistan card to undermine Indian interests in the region. Maldives is also the only SAARC nation that Prime Minister Modi has not visited so far, it is more than likely that Mr Modi will visit the country in November and attend the inauguration of Mr Solih as the President.
The response from Mr Solih who thanked the Prime Minister for his greetings and good wishes and agreed to work closely to further strengthen the close, friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two countries would be heartening for India.
The Great Game between the two Asian rivals in the Indian Ocean Region that has unfolded for some years now may get a breather for it has been destabilising for the tiny atoll nation spread over a vast expanse but with a population of just over 400,000.
More importantly internal politics will dictate stability as Maldives has remained unstable since February 2012 when then President was replaced by his Vice in what was seen as a constitutional coup.
This was followed by the election of Mr Yameen as the President in 2013 in the second round after he managed to gain support of the third candidate in the fray Mr Qasim Ibrahim one of the largest resort owners in the country.
Ironically Ibrahim sought exile as he was charged by the Yameen government, so were other key leaders including former Presidents Nasheed and Gayoom, Vice Presidents, Defence ministers and key party leaders on flimsy charges.
After the turn of events putting Mr Solih into power, the issue is whether retributive justice will be carried out or there will be national reconciliation.
Mr Solih has the choice of bringing Mr Yameen to book given the large scale wrongdoing during his regime.
Such retributive justice [punishing the offender] will be justified given the mayhem legal and constitutional that was created by the outgoing President during his five year tenure.
Signs of the same were evident with people pulling down Yameens huge cardboard cutouts on Sunday after he lost the elections.
Yet that may create further political instability and provide fuel to external actors to intervene as the process will be contentious and long drawn out.
A restorative justice for national reconciliation on the other hand may be the way ahead for stability.
Will the Maldives Democratic Party and Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih take this sage step remains to be seen?