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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 23, May 25, 2013

Democracy Lessons from the Maldives

Monday 27 May 2013, by M K Bhadrakumar

The Maldives is putting Indian pundits to shame. Not only there is no democracy deficit in the archipelago of 2.4 lakh voters but the twists and turns of politics there in the run-up to the September 7 presidential elections are becoming intricate and highly competitive.

Indeed, the islanders have taken to coalition politics with a gusto that will give Mulayam Singh Yadav or M. Karunanidhi one or two bright ideas for the future.

So, after all, President Mohamed Waheed is not only not, in actuality, a protege of former ‘dictator’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, but they have become political adversaries today and their parties have locked horns.

Equally, we were wrong to assume Gayoom is the kingmaker calling the shots in the current regime that came into power in February last year in controversial circumstances. In fact, Gayoom is barely keeping his head above the waterline of Maldivian politics.

Nor is Waheed anyone’s rubber stamp. He is also an ambitious politician who sees a role for himself as the country’s next elected President. And he also has a panache for conspiring, backstabbing, building self-serving alliances and so on.

Again, Gayoom and former President Mohamed Nasheed aren’t necessarily eternal enemies they were considered to be. In fact, a degree of warmth and proximity could be developing between them in their common desire to spoil Waheed’s prospects to win the September 7 poll.

According to Indian pundits, Gayoom is hand in glove with the Islamists, but the plain truth is it is Waheed who got on board in his electoral alliance the Islamists, who clamour for Shariah law. Yet, Waheed espouses religious tolerance and won’t clamp down on the fun and frolic that goes on in resorts where foreigners come for merrymaking.

By the way, there is no Al-Qaeda guy fishing in troubled waters in the Maldives or lurking behind the coconut trees there, as our security analysts have been prophesying for years.

Clearly, we overlooked that these islanders are a far better educated people than us Indians—100 per cent literate, in fact. Perhaps, we could learn some new things from them about ”inclusive” democracy. Of course, we all owe a decent apology to Dnyaneshwar Mulay, our man in Male till recently whom we tormented and humiliated and exiled to New York as a mere Consul-General.

Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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