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Islam and Politics ( 12 Apr 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Maldives: Recent Electoral Outcome, In All Likelihood, Will Help Reinforce Political Will, Reorient the Judicial System and Remove Hurdles Faced By the Commission

By Giriraj Bhattacharjee

April 12, 2019

In the final results declared on April 10, 2019 in the third ever multi-party election to the Majlis (Parliament) in the Maldives since the Constitution was renewed in 2008, held on April 6, 2019, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) secured record 65 of the 85 seats it contested. 15 seats went to four other parties: Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM, five out of 24 seats contested); Jumhooree Party (JP, five out of 41 seats contested); People's National Congress (PNC, three out of 22 seats contested); and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA, two out of eight seats contested). The independents won the seven remaining seats. There are a total of 87 seats.

In the 2014 Parliamentary elections, out of a total of 85 seats [two seats were added in 2019], PPM secured 33, followed by MDP, 26; JP, 15; MDA, 5; and Adhaalath Party (AP), 1. The independents had won seven seats.

The voter turnout in the April 6 election was a record 80 per cent. In the past two elections, the turnout was 77 and 79 per cent in 2014 and 2009, respectively.

Crucially, the Election Commissioner Ahmed Shareef disclosed that there were no complaints of irregularities in the run-up to the April 6, 2019, vote, during balloting or the count. Some incidents of violence were reported in the 2014 elections.

MDP, founded by Mohammad ‘Anni’ Nasheed in 2004, has promised to turn the country into a parliamentary democracy, scrapping the executive presidential system adopted under the reforms of 2008. MDP contested on a promise, ‘Agenda 19’, which included, inter alia, pursuing transitional justice and reforming the judiciary.

Judicial reforms are meant (to some extent) to secure justice in a number of cases of murder and forced disappearances suspected to be executed by radical elements, which had been downplayed by the previous regime. The judiciary had let off the accused in several Islamic State (IS)-related terrors cases.

On the other hand, the opposition alliance - PPM, PNC and JP - had contested the election on platforms that would have consolidated fundamentalism and radicalization. To counter MDPs push for democratisation, PPM and other constituents of the opposition alliance played the religious card. For instance, the JP leader and incumbent speaker Gasim Ibrahim had, during the campaign, warned voters that a majority for MDP would allow it to push for a secular Maldives and in a March 25, 2019, speech, warned,

Now what will happen if MDP wins the majority of the Parliament of Maldives? They will build places of idol worship. They will build temples in the Maldives. They will allow residency to people of different faiths. And we would then have to wage war.

The ruling PPM, led by Abdulla Yameen during its tenure (2013 to 2018) in Government, had, on numerous instances supported radicalisation and a narrow Islamic agenda. On September 21, 2018, for instance, Policemen stormed the coralarium within the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi resort and destroyed model human figures that had been deemed ‘un-Islamic’. Earlier, according to reports, the civil court had issued a ruling on September 20, 2019, ordering the resort to take down the sculptures, saying “the coralarium undermines Islamic faith and peace and order.”

The opposition alliance – PPM, PNC and JP – that together contested all the 87 seats, managed to win just 13. The MDP swept the urban areas winning 24 out of the 25 seats: Male City: 14, Addu City: seven, Fuvahmulah City: three. The Vilimale constituency seat was won by independent candidate and former Deputy Attorney General Ahmed Usham. This is quite significant, as most of those fighting in Syria were drawn from members of gangs operating in Male’s Kuda Henveiru neighbourhood. 

After the results, a buoyant President, Ibrahim Mohammad Solih, one of the founding members of MDP, in his interaction with media observed,

This is the moment for all the citizens to work together in unity…You will see the commission tasked with investigating corruption and recovering state assets function with the support of the new Parliament… The work of the commission investigating unresolved deaths and enforced disappearances will go ahead more quickly with the support of this Parliament.

On his first day in office on November 17, 2018, through a Presidential Decree, President Solih had convened the Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances, fulfilling his election promise to investigate the deaths [including murders of journalist and bloggers over the past few years] and enforced disappearances suspected to have been carried out by radical Islamist elements. On March 19, 2019, the President of the Commission, Husnu al-Suood, disclosed that the Commission was facing obstacles due to lack of support from the judiciary. The recent electoral outcome, in all likelihood, will help reinforce political will, reorient the judicial system and remove hurdles faced by the Commission.

Giriraj Bhattacharjee is a Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal