“We want a free and fair election and a completely transparent process”

With the next Presidential elections barely eight months away, it appears that there is no coordinated effort to set right the serious systemic flaws in Maldivian democracy which is barely four years old.

“Elections will be held in the end of August or beginning of September. Although they have not given a specific date, I have requested the Election Commission to come out with a timetable and also the government has gone ahead and invited international observers and monitors. So we want a free and fair election and a completely transparent process,” Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed said in an interview to The Hindu here.

But there are more problems than there are answers as Maldives heads to its next elections. “We are going through a tough period in history. The change we brought about in 2008 with democracy and multi-party elections is a very rapid change. And it is untested. The very fabric of the society is being affected by the new political structure that has been imposed on it,” said Dr.Waheed.

Though this in itself is not a huge problem, the fact that the new structure was not well coordinated created many hurdles. It was not working together, because Maldives had picked up things from the Constitutions of other countries and put it together. “For example, we have a parliament which functions as in a parliamentary system, but with an executive President. But the powers of the executive President has been removed and fragmented and distributed over a large number of institutions.”

The powers of the President were curtailed since the Constitution was drawn up at a time when the public was agitating against the government for a very long time. “So the Constitution was designed to undermine the President. When the government changed, the President did not have a majority in parliament. The Opposition wanted to further undermine the President,” Dr.Waheed said.

This meant that for the most routine tasks, there was huge procedure and hurdles in the way. “So in order to maintain stability and law and order we have to work very, very hard.”

His main achievements in the “challenging 10 months” that he had been President included development works in the various Atolls and islands. “But I think the biggest achievement is bringing and maintaining stability in the country.”

Asked if Islamic fundamentalism in Maldives was as serious an issue as was being made out in the media, he said that “there was an element of fundamentalism” but “it is not a huge problem.” This was because of the majority of the people in Maldives were liberals who did not favour conservative Islam. “A lot of Maldivians are aware of what is going on in the rest of the world. They know to distinguish between enlightened Islam and tribalism.” He was not worried as “some people seemed to be.” He had reasons to believe that the issue was also being raised for political reasons.

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