Will invite GMR back if I win election, says ex-President

Having been pushing for early elections since the handover of power in February, the former Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed, has asserted that his party will win anytime if free and fair elections are held.

“Nothing short of early elections is acceptable to the MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] …We are very confident that if there is a free and fair election and if I can contest, we will win it handsomely,” he told The Hindu, over phone from Kulhudhuffushi, part of Thiladhunmathi Atoll inthe northern part of Maldives — not far from Indian territorial waters.

In a telephonic interview, Mr. Nasheed said he was running for presidency again. “The MDP has decided that I should run and the primary has given me an overwhelming support. But there have been so many politically motivated attempts to bar me from contesting because the opposition is fair clear that they will not be able to win against me. We have a lot of support in the country. The violent repression against people has made people look towards us. And I think that the three-and-a-half years of our government we have been able to bring about a lot of transformation of the country and we feel that people like it,” he said. Getting the financial system back on track, reducing reliance on indirect taxes and levy of direct taxes, and putting in place an enormous social protection programme were among his main achievements as President.

Asked what course of action the MDP would adopt in case he is debarred from contesting, he warned the government against adopting such tactics. “I am afraid the MDP’s reaction to such an eventuality will be very radical. I would not like to speculate on it but there are openly now talking of a revolution,” he said.

On the MDP strategy in the court, he said the MDP did not have one. “Nothing, nothing… It’s all motivated. It is not really a court. The manner in which the courts have been acting, even to the Parliament is also ridiculous,” he said. Mr. Nasheed was referring to the court admitting a petition challenging Parliament approving using secret ballots to impeach President and members of the Cabinet. This was a rare MDP victory in recent times in Parliament. They had managed to win the support of two other parties, and the move was approved, catching the Waheed government on the wrong foot.

Commenting on the lessons he learnt in his journey since 2008, Mr. Nasheed said: “It is easy to topple a dictator, but it is not easy to oppose a dictatorship.”

One major criticism that Mr. Nasheed faced when he was in power was that he refused to work together with alliance partners. Asked if this was a fair criticism, he said: “I am prepared to work with them… We do believe that the country is in transition. Therefore we must be able to work with other ideologies and other philosophies.” But the MDP strategy, since it has a grass roots political party structure, is to garner a single party majority. This was because Mr. Nasheed believes that the “unity” model of government does not work. Commenting on the manner in which the investigation into the first political murder was progressing, he said the government was trying to “frame” the MDP in every single case. The police had picked a senior MDP functionary’s relative after ruling party MP Afrasheem Ali was murdered in October. “They are just framing everyone,” he claimed.

Mr. Nasheed, who was the architect of the deal that resulted in GMR taking over operations of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at Male in 2010, said once he comes back, GMR would be invited to resume operations. “We will come back to government and we will invite GMR back to the Maldives. And hopefully the partnership can still continue. I am very encouraged that the company understood it was not national interest or economics that was involved in [terminating the contract]. We would like Indian government to give assurances to their multinational companies to say that their contract will also be defended by their government,” he said.

Asked if he was upset that India was the first country to legitimise the transfer of power to his successor Mohamed Waheed, he said relationship with India was not dependent on his political fortunes.

Asked if he believed there was a China angle to the airport take over, Mr. Nasheed did not confirm nor deny the possibility. “It is very difficult to believe that Waheed can do this by himself without a lot of strength from elsewhere. So it might very well be that it is coming from those quarters. We don’t want power games in the Indian Ocean arena. We want a stable Indian Ocean,” he said.

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