February 12, 2012 in Asia
by: Hugo Polanco
Maldives, a tiny collection of beautiful islands strung out across the Indian Ocean just south of India, is now facing a grave political crisis. Last week Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of Maldives, resigned his office. His resignation came in the face of multiple street protests as well as a mutinous military and police force. This may seem like another manifestation of the spirit of the Arab Spring, a president in a deeply Islamic nation being forced to step down by protesters. However the situation is more complex. Mohamed Nasheed does not fit the profile of a ruthless dictator, he was barely elected in 2008 and was Maldives first democratically elected leader in 30 years. Nasheed claims that that the former administration left behind a corrupt judiciary and police force to cover up their many years of embezzlement and cruel autocratic rule. Nasheed himself was a victim of this rule, having been arrested on multiple occasions for political dissent. The earlier protests were in fact triggered by his attempt to arrest a judge he claimed was corrupt. This move was seen as unconstitutional and following the protests he resigned. However Nasheed claims he was coerced to resign at gunpoint and has openly staged counter protests of his own in defiance of an arrest warrant issued after his resignation.
Nasheed’s removal is a sad turn of events. Nasheed was widely respected by Western leaders for his liberal leanings but he was far from a Western stooge. He devoted his time to not only mending the past 30 years of autocratic rule but also finding a solution to Maldives bleak fate. Maldives is the world’s lowest lying country; most of the country is only a couple of meters above sea level. If sea levels rise as they are predicted to because of climate change, Maldives will be completely submerged in the future. Nasheed campaigned tirelessly to bring global attention to the Maldives fate, such as his stunt of holding a cabinet meeting underwater. Nasheed’s liberal leanings were another source of friction that encouraged the protestors. He was accused of spreading immoral Western values and practices throughout the highly Islamic country.
Nasheed has called on new elections to end the impasse between him and his former vice president Mohammed Waheed Hassan, whom he claims orchestrated the alleged coup. The now President Hassan has agreed to a probe investigating the coup allegations but has refused the calls for new elections. Maldives has had a long history of misrule and it would especially crippling to slide back to autocracy especially given the crisis Maldives faces in the future. The attempted removal of the judge by Nasheed was damning as well as a foolish political move given his status as a liberal champion and prisoner of conscious, however the new government is not starting off in an appropriate way as they have commenced to attack Nasheed’s supporters throughout Maldives.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.