Could We be Seeing Another Collapse of Democracy In the Maldives?

The fragile South Asian democracy of the Maldives is in danger. The current outgoing Maldives president Abdullah Yameen is publicly discrediting the latest democratic elections. Yameen only garnered 41.62% of the votes while his opponent, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, won 58.38% of the vote. Although Yameen conceded the election by a significant margin, he is attempting to discredit the results of the election and the political future of incoming president Solih.

 

Yameen’s party, the Progressive Party of Maldives, passed a resolution last week that would not accept Solih as the new president of Maldives. With only a little more than a month left in office, Yameen is trying every trick to cling to his power. This resolution claims that Yameen won the September 23rd election with 69.77% of the vote, a number that international observers would reject. Though many in the country have accepted the results, the PPM are challenging the results. After the results came out, Yameen called on the police to raid the election offices of Solih in an effort to strike up concern and terror on the opposition side. Yameen had also ordered tablet computers from China, a country which his administration has been incredibly dependent on, to try and alter the election results. All of these efforts by Yameen are an attempt to scare his opponents and muddy the waters of the election outcome.

 

Alongside his election response, Yameen is facing another massive scandal. Yameen is said to have received 1.5 million dollars just days prior to the election. The money was received in two statements to a private bank account at the Maldives Islamic Bank. The first installment amounted to $648,508 in hard money on September 5th while the second installment came to $810,635 on September 10th. The bank said that the money was donated by private companies to be used for the 2018 Maldives presidential election. However in the Maldives, candidates are required to set up separate bank accounts for campaign donations and declare the identity of donors to their campaign. This is something Yameen did not do, making it is especially egregious since it was such a massive donation. Some fear that this money is likely to had ended up in the pockets of Yameen and his henchmen.

 

Yameen has a long track record of corruption and human rights abuses, and these recent scandals could be another item added to this list. In the past, Yameen was a part of a $80 million dollar tourism scandal where government money was diverted to private accounts. Associates within Yameen’s administration supposed delivered money, up to one million dollars, directly to Yameen from the tourism funds.

 

On top of monetary schemes, Yameen has also jailed dozens of his political opponents in the Maldives. Opposition leader Qasim Ibrahim had to escape the country after Yameen’s government accused Ibrahim of trying to over throw the government. These accusations have recieved strongly criticized from internal and external parties alike, as many have said that the trials for these accusations lacked proper due process. Ibrahim has now returned to the Maldives, due to Solih’s victory.

 

With about a month left in office, Yameen very well may try something incredibly detrimental to remain in power. The Maldives has a history of political turmoil. In 2011, protestors demanded the resignation of then president Mohamed Nasheed, due to the severe economic condition of the country at that time. Nasheed claimed that he was forced out of office by gunpoint while his political opponent, Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, claimed that it was a peaceful transition of power. Just within the past decade, it is evident that the Maldives is no stranger to political turmoil between transitions of power; we very well may be seeing another chapter of that turmoil in the next few weeks.

 

Given his past of corruption allegations, Yameen may try to rally his supporters to reject the election results in an effort to call a state of emergency and overstay his welcome in the president’s office. Yameen has already changed the chief of police and is preparing to replace the Elections Commission. Yameen’s party has not ruled out approaching the country’s supreme court to annul the election results. While a lot of these statements may be speculation, Yameen has done more than enough to raise concern over the future of the Maldives democracy. This is a crucial moment for the Maldives and another round of political turmoil may create a dangerous future precedent of constant political strife around elections.