Politics in Maldives: Warning signs for Yameen?

The developments in Maldives could be the beginning of symptoms of cracks in the institutions of a nascent democratic state. The news of arrest of a former Prosecutor General Muhtahaz Muhsin and a judge Ahmed Nihan and subsequent release of Muhsin indicate the attempt of President Yameen to warn the judiciary that he is the only institution in Maldives. ny attempt to challenge his leadership will be met with severe reprimand. Will the judiciary withstand the Presidential onslaught or will it support democratic values and follow the processes of prosecution?

There are many take aways in this development. One, the President may have misused state funds and stacked them outside the country, which opposition got wind of. The document in question is available, the veracity of which needs to be established. The Magistrate, prima facie, observed the evidence to be sufficient enough to issue a arrest warrant against the President.

Second, the opposition MPs of the MDP, in absence of their leader Nasheed, have found an opportunity to assert themselves reminding President Yameen that MDP remains a credible opposition.

Third, it is reported that Nasheed has spoken to Brig. Zakariya Mansoor, of the Maldives National Defence Force, and advised him to follow the laws and constitution of the country.

This is a significant development. The said Brigadier has been sidelined by President Yameen in the hierarchy of the MNDF, suspected of being a Nasheed supporter. He is in charge of no significant appointment of Aviation Security in Maldives and possibly does not make important decisions of national importance. Yet, it signifies that Nasheed is attempting to garner hard power support within Maldives. It may be recalled, that during his own ouster from powerpolice personnel were observed agitating on the streets. Possibly due to their loyalty to the then opposition leader Yameen. Is the MNDF firmly behind Nashed? Or is it an attempt of Nasheed to send a message to the present President that he has enough penetration of supporters in the MNDF? This could be an important development for the future. It is obvious that Nasheed has adequate political support in the country; what he needs is backing of the MNDF or the Police, which enjoy more powers and may be an important factor in  restoring  his credible return. When President Yameen came to power, he arrested his Vice President and the Defence Minister and they are still languishing in prison. In Maldives, democracy being nascent, the equation between political support and backing of uniformed services plays decisive role which in itself is dangerous. The situation is further complicated by supremacy exercised by the police force which provides the handle to the President who misuses them for subverting democratic processes in the country.

Coming days will be significant, in that some purging in the MNDF and appointments of few pro-Yameen judges could be expected. Democracy is still a far cry. With the reports that young Maldivians are being radicalised and headed to Syria to fight alongside Daesh, this could be a sore thumb in the making in the Arabian Sea.