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Weak State of Democracy

The manner in which the duly elected President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed left office all of a sudden (by submitting his resignation) is a matter of deep concern for all those who have a stake in democracy and constitutionally elected governments. Someone holding the office of the President of a country cannot just quit overnight. Imagine the scenario of the President or the Prime Minister of India stepping down because of some external threat or internal strife. Apparently, as per the first hand information from former President Nasheed, he was forced to quit at gun point, a coup of sorts. Later a Maldivian court issued a warrant for the arrest of Nasheed thereby only confirming the worst fear that powerful elements were behind this swift regime change. While no doubt the President was facing a standoff with opposition parties over the arrest and detention of a judge, this in no way should have been used as motive to oust a democratically elected leader. Nasheed has leveled charges that the person who stepped into his position as President “participated in what he labeled a coup with mutinous security officers, backed by elements of the country’s previous autocratic ruler”— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years before losing the country’s first democratic presidential election in 2008. What is also worrying is the judiciary capitulating to vested interests when actually it should be upholding the rule of law. The allegation that Islamic extremists are behind the latest crisis is also not good news.     
What Maldives require now is strengthening its institutions along democratic lines and thereby developing an in-built mechanism to address any political-social turmoil or challenges in an orderly and peaceful manner without having to resort to such things as armed mutiny or military coup. In fact if we can add here, for those who are new to democracy, maintaining political stability is a big challenge for the ruling elite in these countries. Coup plots are the most common challenge to the continuity of regimes. Anarchy and lawlessness are common. Western countries may demand restoration of constitutional order and democracy, but this is easier said than done. As mentioned earlier, there is a need to strengthen constitutional and democratic institutions besides educating people on respecting the rule of law and becoming good citizens. It is also vital to create the necessary legal framework which can ensure peaceful political changeover (free and fair elections) without having to resort to violence.  Similarly, the military must be kept under the control of civilian authorities, with a responsibility to obey political decisions and uphold the constitution. However it will also mean that the political leadership must also put an end to the years of misrule so that they can earn the credibility and respect to rule with legitimacy. Hopefully a vibrant democracy, strong institutions, free and fair elections, an independent judiciary and good governance will ensure a built-in deterrent to coup-making. What Maldives needs is political stability, good governance and peaceful development.

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