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Cold deeds in sunny places

13 FEBRUARY, 2012: When Mohamed Nasheed abruptly resigned as president of the Maldives on 7 February, apparently at gunpoint, it raised more than a few eyebrows. Mohamed Waheed Hassan the former vice president who was hastily sworn in as president described it as a constitutional transfer of power.

The first democratically elected president of the island nation was, as Malaysian newspaper New Strait Times writer Mahendra Ved put it, “Hemmed in by a well-entrenched Gayoom-era bureaucracy and judiciary. Yet, he opened his nation to the world, and the world to the [Maldives's] existential threat posed by climate change.”

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s three-decade dictatorship ended three years ago when popular elections voted in Nasheed. Ishaan Tharoor of Time Magazine laments that Gayoom “did not retire, as was hoped. Instead, his hand is suspected in fomenting unrest and army mutiny that forced Nasheed out.” On the other hand, the political editor of Sri Lankan The Sunday Times remains unsympathetic: “It seemed a strange quirk of fate,” he writes, “that Nasheed ended his three-year presidency in a diabolic drama he directed.”

Despite differing views on Nasheed’s tenure and exit, it is clear that the Maldives faces troubled times ahead. Looking back, The Hindu’s R K Radhakrishnan says, “A weak President, a belligerent set of officials who have re-discovered power, and a defiant former President together push Maldives deeper into crisis.” Adds Al Jazeera, “The protests, and scramble for position ahead of next year’s presidential election, have seen parties adopting hardline Islamic rhetoric and accusing Nasheed of being anti-Islamic.” Such unrest and political turmoil, ultimately toppled the fledgling democracy.

One of the newly-inducted cabinet ministers, Azima Shakooru, was an aide of the former dictator. This perhaps gives credence to Nasheed’s New York Times op-ed statement. He writes: “At times, dealing with the corrupt system of patronage the former regime left behind can feel like wrestling with a Hydra: when you remove one head, two more grow back.”

Across the border, regional giant India is understandably concerned, having already helped resolve a coup attempt in1988. “Any overt intervention by New Delhi is bound to be interpreted negatively,” warns Times of India, yet the Indian government should still “play a role behind the scenes, exerting diplomatic pressure.”

Maryam Omidi of The Guardian concludes, “Three years after the country’s first multiparty elections, the tit-for-tat politics, corruption and violence that characterised the previous regime shows no signs of abating.” – Tenzing Y Thondup