Yesterday, on the Sunny Side of Life

SAM_2398Before the morning sun warmed up for the day, a white-truck with two big megaphones sticking out from the back began driving round and round the island. A woman’s voice, shrill, almost hysterical, called out to ‘all ye citizens’ and ‘the entire Maldivian Ummah’ to attend a Jumhooree Party rally at 9:00 in the evening. Her voice forced its way into my mind like a buruma [drill], resistance was futile. Jumhooree Party [JP] is contesting the election results, as everyone in Male’ knows by now; whether they want to or not.

Just in case the drill had missed a few heads, JP organised a press conference around noon. Ibrahim Khaleel, JP spokesperson and Ilham Ahmed, PPM MP for Gemanafushi constituency, led the affair. According to Khaleel, JP has a whole army of experts, ‘even foreign experts!’, scrutinising the results ‘on behalf of the people’. They have allegedly found 20,000 more votes than there are eligible voters. Over five hundred of them were dead. The rest may have been foreigners or aliens, or perhaps jinnis or even cursed coconuts.

Khaleel, a former TV presenter Qasim has bought for an undisclosed amount of money, was outraged on behalf of his Master. ‘Even my name, my name, already had a tick against it when I got to the polling booth’, he said. For a millisecond I thought his name was on the ballot paper itself. But, no, it was on the voter registry, audaciously and fraudulently ticked by some devious Elections Commission secret agent before Khaleel cast his vote. Didn’t these people know who Khaleel is? Perhaps they aren’t on Facebook, some users of which are reportedly rather intimately acquainted with Khaleel.

PPM’s Ilham couldn’t wait to jump in with his own anecdotes of voting woes. He personally knew two foreigners, ‘two of them(!)’ who voted on Saturday. They were now under lock and key, their fingers bearing the ‘I voted’ indelible ink on their left index fingers most likely put away in separate glass boxes, waiting for the right time to be revealed to the public. In contrast to the foreign digits under JP’s protective custody, Ilham’s right index finger was fancy free. It kept jabbing the air, probably making Qasim Ibrahim—who thinks the gesture is terribly, terribly uncouth—cringe with every poke. It made me notice the gleaming gold watch on Ilham’s wrist, which is probably the intended effect.  It completed the chav look Ilham seems to aspire to.

Ilham called for the resignation of the Elections Commission. ‘They must resign now! For the sake of the baby growing inside me, resign now!’ My eyes stopped following his finger and focused on his face, gleaming with a sheen of sweat mixed with the gel that holds his carefully constructed fringe in place. This was big news. MP Ilham is pregnant. Well, anything is possible in Male’ these days. If a sitting president can still sit after a five percent vote; if a Supreme Court judge can still remain on the bench after being caught on camera fornicating with three prostitutes; if a member of the Civil Service Commission can still turn up to office after being removed from the position multiple times for sexually harassing a civil servant…a pregnant man appears almost mundane. None of the journalists present took note. Perhaps this is the reason why Ilham launched into a tirade against their lack of professionalism shortly after.

‘I was a journalist myself for years! Years!,’ he said. Oh? He proceeded to share everything he knew—all of five minutes worth—about journalism. Apparently, journalists can’t ask questions. Their role is to take notes. Reporters are glorified stenographers, really, according to Ilham. It was just past noon, and I felt thoroughly educated.

As the sun set, the shrill mega-phone lady was still going round and round the island. Hush-a-hush-a, or I’ll fall down, I thought. No such relief. The only thing left to do was to attend the rally—if you can’t beat them, join them. But JP’s was not the only major gig on, PPM was also hosting a rally at the same time, on the opposite side of the island at Alimas Carnival.

MNBC One news had reported Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, the world’s most unpopular sitting president, was to make an appearance. I was spoilt for choice — should I go to JP’s hate-festival or to the President’s post-First Round debut. I decided the latter line-up was the one not to be missed. Adhaalath’s rent-a-sheikhs have an endless supply of hate, there would be more tonight and every night after that until 28 September.

Alimas Carnival stage did not disappoint. All sorts of clever lighting made the area look a bit like Glastonbury at night. Except the festival goers could not have been more different. Most were over fifty, at least. Except one or two, every woman wore a headscarf. Not the trending burugaas that make a large share of today’s modern Maldivian women look like they have a beehive sitting on top of their heads, but the more ‘truly religious’ big black ones.

All in all, there were about a thousand people, sitting on plastic deck chairs or milling about on foot or sitting on motorbikes. Three large screens stood adjacent to each other, taking up most of the large stage. When I got there two of the three screens had a picture of Mohamed Nasheed with a black band covering his eyes, and the one in the middle screamed in bold red letters, ‘No!’ For some reason, medieval church-type music played on the speakers, alternated with ‘patriotic’ songs glorifying the coup of 7 February 2012.

Yameen A Gayoom in front of the backdrop saying 'No!' Yameen A Gayoom in front of the backdrop saying ‘No!’ Photo: Haveeru

PPM’s rally was not about PPM and what it plans to do for the people should Yameen Abdul G-g-g-ayoom win the Second Round but about saying ‘No to Nasheed.’ Excuse me, Kenereegey Mohamed Nasheed, as PPM lurves to call him. As if that would make him any less a former President.

MP Ahmed Nihan, a man who derives energy from an endless supply of hate contained within, bounded onto the stage, much to the delight of the ladies. It was like a Tom Jones concert where old(er) women are known to throw their panties at their ageing sex God. At any moment now, I thought, they’d be taking off their burugaas and throwing them at Nihan.

‘Laa Dheenee, Laa Dheenee, Laa Dheenee! Laa Dheene Nasheeeeeeeeed!’, he screamed. Hitler had less veins standing out in his neck during his rallies. The buruga clad women forgot about hell’s fires burning if they so much as giggled, and screamed hysterically, applauding the hate like it was free love.

Speaking of Hitler, Nihan launched straight into anti-Semitism. Israeli newspaper Times of Israel had published a report online ‘on 8 September, at 2:33pm(!!!)’ with the headline ‘Ousted Israel-Friendly Leader…’. O.Em.Gee. ‘We all know what friend means, even those of us with the most rudimentary English’, Nihan said, excluding himself from this bracket, of course. ‘A friend of Israel (!!!), we cannot allow such a man to become our leader. Not under any circumstances! Say NOOO to Kenereegey Mohamed Nasheeed!’

And so it continued in this vein, speaker after speaker. Former President Gayoom, who as usual, spoke before the actual PPM candidate Yameen; Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Yameen’s running mate; Maldives Development Alliance’s MP Siam; and so on. They all had the same message: do not vote for Nasheed.

There were only a couple of deviations from the subject. Nihan made a coy pronouncement that ‘some things have not gone according to announcements in the media.’ President Waheed did not make an appearance. Celebrities, as you know, don’t always turn up when you expect them to, Nihan explained. Another significant declaration issued was by Jameel:

We will not allow Mohamed Nasheed to return to power even if he wins the election.

The grand finale was an anti-Nasheed propaganda video that would give North Koreans a run for their money.

Today is another day, packed with the same sort of ‘campaigning’, no doubt.

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