Maldives votes: election day updates

The sun comes up on polling day, over the Eastern sea wall of Male’

The sun just rose on the fifth day a presidential election is scheduled to be held in the Maldives in just over two months.

On 7 September 2013, over 200,000 people, 88% of eligible voters, cast their votes. 45.5% (95,224 people) voted for MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed, 25.35% (53,099 people) voted for PPM’s Yameen Abdul Gayoom, 24.35% (50,422 people) for JP’s Qasim Ibrahim and 5% (10,750 people) for Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

The second round, scheduled for 28 September was first postponed, then annulled by the Supreme Court on 7 October in a case submitted by JP and supported by PPM. All attempts to hold the election on that day were stopped by the security forces, as ordered by the Supreme Court. A second first round was scheduled for 19 October according to new elections Guidelines by the Supreme Court. Despite all preparations in place, PPM and JP candidates refused to sign the voters registry, switched their phones off and went into hiding. Maldives Police Service refused to provide the necessary protection to the ballot boxes in a move that breached their oath and the Maldivian Constitution.

Amid condemnation from the Human Rights Commission, the Police Integrity Commission investigated police actions and held a lone policeman responsible for obstructing the entire election. Elections Commission set a new date – 9 November. And, if necessary, a second round on 16 November, today.

There were many attempts to obstruct the 9 November election too. In the two weeks that Elections Commission chief Fuwad Thowfeek and his team needed to prepare all over again, both PPM and JP came up with several reasons for which they could exercise their Supreme Court-given power to veto the election: re-registration process was too lax, fingerprints were not taken properly, fingerprints needed verification. In the end they buckled under pressure from the international community—serious threats were made, reports say, of sanctions from the UK, United States, EU and other democratic actors—and agreed to hold the election.

There was also intense domestic pressure. According to the Constitution, a new leader should be elected at least 30 days before the end of a current presidential term and the new president must be sworn in on the last day of the term. With the uncertainty over elections, the People’s Majlis passed a resolution to install Speaker Abdulla Shahid as President, with all powers assigned to the office if there was no elected leader by midnight on 10 November. Combined with the international pressure, the Majlis resolution galvanised PPM and JP  into attempting to bring the election forward to 2nd November. The Elections Commission refused, but agreed this week to bring the second round forward to 10 November if one was necessary.

The first round went ahead as scheduled on 9 November. Mohamed Nasheed got 46.93% (96,764) votes, Abdulla Yameen 29.72% (61,278) and Qasim Ibrahim 23.35% (48,131) votes. Despite the chaos and unrest in the two months since the first first round there was only a small reduction in voter turnout. On 7 September, out of  239,593 eligible voters 211,890 ( 88.4%) voted. On 9 November out of 239,105 eligible voters, 208,504 (87.2%) voted registering a 1.2% drop.

Between the results being announced and the second round scheduled for the 11th, there were only a few hours. At 5:30 in the morning the Supreme Court published a new ‘ruling’ on its website. The document was written on official paper but carried no signatures. It forbad the second round on the 11th and ordered that it be held today.

On 10 November, less than half an hour before midnight, Dr Waheed who dropped out of the race with only ten thousand supporters and no running mate, appeared on national television to say he was staying on beyond the presidential term. He refused to accept the Majlis ruling to install Speaker Shahid as President, criticised the Majlis for not amending the Constitution to allow him to stay, and said he will follow the illegal ruling of the SC instead which overruled the Majlis resolution. On the morning of the 11th, the Chief Justice refused to administer the oath to Speaker Shahid, ensuring the Majlis resolution could not be enforced.

On 14 November, while PPM and MDP were separately gathered on the eastern side of Male’, Waheed quit and left for Macau with a suitcase packed with MVR500,000 and a wife who is said to be needing surgery. Before that, on the same afternoon, after pretending for a day to be considering endorsing Nasheed, Qasim Ibrahim went with PPM, forming an Anyone But Nasheed alliance with PPM, Adhaalath and some others.

Both sides held their last rallies yesterday afternoon. Mohamed Nasheed and MDP were on foot walking and dancing, Yameen and his new ‘Together’ PPM alliance of leaders and supporters were on small trucks waving from behind large pink balloons.

All the campaigning is now over. Male’ hasn’t fully woken up yet, but it will soon. In one hour from now (7:30 a.m.), polling booths will open. It is hard to predict what the day will bring, what the results would be, or what would follow the results. At the end of today who will be the new President of the Maldives? Will Maldives vote to restore democracy or for a return to dictatorship?

LIVE UPDATES

8:33 am Queueing to vote in South Henveiru T03.1.1. People began queuing shortly after sunset at polling booths all over Male’ and leave with a proud smile once they’ve voted. I waited 45 minutes to vote.

Queueing to vote in South Henveiru T03.1.1

11:00 am Voting continues in Male’. The busiest polling station this morning is Majeediyya School, where Addu City’s Male’ vote boxes are.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Queues in Dharumavantha School on the other side of Majeediyya are just as long, and orderly.

Queue outside Dharumavantha School Queue outside Dharumavantha School

Inside Dharumavantha School is like a haven from the blistering heat outside. Voters wait patiently for their turn under the tall trees. This is the polling booth for people of Lhaviyani Atoll in Male’.

Under the trees, waiting to vote Under the trees, waiting to vote

11:14 am This time of the morning, there aren’t too many people at the Huravee Building booth. Slow and steady.

Voting in Huravee Building. HulhuHenveiru Box Voting in Huravee Building. HulhuHenveiru Box

11:23 am Mohamed Nasheed just voted in CHSE reports CNM.

https://twitter.com/cnmmv/statuses/401595780907028480

Just half an hour before Nasheed came to vote at CHSE:

People waiting to vote in CHSE People waiting to vote in CHSE

Meanwhile, on the other side of CHSE, normal life continues for scores of sightseeing tourists in Male’

Tourists sightseeing, unaware of the election going full speed ahead Tourists sightseeing, unaware of the election going full speed ahead

And the police rest:

Police rest in Sultan Park Police rest in Sultan Park

11:56 am Yameen’s PPM has given a press conference to say they are not happy with quality of the ballot paper. Not enough security features, it seems.

12:00 pm Police reports they have arrested a total of 28 people so far – 26 men and two women – for displaying their ballot papers

2:46 pm Crowds are now thinning near most ballot boxes, reports Raajje TV. Maldivians have a habit of waiting until the last minute for everything, so a surge in the next hour is very likely.

2:48 pm Get your dancing shoes on. Male’ City Council told Raajje TV just now that people do not need permission to party for 24 hours when the election results come in.

2:51 pm Gasim Ibrahim, the candidate who lost in the first round and had it annulled voted a few minutes ago.

2:53 pm Male’ City Council may have given permission to party for 24 hours, but in this constitutional vacuum, there’s no authority to say whether tomorrow is a holiday or not.

3:01 pm A PPM supporter goes to cast a secret ballot on the island of Fuammulaku

3:13 pm Parliament is preparing the oath taking ceremonies for the new President and Vice President tomorrow. It is still not known whether tomorrow will be declared a public holiday.

3:16 pm Lots of reports coming in of police detaining voters for displaying their ballot papers after ticking them. Is this a new way of invalidating ballots? 3:26 pm Elections Commission holding a press conference. All vote boxes, except the one in London will close at 4:00 pm.

3:27 pm Some people [PPM] have raised questions about quality of paper used for ballots. Fuwad Thowfeek insists paper is of higher than normal quality. Regarding complaints about security features, Fuwad Thowfeek says they are fully integrated into the paper, and may not be obvious to the naked eye.

3:28 pm There are security features on the ballot papers. Of course, I won’t be revealing what and where – for security reasons. Fuwad Thowfeek continuing to answer PPM’s recent complaints.

3:34 pm Talk about the indelible ink being easy to wash off is not true, Fuwad says. ‘I have tried to wash mine off, have even used soap, but the ink is still here’, he says.

3:35 pm Elections Commission says that most complaints are coming in because people have been stopped from voting because their addresses on ID card and DNR database do not match. There are also complaints about campaigning and anti-campaigning as well as of people displaying their ballot papers.

3:42 pm Just because the ballot papers are printed in black and white does not mean they lack security features – Manik, Elections Commission.

3:46 pm We can give you 100 percent guarantee that we will not be counting any ballot papers that are not authentic – Fuwad Thowfeek.

3:47 pm Votes of those who display their ballot papers will remain valid, but steps will be taken against the voter who made the display.

3:52 pm Police have announced that they are taking statements from the voters displaying their ballot papers and releasing them.

3:57 pm If someone’s name is not on the Voter Registry, even if by our negligence, the person cannot vote anymore. This is a result of the Supreme Court guidelines.

4:00 pm Polling booths close across the country and abroad. Only one remaining open is London which will close at 10:30 p.m. Maldivian time. People already in the queue at their designated ballot boxes will be allowed to vote. Fuwad Thowfeek says all results except London’s will be in by about 10:30-11:00 pm tonight. Provisional result can be announced by midnight tonight and the official result tomorrow morning.

4:07 pm Henveiru Dhekunu voter turnout was 85%

4:10 pm Vote boxes closing across the country https://twitter.com/JuneAbdul/status/401668017982939136

4:15 pm Chief Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek forced to spend precious time talking about weight of ballot paper and explaining that black and white print does not mean ‘low quality’. All ‘issues’ rising from PPM’s complaints earlier in the day.

4:40 pm Counting begins, and so does the anxious waiting. Streets of Male’ are busy with people finishing up work and heading for black tea or coffee to wait with friends https://twitter.com/Velezinee/statuses/401681082619133952.

5:17 pm Latest results from mvdemocracy.com
60.68% Mohamed Nasheed 4,703 votes
39.32% Abdulla Yamin 3,047 votes
43 box counted, 432 remaining. Total 7,750. Time: 5:09pm.

5:21 pm Early results show Nasheed leading
55.39% Mohamed Nasheed 12,856 votes
44.61% Abdulla Yamin 10,355 votes
95 box counted, 380 remaining. Total 23,211. Time: 5:19pm.
Source: mvdemocracy.com

6:04 pm Current results from Raajje TV: Nasheed 48.72% Yameen: 51.28%

6:21 pm

result

 

6:24 pm


6:32 pm PPM has majority in 16 atolls, says Raajje TV.

6:35 pm Tomorrow is not a holiday, the President’s Office has said. Business as usual.

6:38 pm RTV has counted 61.33% of the vote. Here’s the result: Nasheed 48.54  Yameen 51.46.

6:53 pm  ResultNow   Source: mvdemocracy.com

7:23 pm Yameen is still leading 51.28% to 48.75%, says Raajje TV.

7:40 pm Latest results from mvdemocracy: Vote

8:00 pm Yameen 107, 619 Nasheed 101, 695 votes according to Raajje TV figures

8:15 pm Several media outlets have called the 2013 Presidential Election for Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom 08:50 pm Latest result from mvdemocracy.com with ten boxes remaining:

LatestResult

21:06 pm Mohamed Nasheed to hold a media briefing at 10:30 pm 21:10 pm All vote boxes, except the one in London, have been counted. Yameen Abdul Gayoom has won the second ever democratically held presidential election in the Maldives. Here is the result: Result

09:16 pm Gasim Ibrahim, the candidate who lost on 9 November and supported Yameen in this round, celebrates the election result:

https://twitter.com/Raajje_tv/statuses/401744515913883648</>

09:50 pm Gayoom appeals to PPM for ‘calm celebrations’ and quiet happiness

10: 19 pm The ‘Together Coalition’ of Yameen’s press conference continues. So far, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Sun Travel Siam and Gasim Ibrahim have spoke. At the moment it is Sheikh Imran Abdulla of Adhaalath. Yameen, President Elect, is waiting his turn, assigned by Maumoon

 10:36 pm MDP has just begun a meeting of the party’s National Council. Mohamed Nasheed is expected to hold a press briefing.

10:37 pm There are so many leaders in the Together Coalition, even they don’t know each other’s names.

22:46 pm Mohamed Nasheed is giving a media statement. He is gracious in defeat, and calls on all supporters of MDP to accept the election results. ‘We should never change a gov any other way than by vote. Yameen has won a majority, however small. It is our duty to respect that.’

22:53 pm Yameen gets the opportunity to speak at last.

23:03 pm Yameen says he could not have done it without the country’s youth, and says he will focus on finding a better life for them. PPM will remember people who do what they want and reward them for it, he says.

23:11 pm Nasheed has thanked the Elections Commission for their contribution to democracy consolidation in Maldives.

23:14 pm It is too early to say whether I would run in 2018 or not. Even if I want to do it, it will depend on what MDP wants and also the timing, Nasheed tells the media.

23:25 pm Results from the last remaining vote box, in London, has come in 73% won by Nasheed, 26% by Yameen

23:39 pm Total result of the second round of the second democratic presidential election of the Maldives, held on 16 November 2013:

FinalResult

 

00:15 Inauguration of the new President Abdulla Yameen and Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed will be held tomorrow (Sunday) morning in the Parliament at 10: 30 am.

Good night.

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.

Who will Best Protect Our Children?

There has been no shortage of pledges and promises in the run up to the elections. What are the various parties offering our children? Who will do best by them? International Child Rights and Child Protection expert Dr Mariya Ali and Child Protection Consultant Munzir Ismail provide a detailed and thorough analysis of what each party promises to do to ensure our children are protected, well cared for and happy.

**********

by Mariya Ali & Munzir Ismail

What kind of a country do you want your children to grow up in? What are the values you want them to have? What does it mean to be a citizen of the Maldives? Why would your children be proud to be Maldivian?

Father and child at a political event on Tuesday, 3 September Father and child at a political event on Tuesday, 3 September

As the Maldives prepares for Presidential elections, scheduled for 7 September 2013, political parties promise the population many policies that are geared to advance social progress and economic growth: more job opportunities, technologically advanced health care services, better access to education, and a reduction in poverty.

At face value they all pledge a promising future. Nonetheless as active citizens, it is important to analyse them in terms of their effectiveness given that the Maldives is a Small Island Developing State and shares many characteristics with other such states: grappling with security issues, both internal security – gang violence, drug use, child sexual abuse – and external – global warming and sea level rise, tsunamis, recession in tourism source countries – and the smallness and remoteness creating high costs associated to goods and services.

From a total population of 330,652 about 43% are under 18 years. It is the children of our nation who one day will steer our country into the prosperous, fair and tolerant society we all seek.

For that reason alone, they deserve nothing else but our very best efforts towards a society where they can grow up free from poverty, abuse and fear and with high standards of health, safety and education. While this is a generational task that will keep future Maldivian governments occupied for years to come, it is important in every election to ensure we do not lose sight of this.

An unpublished UNICEF report in 2007 recommended the government to establish a comprehensive social protection system including access to social housing and special assistance for the unemployed in order to prevent a crash in the child protection system.

With the ratification of 2008 constitution, Maldivians (Dhivehin’) now have a better understanding of their right to social protection (haqq al-damān ijtimā’ī) and its benefits, mainly credited to efforts of the Maldivian Democratic Party administration with its aim to eliminate of the feudal practice of begging for assistance by the poor.

All political parties cover the Right to Education (haqq al-Ta’līm), the Right to Work (haqq al-‘Amal) and the Right to Social Protection (haqq al-damān ijtimā’ī) in varying levels.

20% of girls and 11% of boys in secondary school have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood as established by a study conducted by UNICEF in 2009. Many of those accessing drug rehabilitation report a history of childhood abuse. It is evident that in order to tackle drug abuse in the Maldives, it is important to address issues such as child abuse. Child protection is a contentious area where the state has to intervene in the private sphere of the family, often balancing children’s rights and parents’ rights. Even so, to realize the prosperous future we seek, any government should be willing to proactively protect its children and families. Fundamentally, we should ask ourselves, who would be willing to do this for us? Answers to these questions come through examination of past practices, current atmosphere and pledges.

For a child protection system to be effective and sustainable it needs to be supported by effective legislation and social policy, integrated infrastructures, institutions, therapeutic services, trained professionals such as judges, lawyers, policemen, doctors, teachers and social workers, strategic resource allocation, financial investment, and a well-informed and supportive general public. Research shows that the wealth of a country alone does not achieve effective child protection. Maldives should aim to attain effective child protection through affordable means.

VAUDHU [Pledge]

Jumhooree Party

Jumhooree Party does not explicitly state that they will provide universal health care insurance but promises that when the allocated amount dedicated to an individual is exhausted the government would cover the shortfall.

It remains unclear if the party intends to reinstate all the benefits introduced during former President Nasheed’s Administration, whether it would be a comprehensive system with universal benefits or whether it would meet the needs of only the most vulnerable. Jumhooree party’s presidential candidate on various public platforms has proved unsuccessful to elaborate on this.

Additionally, the introduction of a holistic tax system (vasha jehi) that will fund social protection and government services leaves individuals unsure of the percentages on income tax that might be levied on them and whether we would be able to accommodate this burden with the rise in costs of living.

In relation to housing, the party asserts that the government will provide housing for every newlywed couple. Apart from this, the party has expressed no other policy relating to housing and hence neglects the majority that already struggle to meet their housing needs.

In Male’, it is usual that one household occupies only one room, so several households reside in a house. This room, or one-household-unit, usually contains a kitchen, toilet facilities and sleeping arrangements. A UNICEF study in 2007 found that that couples that inhabit these households struggled to meet their needs of intimacy especially those with children.

This overcrowding often leads people to take shifts to sleep. This in turn leads adolescents to sleep during the day to let younger children sleep during the night. These adolescents are then sometimes forced to spend time on the streets at night, getting into gang activities and drugs and missing school.

While these are the only two promises pertaining to social protection the party focuses largely on developing the tourism sector by creating opportunities to opening a further 70 resorts where work has been suspended, open 3 new schools for Hotel and Catering, to “make millionaires into billionaires”, and to build an international Transshipment Port in Kulhudhufushi.

While these goals are important and aspirational, more than half the population continue to live below the poverty line preventing them from accessing appropriate healthcare, education and employment opportunities.

The party proposes to increase job opportunities for the indigenous population with the aim of reducing the expat population. However, how this is going to be achieved has not been explained yet.

In relation to market opportunities for local products the Jumhooree party promises to increase the production of fish canning with 100 fishing boats a year to match the increased production. The party proposes to offer short and long term farming courses but does not express how they intend to create job opportunities in this area.

Overall, the policies of Jumhooree party does not outline an extensive social policy and risk that the gap between the rich and the poor will increase further and fail to reach those that require social protection.

PPM

PPM offers a number of social protection measures that are child focused: a mechanism for supporting single mothers with childcare subsidies, acquiring the rightful share of assets that was attained during the marriage in occasion of divorce, create Internet-based work for women to assist them to work from home, establish a system by which persons with disabilities and the elderly can lead a life without discrimination and have equal access to services.

While, it is important to create opportunities for Internet-based work at home this excludes the majority of women living in the rural areas of the Maldives without easy access to modern computers. PPM has not announced any policy addressing opportunities for rural women.

Additionally, the party asserts their objective to bridge the gap between the urban centre Male’ and the rural Maldives by establishing services that are at the same level as Male’ in all the islands. This is a policy that aims at equality, however its feasibility and how this is going to be achieved remains to be communicated.

Although a newly registered party, most of PPM’s policy makers belong to President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration responsible for 30 years before losing the election in 2008. Despite a number of economic and social advancements during these 30 years, the gap between the rich and poor, urban and rural populations widened. Many relied on handouts from the wealthy or writing directly to the President if they required traveling abroad for health.

PPM’s policies promise to further women’s rights, but lack a commitment to investigate the systematic torture documented by the Human Rights Agency REDRESS in 2012. Without taking necessary action against the aggressors the new promises lack credibility. Further its leadership had proved lethargic in advancement of the social protection system at the helm of power and this casts a very reasonable doubt in its ability to fulfill it now.

PPM asserts that they will establish extra security and protective mechanisms for the police force and the military, which suggests an increase in the defense and police budget. Research has shown that increased defense spending often leads to lower levels of child protection.

MDP

Awareness among the population about the benefits of social policies grew during the 3 years of President Nasheed’s administration when a strong emphasis was laid on social protection with a total budget allocation of MVR 1,250,203,404 in 2011 alone. This spending in the social sector was the highest recorded in Maldivian history (Statistical Yearbook 2010).

This protection extends to protection of children in general. The budget included welfare assistance, a national health insurance, single foster parent allowances as well as several subsidies for housing.

MDP’s objective is to reduce the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”. In a 2010 survey, “Assessment of the Elderly receiving “Madana” and the Pension”, 73 % of the elderly reported that their relationship with their children had improved as they can take care of their own needs and some reported having assisted to setting up savings account for their grandchildren, while also indirectly improving children’s lives.

MDP along with PPM has has expressed intentions to reform the judiciary. However, MDP is the only party that provides specific plans how to achieve this. The judiciary plays a crucial role because judgements that pertain to children can work in the best interests of the child or against it. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in 2011 found breaches of the separation of powers – executive, legislative and judiciary.

Islamic law lays importance on making the judiciary accountable for its conduct. Neglecting this office therefore places the “body of Muslims in a state of sin, as they are enjoined to support this office, or to support those who endeavour to maintain it.”[1] Islamic law also emphasises the honesty and piety of judges.[2]

The youth policy of the MDP focuses on engaging with the whole youth population without discrimination. It covers various aspects of cultural and artistic life, which is crucial for increasing the connection to the culture of the Maldives that has made us unique. It also encourages a sense of inclusiveness and ensures that academically ‘weak’ children and youth are not marginalized and form an integral part of society.

In its Right to Work policy, the party proposes a right to fair wages, a right to employment, work and accident liability for loss, a right to fair work regime and leisure. This promotes equality and tolerance.

The housing policy introduced between 2008 and 2012 has instilled the importance of working towards owning ones own property. It encourages citizens to take responsibility for their own future and to build their family. For those who are unable to afford housing, subsidies were offered to reach a point that made it possible to buy. It creates opportunity for those individual who do not have the possibility to inherit land. Provisions for those who are most vulnerable through the social housing policy have further strengthened this policy.

MDP’s policy on strengthening family ties is central to children’s rights and child protection. This policy ensures that government efforts were not only concentrated on tertiary interventions (protection from abuse) but building families and preventing breakdown.

Prior to Nasheed’s administration children were removed from their families prematurely and placed in residential state care facilities. This practice increased incidences where parents gave up on children too quickly, deprived them of their right to grow up in a family environment and at the same time increased state spending.

MDP had put in many measures to reduce removing children prematurely by increasing social work assistance and providing social protection benefits. Valuing the family unit is fundamental in Islamic law and hence this policy not only mirrored our religious values but strengthened the right to a healthy family environment as afforded by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even taking into consideration these policies, there is still a long way to go. Yet it is safe to assume that the path is right.

Coalition

The coalition government has been characterized by widespread, systematic and institutionalized brutality. The level of mass aggression by the state party in recent history of Maldives has never been as severe as today. Many women and men suffered direct physical and sexual assaults. Testimonies from many victims have been documented and presented to the ICCPR Committee in 2012.

Neither the State structures nor the Human Rights Commission have acknowledged the brutality or taken steps against those responsible; instead many police officers were rewarded with promotions and extra benefits. Children internalizing the violence from the State party perpetrated on innocent civilians by those who are meant to protect them have caused long-lasting psychological damage.

Additionally, the Coalition government has discontinued social protection benefits that were established by President Nasheed. The government also proposed a 14% increase in the defense budget in 2012. All these factors are not conducive to effective child protection.

It is maybe for these reasons that the Coalition’s promises present a confusing mixture of social protection policies. What is most concerning, as far as children are concerned, is the promise to establish three extra shelters for children and for women who suffer domestic violence.

Family and Child Protection Services receive on average 7 cases per week on issues relating to minor family conflict, behavioural issues or various forms of abuse. Most cases are not considered in the extreme categories requiring immediate removal of children into State care. Even if cases that require removal into state care, it is in child’s best interest to reintegrate them with a family as soon as possible.

On 17 August 2013, The Economist, in its article “Children’s Homes – The Nanny State” published figures around the world illustrating that institutions are being closed and family-based care is being favoured. This global movement is due to the fact that children who grow up in institutions are far more likely to offend, end up in prisons, develop adjustment issues and so on.

The Maldives does not need more institutions, especially with limited experience and services in place for resocialisation back into the community. This policy alone outweighs the other policies as this policy assumes that more and more children need to be institutionalised and there will be an increase in women being abused. There is no attention on preventing such incidences.

Conclusions

The above discussions show that the Jumhooree Party focuses largely on economic gains, PPM focuses on conservative provisions of welfare where individuals continue relying on the government, Coalition government believes that there will be an increase in children requiring institutional care, and MDP emphasises balance of economic growth and social protection. It is advisable that all parties would benefit from developing policies relating to mental health, as currently the systems in place are grossly insufficient.

The increasing budget deficit has been a struggle for the Maldives. The Majlis Budget Committee estimated the Maldives budget to reach 27% of the GDP by the end of 2012. In response, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the country ‘risks running out of reserves and miring the country in poverty.’[3] Therefore to bring about the change we seek, we need to start looking at the evidence on the ground.

Most parties, apart from MDP, from the policies announced, have promised policies without considering the already existing deficit. What we need is a sustainable mechanism through existing means to fill the void. Not aspirational pledges that risk debilitating the state. Although every individual wants the future to be prosperous, fanciful pledges or going into further debt is not what the population deserves. The society and its children deserve to be built on constructive, not destructive, policies and pledges. We need to start acting upon a code of ethics that benefit the larger social needs, relationships and groups rather than one based on individual needs and relationships.

It is time that we take the moral step of progress and set the good of many before the interests of the few and be concerned for the welfare of the community without hope of an individual return.


[1] El-Shafi, H. A. L., (2003), “Judicial Training in Islamic Jurisprudence”, in Haleem, A. M., Sherif, O. A., & Daniels, K., (Eds) (2003), Criminal Justice in Islam: Judicial Procedure in Sharia, I.B.Tauris, p. 168

[2] ICJ, supra note 19, p. 169; Velezinee, A., (2012), Constitution Breach by the Judicial Service Commission, Hijack of the Judiciary, and link to 7 February 2012 Coup d’ etat.

[3]Bosley, D., (7th May 2012), “IMF predicts dire consequences if deficit reduction fails”, Minivan News.