There is a growing belief that in an ´interconnected´ world, just about everything that happens in one country has repercussions for another, even though the first country might, in the normal course of things, be blissfully unaware of the goings-on in the second. Thus when the Maldivian President Mohamed Naseed was apparently forced to resign in a ´soft coup´ on February 7, it wasn´t surprising that some Nepali commentators were quick to hint at its implications for Nepal.
Interestingly, there have been voices (in favor of executive presidency in Nepal) arguing the latest political change in the island nation shows that even a powerful president can be brought down if he acts against people’s will. In the opposing camp are those who have been equally quick to point out that the Maldivian president had to resign precisely because people feared he could exercise his vast powers as president; they even extend the argument to encompass the 30-year presidential rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a dictatorship in all but name.
As of now, no obvious geo-political implications of the change are apparent for Nepal. Despite both Maldives and Nepal being members of SAARC, there is next to no economic or political linkage between the two. Indeed, Nepal seems to have little to gain by building up its ties with a tiny country of 400,000. So far Nepal has understandably restrained in not coming out with any official statement based on the rather murky picture emerging from the Maldives.
On the one hand, Mohamed Naseed, who resigned from his post of president on Feb. 7, blames forces loyal to former president Gayoom for orchestrating his ouster. Writes Naseed about the fateful day in The New York Times, "...in a dramatic turn of events on Tuesday, the former president’s
[Gayoom´s] supporters protested in the streets, and police officers and army personnel loyal to the old government mutinied and forced me, at gunpoint, to resign".
Naseed claims to have accepted the “coup d’état” and made way for a new government “to avoid bloodshed”. There might also be a degree of truth to his claim that Gayoom loyalists, in connivance with his vice president (now president) Mohammed Waheed Hassan, “helped to plan it”. On the other hand, Hassan has maintained all along that Naseed resigned of his own accord, apparently bowing down to ´people´s pressure´. Less doubtful is the pressure from Naseed’s political opponents and security organs which had been steadily building following unrests of the last few months, set in motion by the arrest of a senior judge on charges of political bias.
Crucially, India has been unusually tight-lipped about developments in the Maldives. India, it is worth recalling, had intervened militarily in the Maldives to avert a coup led by Tamil secessionists in 1988. Naseed, the ousted Maldivian president, has expressed his displeasure at India’s supposed neutrality at the latest turn of events. The Americans have been more active. A US regional enjoy who met new Maldivian officials on Sunday said his country would work with the new government to pave the way for a ‘national unity’ government as it would take some time to get the country prepared for the next general election.
This seems like the best option on the table at the moment. But eventually, we would like to see fair and free elections held at the earliest feasible date and democracy being allowed run its full course. Nepal might have little direct dealing with the Maldives, but the country, we believe, should be in favor of democratic governance in any part of the world.