In Presidential Election 2008, so far eight candidates are in the fray. Among them only three rate as serious contenders on current strength: Gayoom, Gasim, and Anni, in that order. Like a seasonal sand dune, this scene could shift dramatically between now and October 10. But for now, let us speculate how each of these candidates could manipulate the situation to their advantage.
His strength is that he is the most marketed product in the Maldives, with brand recognition far ahead of Nespray and Marlboro, his nearest rivals. But this advantage could melt away like ice sculpture, if rival candidates get the time and opportunity to conduct a cohesive campaign. So his strategy should be to hold the election without delay and to put as many administrative barriers as possible to thwart rival campaigns. If he fails to do this, he risks losing his top position.
His top strength is his image as a philanthropist, with beneficiaries all over the Maldives. He also has personal wealth and a bunch of businessmen to finance his campaign. His main weakness is lack of party infrastructure at island level to conduct an effective campaign. His strategy should therefore be to establish party branches as soon as possible. He would benefit from postponing the election, as it would give him more time to organize at island level.
Anni's main strength is MDP, which has grassroots organization all over Maldives. His main weakness is his image, which is that of an activist rather than a statesman. The other weakness is that his manifesto has not been well marketed. Anni's main strategy should be to team up with a credible running mate and to market a positive manifesto, leaving aside the temptation of picking on Gayoom. MDP stands to lose from any postponement of the election, as it will give their rivals time to build grassroots organization.
Readers may be wondering why Yaameen did not figure in the top three. Well, he has only to blame himself for squandering his pre-eminent position as Gayoom's leading rival within the span of less than a year. This process of self destruction will be complete if and when Yaameen joins Gayoom's cabinet. As for Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, the best he can hope for is for the election to be over before the expiry of his return ticket back to the US.