Presidential candidate Dr. Hassan Saeed has said he plans to establish a national unity government if he wins the election scheduled for 8th October. The only independent candidate in the fray, Dr. Hassan made this momentous proposal during the official launching of his presidential manifesto at Artificial Beach Wednesday night. What are the pros and cons of this extraordinary overture?
The timing of this proposal is significant, coming as it were at a time when many people believe Hassan is in the top two in the electoral race. It signifies a shift in thinking from the election to its aftermath.
Hassan believes that a government controlled by one party is not the best option for the country at this point in time, when the country faces massive challenges that require the cooperation of one and all. Hassan has a point here. Take the drug problem for example. It is an open secret that political parties cutting across the entire spectrum have connections with drug dealers and addicts, which is the main reason why the problem has defied all solutions. This scenario is likely to continue even after the elections as long as the bitter political divisions in the society continue.
Whoever wins the election, be it Anni or Hassan or even Gayoom, the margin of victory is likely to be small. In such a situation, any government that is limited to the winning party would appear fragile and will be the target of destabilizing attacks from the opposition, particularly with the Majlis election coming up. Hassan's proposal is aimed to avoid the resulting chaos.
Dr. Hassan's proposal has come up for immediate criticism from his main rival Anni of Maldivian Democratic Party. Anni believes that a multiparty system is the only system that can effectively govern the country and bring the reforms expected by the people. He believes that a unity government will disintegrate into a dictatorship.
Examples of unity governments are rare in the world. Israel is the only established democracy that has had unity governments in the post World War II period. In that country the experiment has been successful. In Lebanon too, unity governments have been successful in keeping a modicum of stability in the bitterly divided country. In third world countries, most experiments at forming national unity governments have either failed or misfired as in Iraq.
Before one decides to discard the multiparty environment in favor of a unity government, there is an inescapable fact one must consider: All the freedoms that we enjoy today are the direct result of the party system.