When Dr. Hassan Saeed took an overwhelming 85% lead in the SMS survey conducted by DhiTV last night, it shocked many viewers. Conventional wisdom was that either Gayoom or Anni would win, or perhaps Gasim. So how did Hassan upset all these calculations?
Some say Dr. Hassan has charisma, or at least some sort of charm on young ladies. Others say he fits the mental image most Maldivians have of the archetypical president, an image that has been etched into their psyche through 30 years of TV programming. Yet others say he is capable and has a better manifesto. So, which of these factors helped him to top the survey?
We may never be able to answer this question accurately. However, there are some pointers to the truth. Let us examine them one by one.
- When Hassan joined the cabinet in 2003, he was basically an island boy with no family connections and hardly any experience in Maldivian politics. But within two years, he became the most powerful man in the cabinet, outsmarting both Kamineege and Endherimaage camps, beating them at their own game. What sort of talent enabled Hassan to achieve this?
- Prior to 2003, Attorney General's Office was a dull and drab institution, with very little to do except passing on police investigation reports to the courts. By the time Hassan resigned in 2007, AG Office has become the center of the government's reform agenda. How did this happen? Was Hassan favored by Gayoom as some people allege? But why on earth would Gayoom prefer him over his relatives and friends?
- In the first DRP Congress, Hassan was elected as one of the vice presidents. His success over rich businessmen like Nazim, Jabir and Nashid as well as a seasoned politician like Ilyas surprised many. What was the talent he used to achieve this?
- In June this year, when I (the author of this blog) visited Kulhudhuffushi and some other islands in Haa Dhaalu and talked to the people, many of them including middle aged women told me Hassan was saying "some good things." (Varah rangalhu vaahaka dhakkaa.) They were obviously referring to Hassan's manifesto. By that time most other presidential candidates either did not have an agenda or just concentrated on criticizing the government. Was it Hassan's well written and well articulated manifesto that set him apart as the alternative to Gayoom?
Of course, it's still very early in the campaign to predict who the winner will be. Further, an SMS survey is not an accurate scientific measure of public opinion. But still, the results of the survey certainly give a boost to Hassan's campaign. There will be many more surveys along the way. However, their accuracy will be more and more suspect as rival candidates will most certainly try to influence the surveys by recruiting bogus voters.