Friday, November 14, 2008

The Presidential Address – what do we make of it?

By Ahmed Afaal*

After a long and hard struggle to attain democracy in the Maldives, 28 October 2008 marked a historic day that led to the end of a 30 year long presidency followed by a courageous display of democratic transition from both the out going and in coming presidents. Like the vast majority of people who voted for change, I waited anxiously for the new beginning. Finally on 11 November 2008, a moment long awaited, a new chapter headlined in the Maldivian democracy, a new president was sworn in.

Now comes the time of delivery. The first impressions are always important. I was one eager listener to the first Presidential Address from a different person in my whole life. I had a lot of expectations. What directions are we going to take? After listening to the Address, it took some time for me to really think about what was said. What was the message? Keeping what I thought for myself, I asked around a lot of people what they thought of the speech. Many were unable to say something concrete but most of the intellectual people that I asked were not really impressed with it. One of them told me that, and I quote "The campaign is now over, why he delivered another campaign speech after being sworn in!" Well I felt kind of the same.

So what shall a good presidential address do? In 1946 George Orwell published an essay "Politics and the English Language" that describes some insight into good political speeches. Many of the American analysts still use this assay as a baseline for speech assessment. Though the speech was not in English, the inaugural address of the President exhibited some staleness and vagueness which according to Orwell, lacks the strength of such a speech. Also the address didn't meet Orwell's criteria for an effective political speech because it was filled with the same political slogans that had been in the media and campaign speeches for the last four or so years. The strategic directions rolling over to the implementation of the slogans were lacking.

As for me I felt that the President delivered a vision statement. I agree that the promises need to be renewed but that renewal shall now come with strategic direction. I was expecting elaborations on the current economic situation of the country and specific strategies to address it. Elaborations on the 'how' of tackling the drug situation, health care, education and the rest of the five pledges would have been included. What actions would the President put immediately to overcome the challenges he faced and so forth.

Does this mean that the strategic communication unit of the President was up to par? Did the president do his own speech? Or did he miss to deliver part of the Address? Wasn't it analyzed critically before delivery? Who gave the technical inputs to the Address? These are some questions among many that people may have in their minds.

Ironically, the Maldivian media also did not give a good analysis of the speech. Not surprisingly they only knew to repeat what the President said on their headlines. Rich critical analysis of such Addresses shall now be presented by the media for the benefit of the public.

[*This analysis was presented by Ahmed Afaal, for the readers of this blog. He has his own blog (No politics) at As always I welcome contributions from the readers of this blog, which I will publish for the benefit of other readers and to keep this blog rich in content.]


Anonymous said...

We are such a bunch of jokers.Always doing things in reverse.Or putting the cart before the horse.This guy's effectiveness is questioned only after giving him the vote.

Anonymous said...

Now some commenters will remind me to 'stop talking abt the past' and focus on the future.

Anonymous said...

I listened to presidents speech was really pissed off he didn't speak anything new or the ways and means to implement the policies nor he talked about the economy and the current status, the whole world is in a weary of financial crises that's looming over our head nor he updated us on the USD300 million that promised to secure from lenders. What is this? All of early talks its just hot or what?

True the campaign is over, but we still hear people like Maria, Zaki attacking DRP or Maumoon. And it really nauseating to hear this now. Why dont they do their job now that they are elected and running the Govt? Hehe the same story in the Parliament too.

Did some one forgot to hand over their job description to them after they got elected.

I voted for Anni wanting a change from all the coruption thats rampant in the former government also knowing that Anni is a very inexperienced person regarding all the matters of running a Government.

And i thought that Anni & MDP will be the most aware of these shortcomings and lack of Experience. But they are proving with their speeches that I am wrong.

Okay i will still give them the chance, but really disappointing so afr.

After winning the election MDP and the government has not even met its members in a formal ceremony. At that rate they will loose their 30000 members in a very short time. Atleast why dont they meet and thank the members of MDP in a formal way.

MDP Member

Anonymous said...

Anni is just a figurehead.. Government will be run by Hassan Saeed and Gasim's group. Anni will have no choice but to do what these two factions demand him.
Hassan Saeed group has the brains and Gasim's got the money. So what's left for MDP team.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the article.The speech was filled with vague rhetoric similar to the campaign speeches.The '' joker'' factor within us helped him to win the election in a big way.The Maldivians are not used to see a sitting head of state ridiculed and lampooned to the extent it was done before the election and many just got carried away by all of this.The interview President elect Nasheed gave after the elections gave a good indication of the things to come.When one of the reporters asked him three questions at one go he was unable to figure out what the first question was.Guess this is a good enough attention span to run the country at present times.After all a people will get a ruler that they '' deserve''.

Anonymous said...

" Maldivian media analysing the speech".You must be kidding.Most of the so called journalists are ignorant and dont have the required education and training to critically analyse reports and speechs.They are only good at asking paparazzi type questions.Some of them even have criminal records for theft like the strange phenomenon of a certain
"one eyed" reporter whom we see very frequently nowadays.Forgot his name.

Anonymous said...

I found the presidential address refreshingly original. Instead of making a long list of false promises, Anni reiterated what he is really going to do. I am now confident that my vote for him was the right choice.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you guys are dissapointed that Anni did not come and start a long winded speech saying, "Islam Dheen himaayay kurun, Raajjeyge minivankamaa siyaadhathaa rakkaatheri kurun, blah, blah.." . We are fed up of hearing the same old stuff for 30 years. Anni's speech was far better. It was sincere. It was simple. And it won hearts and minds.

Anonymous said...

You censor comments y? n sometimes dont even post them. Haha looks like Maumoon allover again.

this blog is not wort it, for expressing our views.

[Editor's note: The reason why some comments are not published and some words are obliterated is explained in the information given at the header of the blog home page.]

Anonymous said...

Dear Afaal:
The President's speech was an inaugural address. Not a dictation of an implementation plan for his campaign slogans. If you read inaugural addresses of presidents from other countries they follow a similar style.

It wasn't as vague, meaningless or bland as the speeches we've been hearing for the last 3 decades. It was simple and clear.

What struck me was the President started with the written speech and went freestyle after a few recited paragraphs.

Another thing is the summary Unofficial English translation of speech does not match the Divehi one. Have a look (available on the President's site):

Anonymous said...

We did not vote for Anni. We voted for Change. So, was not his speech also a change?Long, well written, gramatically correct flawlessly delivered were Part of Maumoon's way. the old way. From now ' emme meehun'you will hear Anni kind of speech. His cabinet and other ministers are also different. So, get used to it. Why waste time and grumble about Anni's speech.What do you achieve?

Anonymous said...

I am still disappointed by Maldivian Media. After so much hard work done to give them independence they are still not trying to do a professional job. I guess we have to wait for another generation for proper Journalists to appear in our country.

As for Anni speech, I am not that impressed by it either. But he did repeat his campaign promises which gives us public more confidence that he would not go back on his promises. At least that's what I think. Like Anonymous 8:14 PM said, it was a refreshing to hear a different tone after 3 decades of gayyoom bullshit.

Anonymous said...

It was usual for Maumoon to make election promises and then forget them as soon as he was elected. Nasheed is different. He repeated all promises he made. now we are happy he will keep those promises.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous . 10.22pm.
Voted for change is alright but not at the cost of compromising correct grammer and the fine art of speaking well in our own dhivehi language.This will set an abviously bad example to the future generations.Not knowning is another matter which can be improved upon later but it is not such a great thing for Anni or anyone else in public life to speak in second or third rate dhivehi and the rest of the people( obviously without class)to say no problem, well done, well done.After all we do have a language which we should be proud of and leaders should set an example and speak well rather than use phrases used by street thugs .etc..

Anonymous said...

His speech (allegedly) was leaked on internet night before he was sworn in. I was watching his speech and found that he was not very comfortable with something. He started addressing Speaker only, not anyone else and then delivered four or five sentences on the leaked speech. But after that he didn't look at it. Probably president Nasheed wasn't used to give written speeches. But as a president he has to learn that. Maybe he didn't have time to practice it. The written speech which was leaked was a very good one with specifics. The english translation on president's office website is part of the speech that was leaked.
check leaked one:

Anonymous said...

Maumoonu proposed a road map for political change and he completed it altho the oppostion were saying that he wont ratify the constitution,there wont be an election,or that Yamin and Maumoonu are trying to impose curfew..etc

Anonymous said...

afaal is still used to fairytale promises... buddy its a new president its not maumoon.... wake up, lets get used to new things. short boring speeches , repeated promises , etc...