Sunday, January 4, 2009

What factors will decide the Majlis elections?

"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth--it is the truth which conceals that there is none." –Jean Baudrillard

The conventional wisdom till October last year was if one had enough 500 rufiyaa notes to distribute on Election Day, one was assured of victory. This doctrine however came for a severe hammering almost overnight with the lukewarm response Qasim Ibrahim received for his presidential bid. All of a sudden one started hearing comments such as, 'Qasim is a good businessman and philanthropist, but not the type of person we want as president." Does this herald a paradigm shift from the plutocratic politics of the past decade, and if so what will the new determinants of the forthcoming Majlis elections be?

Money: Even if the direct influence of money is reduced it will continue to play a significant role because money will certainly be needed for campaigning. Even in the past, campaign financing may have been as important if not more important than direct vote buying. In the days prior to the formation of political parties, only government officials and businessmen had the resources to conduct campaigns in the atolls.

Government performance: Most people who voted for MDP Coalition probably voted for change –not just any change, but change for better governance. Thus the government's ability to deliver on its promises will influence voter choice. In South Asian politics a phenomenon referred to as the "Anti – Incumbency Factor" plays a significant role in elections. This factor is likely to increase if Majlis elections are delayed.

Island level patriotism: Parochial feelings at the island level are likely to be more important this time than in the past because of two reasons. One, smaller electoral constituencies comprising few islands or even a single island in some cases will enable island based leaders to campaign with relatively low budgets. Two, disillusion with party politics that is widespread in the islands will favor independents.

Religion: Religion is likely to play a relatively smaller role in this election. The truth is that the status of Islam in the Maldives was never under any real threat. The bogey of Christianity was raised as a convenient platform to attack political opponents. "Disappointment over nationalistic authoritarian regimes may have contributed to the fact that today religion offers a new and subjectively more convincing language for old political orientations…
Today's Islamic fundamentalism is also a cover for political motifs." –Jurgen Habermas

G-Factor: Let us not forget that former President Gayoom had the support of 40% of the Maldivian electorate as shown by the results of the first round of presidential election. It's left to the readers to guess what this percent will now be. Physically Gayoom may be old and past his prime, but not his image among a certain segment of the population. In elections simulacra are more important than reality.


Anonymous said...

Interesting Post!
I think no matter wat, it will be always ruling elite groups who will control the society, until and unless we educate the Parochial islanders and locals how things work and how powerful they are as well.

Anonymous said...

Dear "medical" doctor Waheed, i think u got the part about handing out 500 RF all wrong. This tactic was first introduced by Gayyoom and it worked for him because he was educated and painted a facade as a religious scholar.

And being a medical doctor yourself your going to get a beating when you campaign to a parliament seat.

just my two cents.