Former political prisoner wins pro-democracy election

Daylife/AP photo by Sinan Hussain

After 30 years as the undisputed President of the Maldives, Asia’s longest-serving ruler has been ousted by a former political prisoner in the country’s first democratic elections.

Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, won 54 per cent of the vote to 46 per cent for President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

As the results were announced hundreds of Mr Nasheed’s supporters danced and cheered and honked car horns in the streets of the congested capital, Malé, to celebrate the dawn of a new era in the Indian Ocean archipelago. “We’ve been waiting so long for this,” said Aishath Abbas, 28, a student. “It feels like a new world.”

“I don’t think we should go for a witch hunt,” Mr Nasheed said in a joint press conference with his former rival and one-time jailer, whom he has accused of having him tortured repeatedly in custody. “That will not happen because it will not help democracy.”

He reassured voters and the international community that he planned to push forward with democratic reforms, including greater media freedom, before holding parliamentary elections, which are due by February. He also promised to tackle the issues of rising sea levels, a heroin crisis and the potential impact of the global financial meltdown…

Mr Nasheed is expected to be sworn in on November 11 — 30 years to the day after Mr Gayoom took office in 1978.

Getting to democracy may seem like the hard part; but, it’s only the beginning. We wasted decades and centuries on the machinations of those in North America who considered their greed superlative to the common good.

There always is a stalwart class of profiteers who think their existence lives or dies on power alone. They will manipulate the instruments of freedom to try to turn back the clock – every chance they get.

I wish the people of the Maldives well.

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