By S. Visham
With the impeachment of Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, the choice of a replacement weights heavier on President Abdulla Yameen’s shoulders every day.
Yameen, half-brother to Maldives autocrat of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, relied on Adeeb’s influence and support within the youth demographic to carve out a sphere of influence within the Progressive Party of the Maldives independent of Gayoom.
With Adeeb’s arrest, Yameen is forced to turn to Gayoom, who had increasingly been sidelined, to cling on to power.
Yameen may not even want to appoint a new deputy, but Gayoom will want to nominate someone to keep the president in line. Yameen may be delaying the decision until he is able to consolidate power once again.
The shortlist of candidates can only boil down to two if one applies any logic or at the most perhaps three.
Dunya Maumoon – Gayoom’s daughter and Foreign minister
Her position as minister of Foreign Affairs has been a fire-fighting exercise of late. She has made some very public mistakes, including the handling of the repatriation of teenager Ahmed Ashraf from Sri Lanka.
The recent declaration of achievements by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could only be read as jostling for position to lead the pack of contenders.
Her familial relationship though may be seen as both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, absolute loyalty to the continuation of the Gayoom line is assured; the failed experiment of a more progressive Adeeb with his strength in the youth demographic is a mistake that lies buried in prison.
On the other hand, critics of such a choice would be severe. Keeping it all in the family is so blatant that no right-thinking parent could ever doubt that their son or daughter would achieve anything in life unless they married a Gayoom.
Home Minister Umar Naseer
For all his faults, Naseer has shown that he is learning fast. After his initial blunders in declaring charges against Adeeb, he has learned to work more closely with his team in Police and MNDF. He is holding together the shield that protects the President and the Maldivian people. His tone has become more measured and less personal – necessities for the job.
He is an experienced politician, not shy of stating his opinion but more importantly, not afraid of taking tough decisions in the national interest. He is well respected in a number of influential circles and would be seen as a safe pair of hands to guide PPM to the end of this legislature. He demonstrates the difference between saying and doing.
Despite accusing Yameen of criminal activity after he lost the PPM’s presidential primaries, Naseer of late has demonstrated a loyalty to Yameen that few others seem to be showing – both to his face and behind his back. He is so close to the President as to be trusted like family, but crucially he brings with him his own independent image and opinion.
Critically, Naseer remains in strong contact with the people in day to day life and would be seen by most as the natural successor. He is remains the party loyalist who stuck with the President through thick and thin.
Ahmed Siyam – MP and leader of Maldives Development Alliance
Perhaps unfair to relegate him to a footnote given the influence he carries in holding the coalition together, Ahmed Siyam should not be excluded from the race prima facie.
He has shown his own form of leadership in the last few weeks of uncertainty, holding together a united front with PPM when they seemed to be about to crumble under the weight of mistakes both locally and internationally.
There is a certain political logic, albeit weak, that would place Siyam in a good position to assist the president in his work.
Unfortunately, the message this would send to the PPM party faithful would be so destructive that the choice of Siyam would be a false one. If the president were for any reason, either ill-health or worse, be unable to fulfill his duties, the head of state would be from one of the smallest parties in government. The inversion of democracy and natural justice would be too much for even the most loyal PPM supporter.
In balance, the odds are completely stacked against any member of the Gayoom family for obvious reasons.
The natural successor from government’s perspective would be the man with demonstrable loyalty and experience, and a proven track record in managing the most challenging ministry in the most difficult of times.
Vice President Umar Naseer?
Anything less would be a humiliating punishment in the face of loyalty that has been hard to find in this ever diminishing circle of friends. The only thing more humiliating would be to force Naseer to withdraw from the race.
Such a proposition would no doubt be the end of Naseer’s career – a public act of political suicide forced upon him to demonstrate loyalty to his king. The real question is whether Naseer would be prepared to fall on the sword that is shoved in his hand.
S. Visham is a pseudonym.
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