Comment: MDP should rethink strategy

This OP-ED piece was originally published in Minivan News on Monday, February 13th, 2012.

So much has happened in the last few days. A democratically elected popular government has been ousted from power and the VP has been sworn in as the new president. The country is in turmoil amid fears that three years of democracy could be undone with the change in government.

Police brutality has made an apparent comeback and the public is nervous and sometimes afraid. It is time for the MDP to take stock of the events of the past week and change the party’s current action strategy now.

I don’ t think confrontation or aggression against the current government is the way to win majority of Maldivian hearts.

Currently the MDP is presented with an opportunity to win a clear majority of Maldivian hearts and sweep an election easily. But it can only happen provided the MDP changes their strategy and plays its fortunes correctly.

There are many reasons why a change in strategy is important.

One of the main reasons is that their opponents control the majority of media organizations in town in their favor. The only news service favorable to MDP are;

1. Raajje TV
2. Minivan News

Let us keep in mind that none of these news organizations has a nationwide reach. They are mostly accessible only to people in Male’ or people who have access to the internet. By rough estimates, that is just about 1/3 of the population, if not less.

MDP needs to get their message across to the total population for them to be successful in their goals. A new strategy should include how to make the “enemy” media work for MDP as well.

How to do this?

It is not that easy, but a few changes in current course – or “mid-way course correction”, as Anni once called it – could be a good place to start.

MDP should immediately do two important key things right now.

1. Consult with all party members.
2. Correct action course according to the consultation of party members.

One might say, that MDP is acting now as per consultation of the party members.
I disagree. What is happening is, irrational thinking fueled by surprise, hurt and humiliation of being ousted in a coup (I believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest this is a coup and I don’t support any non-constitutional change in government – but that is my personal opinion) is responsible for bad judgement in setting the current course of the party.

Saner minds would say the current course of the party is heading towards conflict that would be difficult to resolve later on. After all, we are a very small community and people on different sides are effected equally (by way of family relations, friendships and business contacts). We simply can’t afford to be enemies in this tiny land of ours. Our future depends on how we navigate the current political crisis.

Coming back to the two key points I mentioned earlier. How do we consult the members of the party? And how to structure the consultation so that the decision of the members of the party are clearly defined and useful?

By way of a poll

MDP has good credentials when it comes to polling its membership. Free and fair elections have been held at party level in the past and there is no reason why it cannot be done now or in the future.

Poll the membership to find out what they want. A simple poll could be like this:

Now that the MDP leadership has been ousted from the presidency of the Maldives (illegally, if it makes the MDP happy – the party can phrase this any way they like), and we are faced with the current scenario, what would you as a member of the party have us do next?

1. Protest the current governments legitimacy, request for the resignation of President Waheed and call for fresh elections in 2 months or “threaten” with street protests if they don’t not comply.

(This is what the MDP is doing right now – basically its asking the party membership for a full endorsement of the current course of action.)

2. Request for a full independent investigation into the events surrounding the “forced at gunpoint” resignation allegations, and if this is proven to be true, request for fresh elections and then “threaten” street protests if Waheed’s government doesn’t comply.

3. Accept what has happened (albeit illegal) and start preparing the party for 2013 elections. Meanwhile the party should restructure its leadership if necessary and establish a shadow government and contribute meaningfully to protect the reforms achieved during President Nasheed’s leadership in the past 3 years, and ensure they remain in place and are not reversed or rolled back.

4. Join the coalition government of President Waheed and work for a solution by working with the “enemy”.

By conducting such a poll, MDP reiterates in action its commitment to a democratic process and its actions would be endorsed by its membership.

While such a poll is conducted, media on both sides will have no choice (if they have an ounce of credibility) but to give publicity to the poll and thus, to the MDP and its future actions.

I do hope that reason and sense will eventually prevail and that our tiny nation is not thrown to the dogs in this politically turbulent climate.

I wish the MDP much success in the future, because I honestly believe that it is by far the most democratic party in town and currently the best solution for the country.

I do not wish to see this country go through an autocracy ever again. I wish the people of Maldives much success today and in the future. Please let good judgement take the lead as you tackle the future of our country and our people. Promote democracy and rule of law!

Muzaffar ‘Muju’ Naeem is a media strategist and consultant. He currently works in the public relations sector. He is a member of the Maldivian Democractic Party and a contributor to the initial democracy movement when he co-founded the Dhivehi Observer.

For comments on this article, please visit the original publication page here for a vibrant debate the publication of this article generated.

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