As the Maldives government aligns itself with UAE & Saudi Arabia, many of its citizens believe that the government has buried their country into a growing conflict in the Middle East. A conflict where ordinary Muslims around the world are voicing their disapproval with undemocratic Sunni Monarchies like Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.
When asked, a majority of Maldivians seem to support democratically elected movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Hence the disappointment they have shown to their government’s move against Qatar.
Countries like Qatar, Turkey, and Iran are known to support Islamic movements around the world based on tolerance and democratic values.
However, any type of democracy that gives its people more power in politics, is seen as a threat by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
For many years now Saudi Arabia & the UAE have tried to help Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to destroy the Palestinian resistance movement in Gaza.
Hamas, having been elected by the people of Gaza is seen as a threat to Saudi Arabia because Hamas was given a political mandate by its people. This meant that Hamas could not be controlled by the Saudi government or the UAE for its own regional interest.
With the Maldives now a part of this unpopular conflict, its people now look to see what are their options in the coming 2018 local elections.
Most Maldivians support having good relations with every country, except for Israel. They are also unhappy of being told by Saudi Arabia or the UAE on what their foreign policy should and should not be.
The Maldives cut off relations with Iran early 2017 in return for Saudi Arabia’s investment into the country. The Maldives government and its supporters used Islamic sectarian reasons to support their move. What the Maldives did not realize is that Qatar was next on the Saudi hit-list, with the third country on the list likely to be Turkey, followed by Malaysia. All Islamic countries based on a more tolerant version of Islam compared to Saudi Arabia.
So what are the choices for Maldivians?
The international community including Qatar, Turkey, the United Kingdom, European Union, Malaysia and others do not have a real insight into Maldives domestic politics.
Maldives is a politically polarized country with the main political parties being the same ones that stood for the country’s first ever democratic elections in 2008.
There is large scale corruption by all major parties which include vote buying and accusations of bribing MPs to jump parties. The main opposition party is the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by the former President Mohamed Nasheed.
MDP won the elections in 2008 with the support of smaller parties. Nasheed and his party MDP is also the first Pro-Israeli party in the Maldives, having campaigned in favour of establishing relations with Israel while as President.
The weakest amongst these parties is the Adhaalath party which once represented most of Maldives conservative & religious support base. However, in recent years they have lost most of its support due to its alliance with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Adhaalath party had recently announced that if their alliance with MDP wins the 2018 elections, they can guarantee that ties with Qatar will be normalized. This is a bold statement which is easier to make near to an election year, but not likely to materialize.
It is important to understand that Adhaalath as a party is one of the smallest parties with little to no influence on a Pro-Israeli Maldivian Democratic Party, that is leading this opposition alliance. The opposition alliance itself is a fractured coalition of parties that the MDP has brought together, each with their own interest and each looking for foreign donors to boost its own political superiority over the other.
As history has shown in the Maldives, every coalition made so far by political parties have broken down within six months of their term in government. Even if the MDP alliance wins the next election, which is a 50/50 chance, Adhaalath will most likely give into Saudi Arabia pressure as their party’s senior members have very close relations with governments of Saudi Arabia, UAE & Bahrain. Important to also consider that they know MDP view Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organizations, in addition to MDP’s support for Israel.
What is for sure is that Adhaalath does not have the support it once had during the 2008 election and Qatar really has no long term benefit of supporting any of these political parties. The Maldivian people who love and support Qatar are left without any credible option for better relations in the near future.