Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has officially lifted the state of emergency in the country after a period of 45 days.
The South Asian island nation of Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, gained independence from colonial rule in 1965. Three years later, in March 1968, the country voted to become a republic. The first multi-party democratic elections held in the Maldives took place in 2008, following a constitutional referendum in 2007.
Mohamed Nasheed, one of the founders of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was the first democratically elected president of the nation. In 2015, Nasheed was convicted on charges of terrorism and was sentenced to 13 years in prison after being found guilty. At the time, the UN condemned this judgement. Nasheed was granted political asylum in the UK in 2016. He is currently in exile in Sri Lanka.
On February 2018, the Maldivian Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that the 2015 conviction of former President Nasheed and 8 other leaders was unconstitutional. Additionally, the court ordered the release and reinstatement of 12 opposition MPs. This would give the opposition a majority in parliament. The current administration refused to comply and on Sunday (4th February) issued a statement that they would also resist any effort by the Supreme Court to impeach the President. There were protests by opposition supporters that weekend in the capital, Male.
This has resulted in an all-out political crisis in the region. The government has also arrested judges as part of its crackdown and has refused to release the political prisoners.
On February 2018, President Yameen imposed a state of for 15 days to annul the Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders. During this period the opposition in the country sent an envoy to India asking its neighbors to intervene. It further extended the state of emergency by 30 more days. However, China stated that it was against India intervening in Maldivian internal affairs. When asked to comment on Nasheed's call to India, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "The international community should play a constructive role on the basis of respecting the Maldives' sovereignty instead of taking measures that could complicate the current situation."
In February 2018, the Indian government warned Maldives to restore democracy once the 45 period ended. “The State of Emergency declared in Maldives on 5 February 2018 comes to an end this (Tuesday) evening. It is our expectation that the Government of Maldives will not be seeking extension of the State of Emergency so that the political process in Maldives can resume with immediate effect,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement. “After the revocation of the Emergency, democratic institutions including the judiciary should be allowed to function independently and in a fair and transparent manner in accordance with the Constitution. The order issued by the Supreme Court of Maldives on 1 February 2018 should be implemented in letter and spirit. It is important that Maldives quickly returns to the path of democracy and the rule of law so that the aspirations of Maldivian people are met and the concerns of the international community are assuaged,” it added.
According to an unnamed senior diplomat, the Maldives government will also be bringing bribery charges against former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the chief justice. The government has also stated that the state of emergency has officially ended in Maldives. “Though there still exists a diminished threat to national security, because the nation can now continue without further losses incurred, and upon the advice of the Security Services and in an effort to promote normalcy, the President has decided to lift the state of emergency,” the office of President Yameen said in a statement.
Our assessment is that the ending of the state of emergency in Maldives has also bookended a historic chapter in the nation’s politics. As the government has signaled its intention of bringing charges against the chief justice and the former president, concerns remain that the democratic institutions in Maldives is slowly being eroded.
The political crisis in Maldives also signaled a shift in the geopolitics of the region. There are growing concerns in Delhi that China is increasing its influence within Maldives.