Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Boris Wille, Mitarbeiter am Seminar für Ethnologie

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Current Project Boris Wille

Competing Political Cultures: the Maldives in Transformation

The brutal murder of prison inmate Eevan Nassem by his guards was the spark that initiated the formation of an opposition movement in 2003. Ever since political activists have fought for democratic reforms. From 2004 onwards a new constitution was drafted and finally put into effect in August 2008. In the same year the opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed won the first multi-party elections and became President of the Maldives. On the 7 February 2012, however, President Nasheed announced his resignation after protests had turned violent and police and military forces had joined the opposition. Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik succeeded him and formed a coalition government with all political parties, but the largest single party – Nasheeds Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). This change of government was contested by MDP supporters as a coup d'état and triggered the longest and largest series of protests the Maldives has seen in history.

The controversial transfer of power represents only the latest episode to a longer and much deeper transformation of Maldivian society. Particularly since 2003 the strong pro-democracy movement established a new line of separation and integration that was alien to the island nation before. This new line cuts across all realms of the social fabric and is not limited to the day-to-day political sphere. The societal transformations occurring along this new line are at the centre of my dissertation project. My analysis focuses on competing political cultures. The material I generated during fieldwork in 2011/12 suggests that Maldivian political culture has two poles. At the one extreme of a scale are the principles of patronage and nepotism and at the other extreme is a political culture that stresses participation, grass roots engagement and reform. The aim of this thesis is to elaborate how both political practices inform and transform each other to reach a nuanced understanding of the contemporary Maldivian political processes.