The election held on October 28 in the Maldives resulted in a clear victory for the people of the Maldives. However, against the backdrop of this victory lies months, if not years, of planning and mobilising the people conducted by democracy activists, civil society groups and political parties.
Vanessa Ortiz, Director of Civic and Field Relations, International Center for Nonviolent Conflict writes in Global Campaign for Peace Education Newsletter about the key ingredients for the success of a nonviolent struggle: unity, planning, nonviolent discipline, creativity and confidence. Ortiz cites examples from Maldives to elaborate these ingredients, quoting from Hindha Ismail, one of the organisers of Badhalakah Emmen (Unite for Change) group which mobilised the youth before the election through music and other activities.
Another key ingredient is planning. In the Maldives, many local organizations and activists came together to plan strategically. Overt political gatherings were not allowed and often invited government and police harassment. Planning meetings were planned by pockets of civil society leaders and held in safe spaces. Hindha acknowledges that a great deal of time went into planning. “At the end of each day, all of the active members had a meeting to analyze the effectiveness of the activities carried out on that day,” she reflects. “We also brainstormed constantly for new ideas and took votes on how to proceed.”
The third key ingredient to success is nonviolent discipline. A nonviolent movement can enlist participation from most citizens – young and old, men and women, rich and poor. The Maldivian struggle was committed to nonviolent principles from the very beginning. “Every rally began with instructions and advice on how to use nonviolent tactics,” Hindha remembers. “Our main message was nonviolent change.” Violence invites repression, and in a contest of arms, Maldivian activists knew they could not win. The use of violence could not lead to the broad-based coalition that they developed, it would terrorize citizens, and violence would not win the international support of potential allies and economic interests that the dictator often courted. Remaining nonviolent was a strategic choice.
It is important for the people to be on alert to guard and protect the democracy in the Maldives. Any attempts to undermine democracy should be challenged through carefully planned nonviolent action.