Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I for one was scared. I never liked primary elections. Its not that I am allergic to democracy in practice. Neither its the fear that the majority of the voters may pick a wrong candidate.
Nor it has anything to do with the fact that primary elections extinguishes the room for negotiation, consensus building and comprise within the party in deciding a candidate that is not only be favoured by few party hardliners during the primary, but also has the charisma and quality of competing, challenging and winning the seat for the party.
I have witnessed and experienced my fair share of primary elections, and on every such occasion I have seen the detrimental impact it has had on the party and its members.
I particularly have a personal attachment to the primary Ahmed Zahir Vs Ahmed Zakee, 2008 where the winning candidate was rewarded with the party’s ticket to compete for the Hithadhoo Dhekunu Constiuency’s seat in the Parliament.
Ahmed Zakee who lost the that primary was admired and backed by few MDP hardliners. The tension that developed between supporters of Zakee and Zahir due to Zahir’s victory had a devastating impact during the general election contributing to the loss of the seat to the opposition candidate.
Ironically it was those proclaimed hardliners of MDP who on every other occasion has stood up for the party through hell and high water (or pretended?), that carried out a successful covert anti campaign operation to fail their own candidate.
There are several other reasons that might have contributed to MDP candidate’s failure back then. Amidst it all, if I was asked to point out the single event that triggered the chain reaction that led to the failure it definitely has to be the incapacity of some MDP members to comprehend and follow the majorities call in the primary.
It was a primary gone badly and there cannot be a more perfect explanation for my fear of primaries.
For many, from members to future candidates the 2008 primary and parliamentary elections has taught an important lesson in an excruciatingly hard way, especially for the mdp member of Hithadhoo south constituency. As of now I do not doubt that they have learned their lessons well.
It was evident this past Monday. In another and new primary election by far the most number of candidates faced off for party’s ticket to compete in the first ever Addu City Council election.
On November 22, 2010 five candidates from Hithadhoo Dhhekunu Constituency, 4 candidates from Hithadhoo Medhu Constituency and 3 candidates from Hithadhoo Uthuru Consituency made a run for for the party’s ticket to compete in the city council election.
By the end of the day, when the all dust settled there was only one winner from each constituency.
Soibbe as expected won the Hithadhoo Uthuru primary by landslide with more than 80% of the votes. So much for the nescient and biased evaluation! The voters metaphorically protested with votes against the evaluation panel for their ridiculous blunder!
Even though there were four names on the Hithadhoo Medhu Ballot paper it actually was a vie between Hussein Hilmy and Shinaz. The remaining two candidates did not even make it into two digits scores.
Unlike Uthru and Medhu consnutituency Hithadhoo Dhekunu primary was the outrageously competitive.
While each and every member of the party has the individual right to contest in all sorts of election both internal and external, I believe this is an occasion where the MDP could have come to an arbitration involving the candidates. As far as I'm concerned I would not consider it as suppressing the right of members, but rather a civilized and proactive effort through dialogue and consensus, to lessen the inevitable segregation and conflicts among members that would surely weaken MDP after the primary.
From the five candidates of Dhekunu 3 are literally from the same family. The remaining two are close relatives. They have common friends and each candidate can easily match the (correct) face with every name of the 702 members enlisted as eligible voters.
Just few days prior to the primary election I got the opportunity to see campaign materials of many candidates of Dhekunun Constituency. To my surprise and dilemma it was ridiculously impossible to say who was leading. Almost all the candidates had an equal number of ticks on the voters list indicating their confirmed voters. More bewildering was the accuracy of their mathematics compared to the actual voter turn out of 395 when the results were announced.
What was evident from an initial analysis of the results of Dhekunu Ballot Box was that all five candidates have equilibrium of die hard supporters. While only one candidate was victoriuos and will be competing for the council seat it is absolutely crucial how those who failed direct and advice their supporters during the election scheduled for February 22.
During the night of election, in the emotionally provocative moment when the ballot papers were been bundled I was absolutely dumbstruck to see all the candidates of Dhekunu constituency sitting together for a coffee at Halite Restaurant. I don’t know whether it was a weird coincidence, a well orchestrated showoff, or just a symbol of unity and cohesion.
Later the same night when the results were announced all candidates joined their hands, with the winner Hussein Fahmy in the middle, on MDP Haruge Stage. One thing was obvious. They all shared a lingering tinge of bitterness from the 2008 parliamentary election and it was as if that history could be evaded from repeating.
But amidst the smiles, the handshakes, hugs and well wishes, if you look more carefully there was the slightest hint of cosmetic and concealed emotions: Emotions that could wreak havoc if unleashed, which not only will weaken the political strength of MDP at one end but also disintegrate the social fabric of this small community. And as I write these I have witnessed the bad omens realize.
And this is exactly where my fears lie.
In the end everything heals but the scars remain until once again even the scars are slashed and sliced.
All of this are symptoms of a new and growing democracy.
Photo courtesy: www.mdp.org.mv , www.facebook.com/sharough