October 31, 2008
Change They Could Believe In
The Maldives elects a new president despite a bizarro-Obama scandal over his religion.
Elections in the Maldives took an oddly familiar turn this fall: the leading candidate has been accused of being a secret believer in a religion many see as threatening the country's traditional values. Except, in a tiny Muslim nation, the religious confession that's so scandalous is Christianity.
"The re-election campaign of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [the incumbent] has released a letter purporting to show that opposition presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) is in league with Salisbury Cathedral in the UK," Minivan News ("Independent News for the Maldives") reported. The Maumoon 2008 campaign website says "The gist of the letter which follows under what appears to be Salisbury Cathedral's letterhead alleges an agreement between Nasheed and the church to establish a cathedral on the site of the Islamic Center after Nasheed incites the "Jamat ul-Moslemin" to blow the mosque up.'"
The Associated Press reports that Nasheed "is a Sunni Muslim like the president and denies any secret Christian agenda." In fact, Shaheed has pointed to a 2004 government investigation into Nasheed's foreign contacts, which revealed "no ties with any Christian missionary groups."
Gayoom has been president since 1978, and this is the first time he has allowed an opposition candidate to run. The BBC says Nasheed has said Gayoom "Is a dictator and a has-been sultan, and that the Maldives needs change."
The Maldives chose change. Since neither Gayoom nor Nasheed won a majority in the first round of voting, Maldivians voted again on Tuesday. Nasheed - a former political prisoner - seems to have won the final vote.
The Associated Press says some expect conflict:
Some voters expressed fears of clashes between opposing camps after the results are released.
"Even though there weren't any problems they will say there are," said Mariyam Ameena, 31, a government worker. Gayoom's accusations that Nasheed "is against Islam has done a lot of damage. He is using it as a weapon."