The defeat of Asia’s longest serving leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 71, by his much younger rival, Mohamed Nasheed, is a welcome development.
What is remarkable about this transition is the general lack of serious turbulence in the process. To be sure, there were mass protests and president-elect Nasheed’s journey wasn’t easy. He was subjected to political coercion—house arrests and a trial. Yet, in the end, the result is in stark contrast to the potholed march of democracy in Asia. The experience of Indonesia in Suharto’s era stands in much darker hues.
The Maldives, a collection of 1,200 islands, none of which stands more than 1.8m above sea level, is threatened by global warming. The possibility that it will disappear in the next 50 years or so is very real. Meeting this existential challenge ought to be the top priority for the new president. Fortunately, there is much greater realization of this threat worldwide now compared with a few years earlier.
India, as a long-standing friend of the Maldives, should now come forward and provide financial and technological assistance.