New op-ed by Prorector Lykke Friis and Associate professor Anders Henriksen in Al Jazeera – University of Copenhagen

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25 October 2013

New op-ed by Prorector Lykke Friis and Associate professor Anders Henriksen in Al Jazeera

The Maldives

The Maldives' democratic experiment is threatened by remnants of the old dictatorship, write authors.

"Nasheed’s journey from a Maldivian torture cell to global statesman is the stuff movies are made of,"

Lykke Friis and Anders Henriksen

To most foreigners, the Maldives is an idyllic tropical holiday destination packed with luxury resorts, world-class cuisine, scuba diving and sublime relaxation. Surely, if there is a paradise on earth it can’t be far from these beautiful atolls in the Indian Ocean. Below the tranquil surface, however, this small island nation is embroiled in a desperate fight for its political and democratic future. And it is a struggle with wide-reaching ramifications. On the morning of Saturday, October 19, the Maldivian Police Force prevented the Election Commission from conducting a long awaited Presidential election that may very well be the most crucial in the country’s history. The decision by the Police followed a highly suspicious October 7, 2013, decision by the Maldivian Supreme Court whereby the Court annulled the result of the first round of presidential election and ordered that a new round of elections should be held on October 19.

After three decades of dictatorship, real democracy was introduced to the islands in 2008. Mohammed Nasheed – a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience – won the country’s first free presidential elections. He introduced wide-ranging reforms. Political prisoners were freed, Maldivians were able to speak freely and internationally, the president gained admiration and respect for his well-articulated efforts to persuade the most powerful states in the world to act against climate change.  In the run up to the COP15 climate change summit in Copenhagen, President Nasheed became the symbol of hundreds of millions of people in the less fortunate parts of the world who fear the consequences of global warming. Nasheed’s journey from a Maldivian torture cell to global statesman is the stuff movies are made of; indeed, a documentary film about him - The Island President - was recently released.

Read more in Al Jazeera

Lykke Friis
Ms. Lykke Friis, PhD, is Prorector for Education at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She is former Minister of Climate and Energy and also Minister for Gender Equality.

Anders Henriksen
Anders Henriksen, PhD, is an associate professor of Public International Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, where he runs the Centre for International Law and Justice.