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Cablegate: Maldives: Ibrahim Ismail Elected President Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS COLOMBO 002138

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES: IBRAHIM ISMAIL ELECTED PRESIDENT OF
OPPOSITION MDP IN FIRST EVER PARTY CONGRESS

REF: A. COLOMBO 2025
B. COLOMBO 1953

1. (U) The opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) held
its first ever party Congress in Male' December 19-21. On
December 20, delegates at the Congress used a cascading
preferential voting system to elect Member of Parliament (MP)
Ibrahim Ismail party president and former SAARC
secretary-general Ibrahim Hussein Zaki as vice president.

SIPDIS
Ismail, a long-time MDP activist, beat his closest
competitor, former UNDP officer Dr. Waheed Hussein, by
roughly 50 out of a total of 300 votes. The MDP had hired
Eliott Roberts, a British consultant from the Electoral
Reform Services, to oversee the election, which he described
to the press as "very free and very fair."

2. (U) Also at the Congress December 20, Mohamed Nasheed,
currently under house arrest on terrorism charges (Ref B),
was elected party chairperson by an overwhelming majority.
That same day, the President's office granted Nasheed
temporary respite from his house arrest to attend the
Congress and address party members briefly. Police escorted
him to and from the Congress venue. According to press
contacts, Nasheed was permitted to attend the Congress
December 21 as well, again with a police escort.

3. (SBU) Ismail is a veteran MDP activist who has served
time in prison (and in solitary confinement) for expressing
anti-government views. (We visited him in detention on
Dhoonidoo island in the fall of 2004.) Following civil
unrest in Male' in August 2004, Ismail was one of four
pro-reform Special Majlis (Constitutional Assembly) MPs
detained and charged with sedition. In January of 2005,
Ismail ran for the People's Majlis-- beginning his campaign
while still under house arrest-- and beat thirteen other
contenders to win the seat as an MP for Male'. Some MDP
interlocutors have noted that Ismail has "autocratic
tendencies," but he is widely perceived as committed to the
reform cause and willing to work with other party members.
Many in the party view Ismail's record of activism as
providing "street credibility." In our conversations with
him, we have found him to be personable, passionate about
democratization, and pragmatic in his approach. He has
mentioned working with Government of the Republic of Maldives
(GORM) officials behind the scenes in order to assist his
reform-minded constituents.

4. (SBU) Comment: The MDP had been gearing up for this
Congress for the past several months, with party leaders
expressing optimism, tempered by worries of a possible GORM
crack-down. The fact that the Congress has passed
peacefully, with the GORM releasing Nasheed to attend, bodes
well for future consultations between the government and the
opposition. The government's Dhivehi Rai'yythunge Party
(DRP, or Maldivian People's Party) is scheduled to hold its
own party congress in January. The peaceful MDP party
congress provides a good template-- and a tough act-- for its
rival to follow. End comment.
LUNSTEAD

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