US Announces Backing for Maldives Junta That Ousted Climate Hero Mohamed Nasheed in Coup d’Etat


The Maldivian government agreed Thursday to hold early presidential elections after intervention by the Indian government.

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Our guest blogger is Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Follow him on Twitter @glennhurowitz.

The Obama administration has announced its support for the junta that ousted democratically elected Maldives president and climate hero Mohamed Nasheed in a military coup.

Even though President Nasheed was apparently forced to resign at gunpoint, the State Department has continued to address the coup-makers as the “legitimate government” of the Maldives, referred to Nasheed as the “former president,” and called the leader of the junta that seized power “President.” Here’s State Department spokesperson Ambassador Victoria Nuland last week:

In that context, Assistant Secretary Blake spoke this morning to former President Nasheed conveying our assurances that the United States supports a peaceful resolution of this, that we are also expressing our views to the government that his security should be protected, but also encouraging him, as we encouraged President Waheed, that this needs to be settled now peaceably through dialogue and through the formation, as the new president has pledged, of a national unity government. And as we said, Assistant Secretary Blake will be there on Saturday…

QUESTION: So does – the U.S. considers the new government a legitimate government of the Maldives?

MS. NULAND: We do.*

*The United States will work with the new Government of the Maldives but believes that the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power must be clarified, and suggests all parties agree to an independent mechanism to do so.

The italicized remarks were issued following Nuland’s briefing; the following day, she maintained the administration’s backing for the coup – saying that while “the circumstances need to be clarified,” the United States is “going to work with the government.”

In diplo-speak, that means, “We support the coup, though we’re putting on a display of squeamishness.” And that “national unity government?” The idea may sound good, but the people of the Maldives elected President Nasheed’s government. They certainly didn’t elect the aides of former dictator Abdul Gayoom that have been put into key cabinet posts.

Meanwhile, The New York Times and others are reporting accounts that members of Nasheed’s party – including local officials – are being imprisoned and abused across the country. Though the coup-makers deny the reports, this is precisely the kind of thing that the administration has condemned in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

If we’re looking to promote respect for democracy and constitutionality, Nasheed should have the support of the United States for finishing the year or so left in his term. Thousands of Maldive citizens are turning out into the streets for Nasheed.

We should especially be backing Nasheed because of his bold campaigning to stop the climate crisis (including a speedy personal installation of solar energy on the roof of his presidential palace). It’s not like Nasheed is some kind of leftist that Obama thinks he needs to avoid to maintain his centrist credentials: despite Nasheed’s efforts to save his low-lying island nation from climate-change induced sea level rise, he’s a free marketeer who’s cited Margaret Thatcher as an influence, privatized key industries, stood up to his country’s Islamic fundamentalists, and found consistent backing from Britain’s conservative government (Nasheed studied in England and enjoys a longstanding relationship with David Cameron, according to The Telegraph).

Instead, the administration is actively opposing Nasheed’s call for snap elections (Nasheed appears confident that despite the hostility of the former dictatorship, he still enjoys the strong support of his people):

[Assistant Secretary of State] Blake, however, also spoke out against early elections. He said the police, the judiciary and the election commission were “not prepared for early elections” and needed more time. “The coalition will work with all parties to reform and improve the capacity of the police, judiciary and Election Commission,” he said.

Notwithstanding his backing for Middle Eastern social movements, Obama is giving wannabe coupsters all over the world reason to doubt his and the United States’ commitment to democracy.

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