Saturday, May 9, 2009


Something had been missing since morning. I realised suddenly that it was the music that blares from the flat opposite my balcony at regular intervals, being switched off only at prayer time. Set to the tune of an old Bollywood song, the words are in Divehi and so incomprehensible to me. It is the campaign song of the candidate whose posters adorn the wall of the building. The small office, clearly visible from my window, is manned mostly by women in scarves. As i write, the music has begun and the day is complete. Down the road at the corner, another campaign office equipped with a projector screens football matches. In the evenings, many youngsters lounge on the chairs for hours. Maldives is buzzing in anticipation of its first free parliamentary election, to be held today. There are 2,14,405 eligible voters in the country, out of a total population of a little more than 3,00,000 people. The young comprise nearly one-third of the population of Maldives and more than 35 per cent of the total population lives in Male.

Coming from the cacophony of Indian elections to the feverish pitch of elections in Maldives has been interesting. The streets of Male are plastered with posters of candidates. At every other corner a campaign office is in full swing. Youngsters hang around them, there is loud music, screening of football matches and at times even IPL matches. On local TV channels, candidates debate with each other vociferously as locals tell us that the debate is often hard hitting, personal and even ugly. However, all is forgiven in these exciting times when a new generation of Maldivians are waiting to cast their vote. Campaigning goes on through announcements from moving vehicles during the day. The ground in front of the `artificial' beach in Male is used nearly every evening by some candidate for a rally. A quiet descends around the city when it is prayer time; at all other times Male is a city in thrall of the electoral process unfolding for the first time in its history. I will soon be back in India, but would like to know the fate of the candidate whose campaign song one heard for two weeks. In this tiny Muslim island nation, democracy is making inroads. Whatever the election result, it would be a triumph of the power of the vote.


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