President Gayoom’s picture is prominently displayed right over the “on air” sign at the radio bureau in Kulhudhuffushi.
Part of our mission here is to prepare the government-run broadcast media for the election. They need to evolve overnight from a government mouthpiece to a PBS-type news organization able to cover all parties without fear or favor. That’s a tall order. Especially when no one can agree on WHEN the election should be held. They can’t have a campaign during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in September, so we’re probably looking at August or October.
President Gayoom’s term expires Nov. 10 and if they don’t have a president-elect by then, we could be looking at a messy transitional government or some kind of decree under which Gayoom would simply continue his 30 years of rule, but without a public mandate.
The opposition alliance is currently holding a primary and there is a huge MDP presence in the islands. This buidling is the opposition headquarters on this island. Inside I found a lady running a sewing machine.
The MDP is led by some people who were imprisoned only a few years ago for daring to oppose Gayoom’s government. There are also some religious parties.
This is where it gets tricky. There are candidates without parties and parties without candidates. One opposition candidate also happens to be a popular movie star. Plus, the best-known opposition candidate, Mohamed Nasheed, has the same name as the information minister, Mohamed Nasheed, who is reforming the constitution but not running for office. The candidate, nicknamed Anni, campaigned here in Kulhudhuffushi last night. Opposition candidates were never shown on the news until we got here last month.
An example of the battle for hearts and minds: the government is building this brand new mosque for the island. The bright yellow banner of the MDP is hanging right in front of it. Gayoom’s party, the DRP, has blue banners. Many government buildings are painted in this shade of blue, including the TV and radio stations and the guesthouse.