The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has reiterated its commitment to protecting democratic gains in the Maldives and supporting democracy worldwide. Abdulla Shahid, President of the MDP, made these remarks while speaking virtually at the International Democracy Union (IDU) Asia Pacific Forum.

The former foreign minister was invited to speak at the IDU forum by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Christopher Luxon, and the Chairman of IDU, Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada. The forum is held in Wellington, New Zealand.

Shahid emphasised the importance of free and fair elections in his speech, stating, “Without elections, democracy has no meaning. It continues to be the purest pathway for citizens to express their will and their opinion on the way they wish to see their country run.” He also expressed concern about the erosion of democratic tenets and the rise of authoritarian characteristics worldwide. “Holding strong to the basic functions of democracy remains crucial,” he said.

Shahid warned of a new wave of authoritarianism, characterised by gradual changes and often led by elected officials. He called for vigilance in the face of these challenges, saying, “Because democracy and freedom still remain the best option. It is the only system that protects human dignity and worth of all peoples—not just on paper, but in practice.”

The MDP, according to Shahid, is focused on protecting the democratic gains achieved in the Maldives 16 years ago, including the enactment of a new constitution, the first multi-party elections, and a host of freedoms and rights that were previously unavailable to the people.

The journey since then has been challenging, he admitted. “For every step forward, there has been several steps backwards. It has taken courage, sweat, and blood. But through the darkness, through the hardships, through the difficulties, we have persevered. And we will continue to do so.”

The MDP has consistently positioned itself as a stalwart defender of democratic principles. The previous MDP-led administration, led by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, took pride in its commitment to ensuring the rights of all citizens, upholding human rights, and safeguarding freedom of the press.

However, the MDP has expressed concerns about what it perceives as democratic backsliding under the current government, led by President Mohamed Muizzu. The MDP alleges that the Muizzu administration is exploiting state resources for political advantage, including for the personal benefit of President Muizzu’s family.

The party has also accused the Muizzu administration of terminating staff without justifiable reasons for political gain, and of appointing a significant number of political appointees as a strategy to secure support and votes in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

As the IDU forum began its deliberations, Shahid urged the participants to consider the new challenges to democracy and discuss new ways to approach them. He called for closer relationships across borders in the face of challenges to multilateralism and cooperation. “I urge you to hold our principles closer—and our values even closer,” he concluded.