Free man as president

Mohamed Nasheed 'Anni' created history on 11 November, when he was sworn in to office as the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. He had just been swept into power in the country's first-ever multiparty poll, ending the 30-year reign of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Onetime journalist, human-rights activist turned politician, the 41-year-old former parliamentarian for Male is now keen to concentrate all of his energies on building the country's economy and infrastructure, combating climate change and restoring – or building anew – his country's democratic system.

Jailed and kept under house arrest at regular intervals for more than a decade, President Nasheed now offers the people what he calls an "extra serving of freedom and democracy" as the first steps to development. The "jackboots of yesteryear" had tried to break the resilience and will of the people, he has warned. Now, "they need to enjoy freedom to heal." A founder member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), President Nasheed says that the recent election was all about the peoples' dignity and freedom. He also adds that he never aspired to the highest office in the islands. "I was thinking about how to become a free man, not president," was his wry comment at a post-election interview. "Change came at a great cost … but the sense of relief we feel today cannot be measured or explained."

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Himal Southasian