Former President Mohamed Nasheed has announced that he will be contesting in main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) primary for the upcoming presidential election, and that Hithadhoo-North MP Ahmed Aslam would be his campaign manager for the primary election.
In a tweet Sunday morning, Nasheed had also stated that the opposition coalition would nominate a single candidate to contest in the presidential election slated for September, and that each party in the coalition would have their own primaries to decide a potential candidate.
“God willing, I will be able to contest in MDP’s primary, and Hithadhoo-North MP Aslam will be my Campaign Manager during this election,” the former president’s tweet read.
The joint opposition coalition currently consists of MDP, Jumhoory Party (JP), religiously conservative Adhaalath Party and the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom and members who defected from the ruling party with him.
The opposition coalition had formed a committee to oversee the nomination of a single presidential candidate. While the committee agreed that all parties in the coalition should hold primary elections, they have not officially confirmed whether a primary would be held amongst the victorious candidates from each party to decide an ultimate candidate for the presidential election.
The former president, while speaking at The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited (TCMOL) annual convention in Sri Lanka on Friday, suggested that a “last-minute decision” would allow him to contest in the presidential election. He said that when the election draws nearer, circumstances would change and allow him to contest, though he had not revealed details.
While Nasheed announced that he would be contesting in MDP’s primary, he is currently ineligible to compete in the upcoming election as he was sentenced to 13-years of imprisonment on terrorism charges in March 2015, in a trial that was widely criticised for lack of due process.
Maldives Constitution states that a person elected as president should not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than 12-months unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced.
However, the United Nations Human Rights Committee earlier in the month ruled in favour of Nasheed, and firmly advocated his right to stand for office. The Maldivian government quickly rejected decision, maintained Nasheed’s arrest was not arbitrary and affirmed that the former president would not be allowed to contest in the election as he was sentenced legally.
JP leader Qasim Ibrahim has also been barred from contesting in the election after he was convicted on bribery charges last August and sentenced to three years, two months and 12-days in prison. He has since been declared a fugitive of the state after he failed to return to Maldives when his medical leave, granted by the Maldives Correctional Services, expired. Qasim is currently in Germany where he has been granted political asylum.
Meanwhile, Adhaalath Party’s leader and religious scholar Sheikh Imran Abdullah remain in prison after he was convicted on terrorism charges for inciting violence during the May Day protests in 2015. He has served almost three years of his hefty 12-years sentence. His arrest was also declared unlawful by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and they have called for the immediate release of the opposition leader.
Incumbent President Abdulla Yameen’s half-brother and former President Gayyoom was arrested recently – also on terrorism charges – and his trial is currently on-going at the Criminal Court. The former strongman was arrested shortly after President Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5, along with his son-in-law Mohamed Nadheem from their home in the capital Male. Gayyoom was accused of orchestrating a coup, and was also charged with offering bribes.
While the opposition has not yet announced a presidential candidate, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has already begun campaigning for President Yameen’s re-election bid.