Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced that ballot boxes for the party’s primary election will be set up in four countries.
MDP revealed that the party will be holding its primary election on May 30, and applications for candidacy are open until this Tuesday.
The main opposition further revealed that ballot boxes for the primary elections will be set in every inhabited island in the Maldives, as well as Colombo and Kandy in Sri Lanka, Trivandrum and Bangalore in India, Kuala Lampur in Malaysia, and London in the United Kingdom.
Convicted former President Mohamed Nasheed had earlier announced that he will be contesting MDP’s primary for the upcoming presidential election, and that Hithadhoo-North MP Ahmed Aslam would be his campaign manager for the primary election.
The joint opposition coalition currently consists of MDP, Jumhoory Party (JP), religiously conservative Adhaalath Party and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom along with 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.
The Maldivian 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 he has been pardoned for the offence.
However, the United Nations (UN)'s Human Rights Committee had earlier ruled in favour of Nasheed, and firmly advocated his right to stand for office. The Maldivian government quickly rejected the decision, maintained that 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 the 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 remains 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 UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and they have called for the immediate release of the opposition leader.
Incumbent President Abdulla Yameen’s estranged half-brother and former President Maumoon was arrested recently – also on terrorism charges – and his trial is currently ongoing at the Criminal Court. The former strongman was arrested shortly after Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5, along with his son-in-law Mohamed Nadheem from their home in capital Male. Maumoon was accused of orchestrating a coup, and has also been charged with offering bribes.
While the opposition has not yet announced a presidential candidate, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has already commenced the campaig for President Yameen’s re-election bid.