Five rival opposition groups announced today a united front to remove President Abdulla Yameen from office, urging supporters to bridge differences to restore democracy.
The group brings together the Maldivian Democratic Party, the Adhaalath Party, two of Yameen’s former deputies and his former defence minister.
Former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was named leader of the United Maldives Opposition.
The coalition was established in London.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was recently granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, said: “I understand how difficult it is to take this step, to come together. But we have decided this understanding and knowing the gravity of the issues faced by our people.”
He told reporters that he hoped to see Jameel serve in a transitional government before the next presidential elections in 2018.
“I hope to work for Dr Jameel. I hope to garner support for him. I hope to see him in a transitional government before 2018. A transitional government that will create conditions for free and fair elections. A transitional government that will focus on reforming the judiciary, amending the constitution. A transitional government that will address justice issues and that will lead the country to a bright future,” he said.
Nasheed’s jailing on a terror charge last year was a key trigger of the current political crisis. He was allowed to leave the country in an internationally brokered deal in January.
Jameel had meanwhile fled to the UK last July days before he was impeached in a controversial vote. At the time, the Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were already in jail.
Jameel said today: “The situation in the Maldives is extremely dangerous. Political instability, repression, massive corruption and the rise of Islamic extremism are serious challenges.
“The risk of overlooking these issues would be to the detriment of our security, economy, culture and society. The current political crisis is a direct result of President Yameen’s open disregard and contempt for the Constitution, international law, human rights and democracy.”
He added: “I understand the fragility of the situation and I am fully aware of our past setbacks. It is no secret, we have been rivals in the past. But today we join together, united as allies.”
Members of the coalition had previously conspired to remove the other from office, and have even been accused of helping to imprison the other.
Jameel’s successor Ahmed Adeeb, who was impeached and jailed after a blast on Yameen’s speedboat last September, is accused of framing defence minister Nazim by planting weapons at his home. Adeeb is currently detained pending the outcome of separate trials on charges of terrorism and grand corruption.
Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on a weapons smuggling charge and is currently under house arrest. Jameel was meanwhile impeached with the support of the MDP, who had hoped to secure Nasheed’s freedom by supporting the move.
Adeeb was represented today by his wife, Fathimath Liusha, while Nazim was represented by his brother, Adam Azim.
The announcement of the plan for a united coalition on Monday had caused a stir on social media, with MDP supporters noting many leading figures in the new coalition had played a key role in ousting Nasheed in 2012.
Addressing his supporters, Nasheed said no single political party or leader in the Maldives enjoyed the support of the majority of the population.
“We have all, most of us have suffered. We have suffered torture, ill-treatment, we have been in jail. We have spent the good half of our adult lives in suppression. And we don’t want to leave a country to our children to have to go through that again.
“We cannot relent, we must work and we must win.”
Supporters of the MDP, the biggest political party in the Maldives, may feel it has to lead the opposition, Nasheed said.
“But I think we must find ways and means of bridging differences and we need not always be leading. We must be ready to follow other leaders. Today we start with a very hopeful future.
“That by backing Dr Jameel and this coalition, we will be able to get a free and fair election. What we are asking for is not the sun, moon and stars. We are asking for a fair election.”