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MDP and Nasheed challenged to field ‘clean pair’ for presidential ticket

The opposition appears divided in its quest to field a unity candidate.

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The Maldivian Democratic Party and former president Mohamed Nasheed have been challenged to field a “clean pair” for the opposition’s presidential ticket in this year’s polls.

Elections are due to be held on September 23, even as democratic freedoms are eroded under President Abdulla Yameen’s government and opposition leaders languish behind bars or in exile.

The challenge to the MDP came from Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, who fled the Maldives after a bribery conviction, and follows weeks of bickering about who should represent the fragmented opposition alliance.

Gasim said Saturday night the alliance should field a unity candidate “who has no problems and is clean.”

“The Jumhooree Party is ready to negotiate fielding a common candidate through considering a clean pair or pairs as submitted by other parties,” he said, referring to the picks for president and vice president. “The MDP should also propose a person that is not being investigated by the police, or someone that has a case filed away by the PG (prosecutor general) or has a conviction from a court or has held dual citizenship at any point.”

Although his statement did not single anyone out the conditions mentioned disqualify Nasheed, who is the MDP’s presidential candidate, as well as senior MDP lawmaker Ibrahim ‘Ibu” Mohamed Solih.

Nasheed landed the MDP’s presidential ticket late May, after winning more than 40,000 votes in a primary in which he was the sole candidate.

The Elections Commission declared the MDP referendum unlawful over Nasheed’s ineligibility to run for office with a 13-year prison sentence.

He was found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of a judge after a widely condemned trial in 2015.

Ibu has been proposed as a unity candidate by independent MP Ahmed Mahloof and former attorney general Husnu Suood.

Nasheed in response tweeted that he would not be an obstacle.

“We will field a common candidate and God willing, we will defeat President Yameen in a landslide.”

Industry tycoon Gasim said he was willing to negotiate with a candidate of a party to find solutions, but that the negotiations should finalize a power-sharing mechanism for the government and how to proceed to the 2019 parliamentary elections.

“We can feel the emotions of the people every second. My heart yearns for a quick solution. However, instead of jumping into a hole willingly, I believe that we have to overcome the obstacles and ensure the freedom of our people and the country.”

But he took aim at the MDP for refusing to look elsewhere for a candidate.

“I am saying this from the experience I have after spending my lifetime in this reform movement,” said Gasim. “If the MDP is not willing to compromise on fielding a candidate that is not from the MDP or even compromise on a candidate and running mate who have no issues and are clean, or a clean pair like that from two parties, what else do we have to discuss?” he asked.

An MDP spokesman told the Maldives Independent the party had no response to the JP statement.

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