The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party denied Sunday there were internal rifts over its new presidential pick.
The Elections Commission declared the MDP primary unlawful over Nasheed’s ineligibility to run for office with a 13-year prison sentence. He had been found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of a judge after a widely condemned trial.
MDP supporters expressed concerns that his decision to withdraw might be playing into the hands of President Abdulla Yameen.
The Maldives’ former ambassador to the UK, Dr Farahanaz Faisal, said that accepting Nasheed was not allowed to run was tantamount to legitimising the EC’s stance.
“The problem is the reason given by president Nasheed for relinquishing the candidacy. That the EC will not allow his candidacy. What that says is that the EC’s decision is right and so is the conviction of president Nasheed. We cannot accept this. This is not something MDP or even president Nasheed can decide on,” she tweeted.
Farah was backed by a chorus of MDP activists and members.
“President Nasheed has not said that he does not want to compete in a free and fair election. The votes given by 43,922 MDP members cannot be transferred to someone else,” Mohamed Waheed tweeted. “We do not need another candidate. We need to ensure a free and fair election.”
– ‘A difficult day’ –
Several MDP members called on the congress to reject Nasheed’s decision.
But MDP spokesman MP Imthiyaz Fahmy told the Maldives Independent that a difference of opinion would not lead to rifts among the party’s grassroots.
“That is the difference between other parties and the MDP,” he said. “We have a very strong grassroots who are opinionated about how the party works and the decisions made by elected representatives.
“Everyone had a difficult day yesterday (Saturday) as the MDP candidate decided to relinquish his ticket as he is being illegally and unlawfully being barred from contesting. The criticism and opinions over that will not divide the MDP.
“MDP members will go ahead at full speed with the candidate chosen by the party and that is something we have seen in every election, in every primary we have held,” he said.
Criticism of the decision-making process increased after the congress passed amendments allowing it to decide on a presidential candidate in the event the person chosen through a primary was barred from contesting.
The former ambassador called on the congress to “not to destroy the internal democracy of MDP by amending rules,” while former foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed also intervened.
“This is the only decision he [Nasheed] can take; but I hope this is one that the MDP Congress will reject! Why legitimise a manifestly unfree and unfair elections?” he asked.
Fahmy remarked that the circumstances surrounding the presidential pick were unusual.
“We are a party of primaries. That is how we choose people who will lead us. This is a special contingency for a highly unusual scenario,” he said.
“For one thing we do not have time to go for another primary and then we are not saying right now that the candidate who won the party primary, president Nasheed, will not run.
“In fact the clause that proposed another name for the candidacy included a clause that would allow the candidate that won the party primary to contest even in the last minute, if he is allowed to.”
He said the nomination had been arrived at the “most democratic way.”
“With regards to the decision, in a case where the candidate chosen by the whole party and its members is not allowed to compete, we went to the next most powerful organ of the party. The party congress is made up of nearly 1,000 members and represent every island and atoll in the country.
“That is the most democratic way to do it and they decided that MDP will have an alternative candidate.”