Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ opposition leader, arrived Sunday in Colombo, Sri Lanka for a series of meetings with members and supporters of his Maldivian Democratic Party.
The former president “will discuss the difficulties and concerns of party members and supporters and will also meet with different branches of the party,” a spokesman said.
Several members of the MDP’s governing council and the Maldives United Opposition coalition, also travelled Sunday from Malé to Colombo for private meetings.
Nasheed is expected to hold a public event for supporters at the Berjaya Hotel on Thursday.
The 49-year-old lives in exile in London, United Kingdom after his jailing on controversial terrorism charges.
His visit comes amid mounting opposition despair as President Abdulla Yameen consolidates his hold on power after having weathered a period of prolonged crisis and several removal attempts.
Many of Yameen’s opponents remain in jail or under house imprisonment, protests continue to be banned in the capital, and the courts have delayed local council elections to allow Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives to prepare for the polls.
Meanwhile signs of disunity are beginning to appear in the MUO’s ranks: Earlier this month, the Adhaalath Party unilaterally announced a boycott of the upcoming local council elections and the MUO’s deputy leader resigned in November.
A United Nations attempt at brokering talks also remains at a stalemate.
A government spokesman suggested last week to New Delhi’s The Wire that all-party talks are not necessary.
“To be honest, we don’t believe that there is a situation in the country that requires this level of engagement (with the opposition). For us, life in the Maldives is normal,” Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee said.
The government blames the stalemate on the opposition, saying political parties had failed to nominate representatives who were endorsed by their governing councils.
The Maldives later quit the Commonwealth when the inter-governmental body threatened action for failure to initiate talks and release opposition figures.
Nasheed in a Twitter post on Friday said the UN had recommended the MDP send names of its delegates for the talks to the UN.
Met UN USG Feltman with Special Envoy Samuel. UN's view is for MDP to send the names of their delegates for all Party talks to the UN.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) January 24, 2017
In an interview with the AFP last week, he said he wants to return to the Maldives and contest elections. Expressing his view that the opposition should field a single candidate, Nasheed said that the opposition wants to see a free and fair election in 2018, and “not necessarily changing the government now”.
He also said that the opposition hopes to form an alliance with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has withdrawn support for his half-brother’s government after losing an acrimonious struggle for the control of the ruling party.
In October, Nasheed’s heavyweight international lawyers filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee seeking its intervention to secure his candidacy in 2018.
Nasheed in December expressed concern “over the lack of concerted and meaningful effort by the international community to prevent serious political conflict”.
The opposition leader had travelled to Colombo once before.
His brief trip in late August fuelled speculation of possible transfer of power with the BBC publishing a report claiming it had learned of a plot to remove Yameen.
Nasheed returned to the UK in September after the police cracked down on opposition attempts at mass protests.
He could meanwhile be facing a fresh trial if he returns to the Maldives as the police sought charges against Nasheed earlier this month over the arrest of then-MP Yameen in 2010.
Hassan Mohamed contributed reporting to this article