Ruling party lawmakers rushed to declare that former president Mohamed Nasheed cannot contest the 2018 presidential election after he asserted that foreign pressure would secure his candidacy.
The exiled opposition leader told newspaper Mihaaru in London that joint diplomatic efforts by India and the US would pave the way for inclusive elections and the release of other jailed politicians.
“God willing it’s a certainty that Mohamed Nasheed’s name won’t be on the ballot in the Maldives 2018 presidential election even if the US and India want it,” Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan tweeted.
Nihan dismissed Nasheed’s remarks as “a fantasy” at a press conference Wednesday afternoon where senior MPs of the Progressive Party of Maldives vowed to keep the former president off the ballot.
The PPM would oppose any deal that would allow Nasheed to contest, said MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the PPM’s deputy leader. He went on to say the Maldives has no opposition leader at present who could credibly challenge President Abdulla Yameen.
Nasheed is presently ineligible to contest due to a 13-year prison sentence on a controversial terrorism charge. He was found guilty in early 2015 of ordering the abduction of a judge by the military. The 50-year-old was granted asylum in the UK in May last year after he was authorised to seek medical treatment there amid mounting foreign pressure.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, the government’s chief negotiator in the failed all-party talks, meanwhile declared that no discussions have taken place with a foreign government about Nasheed’s candidacy.
@MohamedNasheed still believes tht he can use foreign influence to become the President. No way that he can participate in 2018 election unless constitution changes.
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) November 8, 2017
Nasheed’s remarks came after The Hindu reported a meeting between a team of diplomats led by the American ambassador to the Maldives and the Indian foreign secretary last week to “share concerns” about the Maldives political situation.
The presidential election is expected to take place in September next year.
But speaking at a joint opposition rally Wednesday night, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – who joined forces with Nasheed and other opposition parties earlier this year – said it was questionable whether an election would be held at all.
The 80-year-old former strongman said the opposition coalition must use its parliamentary majority to push through reforms before thinking about the 2018 election.
“How can we have a presidential election under the present circumstances, with this government, this Elections Commission?” he asked.