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Opposition coalition reschedules first rally for July 21

The Maldives United Opposition, launched in London last month by opposition leaders in exile, had planned to hold the rally Thursday night despite the last-minute withdrawal of a permit granted by the housing ministry, but was forced to cancel due to bad weather.



The Maldives United Opposition has rescheduled its first rally for July 21 after bad weather in Malé foiled plans last Thursday.

The MUO, launched in London last month by opposition leaders in exile, had planned to hold the rally Thursday night despite the last-minute withdrawal of a permit granted by the housing ministry.

“Regardless of whether we get permission or not, the rally will go ahead on the night of July 21,” MUO Spokesman Ahmed Mahloof told the press last night.

However, permission to use a public venue will be sought from the authorities, he said.

At a press conference called on short notice Thursday morning, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz said that the permit was cancelled because it was granted to the Maldivian Democratic Party and not to “some group called the united coalition”.

The housing ministry in early 2015 had taken over management of the capital’s public spaces from the MDP-dominated Malé city council.

Branding the coalition “unlawful”, Muiz declared that the government “will not give one inch of Maldivian land to hold unlawful gatherings”.

Muiz said the Elections Commission’s chair informed him that the MUO is not a registered party or organisation and recommended cancelling the permit.

But the MDP said the ministry has previously authorised rallies held with the participation of allies Jumhooree Party and Adhaalath Party.

The main opposition also noted that the Progressive Party of Maldives has held joint rallies with coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance.

Coalitions formed between political parties in the Maldives lack legal status as the new constitution adopted in August 2008 put in place a presidential system of government.

The MUO, led by former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and comprised of the MDP, Adhaalath Party, and supporters of jailed former government officials, is working towards establishing an interim government before the 2018 presidential election.

To that end, opposition leaders in exile have been lobbying for international support and calling for targeted sanctions against top government officials.

The MUO’s first rally is advertised under the slogan, ‘Towards a transitional path.’

Along with Jameel, former President Mohamed Nasheed and MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed are expected to deliver speeches via teleconference.

Nasheed, whose imprisonment triggered the ongoing political crisis, was granted asylum in the UK last May after he was authorised to travel for medical treatment.

Mahloof said last night that the coalition’s objective is to bring an end to President Abdulla Yameen’s government “through lawful means” and pave the way for free and fair elections.

Former government officials, Ali Shameem, Imad Solih, and ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi, formally joined the MUO last night.

Speaking at the press conference, Adhaalath Party Spokesman Ali Zahir urged the government to authorise public space for the rally. Yameen now stands alone after alienating allies, including his half-brother former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Zahir said.

In the wake of a split in the PPM between loyalists of Gayoom and Yameen, Zahir claimed that numerous ruling party members are now working with the MUO.

Mahloof also claimed that some government-aligned politicians are backing the opposition coalition in secret as they are unable to publicly declare support.

Both the MDP and MUO have previously condemned the government over the denial of political space for the opposition.

A march planned by the MDP to celebrate its 11th anniversary was blocked by riot police on Monday night.

The constitution, however, guarantees the right to freedom of assembly without prior permission from the state.

In a statement condemning the “unlawful obstruction”, the MDP said it has been “systematically denied any public space in which to hold political rallies or meetings.”

A ban on street protests in Malé has been in force since a police crackdown on a three-day protest staged by the MDP last November.