The ruling party’s vice presidential candidate defended his decision to accept the nomination, urging his former colleague to leave the Maldives opposition and switch sides.
Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed was a founder of the Islamist Adhaalath Party and a former minister for Islamic affairs. He resigned from President Abdulla Yameen’s government in 2015 after the party’s leader, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, was jailed following a rally on May Day.
Shaheem said his conscience would not allow him to continue serving the government when a close brother had been jailed. The Adhaalath Party is currently part of the opposition alliance seeking to oust Yameen in this September’s election.
Shaheem was announced as the party’s vice presidential pick this month, prompting criticism.
But he told reporters Monday night he had decided to rejoin Yameen to maintain the Islamic unity of the Maldives.
“Even with Imran being a very close brother, I did not want to join the opposition. Because I also believe in certain principles. If things are going against those principles I will not be controlled by them. I can only stay where I want to stay. That is why the two of us, with due respect, parted our ways in politics.”
Shaheem asked reporters to question Imran on who was the most righteous among his friends and acquaintances before and after his jailing.
“I give you a 100 percent guarantee. Imran will say that it is me. I guarantee it. So, even today, I beseech Imran to join me. There is no one under the sky who wishes Imran well more than me. Imran has to stay with me. I am telling Imran that if he has any personal issue with Yameen, let it go and join me,” he said.
He also announced he would not be quitting his post as chancellor of the Islamic University of the Maldives, despite saying previously he would.
The U-turn came after Yameen advised him to stay on, he said, and the attorney general had informed him there were no legal issues in staying on.
“Even though I remain in the chancellor’s post the university will be led by the [vice chancellor]. My role will be in an advisory capacity,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Maldives endorsed Shaheem’s nomination and congratulated him.
“I congratulate my brother Dr. Mohamed Shaheem on his nomination by the Progressive Party of Maldives for the post of Vice President of the Republic of Maldives in the forthcoming presidential election. I ask God to appoint His Excellency and pay him and benefit him,” Bader Ali Ahmed al-Kahail tweeted.