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‘Too early’ to discuss interim candidate, says Gayoom

Gayoom’s remarks fuelled speculation that the joint opposition parties have been unable to agree on choosing a non-politician as an interim leader as suggested by former President Mohamed Nasheed.



The joint opposition has not started talks on fielding an interim candidate in the 2018 presidential election, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said.

“We haven’t talked about that yet,” he told the press Monday night. “It’s a bit early for that so haven’t talked about that at all,” he told reporters when asked about ruling party lawmakers saying the opposition coalition will collapse over the question of a single candidate.

The response fuelled speculation that the joint parties have been unable to agree on choosing a non-politician as a ‘unity’ candidate as suggested by former president Mohamed Nasheed. In early October, Nasheed urged the opposition to back a candidate who would serve as an interim leader to enable reforms and pave the way for new elections.

After presiding over a meeting of the opposition’s steering committee and joint parliamentary group, Gayoom, however, expressed confidence over the success of the joint opposition’s reform agenda. “God willing, we will carry forward this reform programme very successfully and complete it soon,” he said.

Last week, the joint opposition vowed to remain united against President Abdulla Yameen in next year’s election.

Hassan Latheef, chairman of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, told the press: “MDP leader President Nasheed must be allowed to stand in the elections, and cannot remain disqualified through a politically motivated trial and sentencing. President Nasheed’s qualification would not be an obstruction to the Opposition fielding a single candidate for the elections.”

MP Abdulla Riyaz, deputy leader of the Jumhooree Party, said: “We will be discussing the best possible options — that includes the option of a common candidate — to defeat President Yameen. The good news is that we will continue working together beyond 2018.”

Nasheed is presently ineligible to contest in 2018 as he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on a controversial terrorism charge in early 2015. 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.

Yameen’s other opponent in the 2013 race, JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, is also barred from contesting after he was sentenced in absentia last August to more than three years in prison. The business tycoon’s endorsement of Nasheed and Yameen in second round run-offs in 2008 and 2013, respectively, was pivotal in securing their victories after both initially won less than 30 percent of the vote.

The MDP previously proposed changing from a presidential to a parliamentary system as the electorate proved unwilling to grant a popular mandate to a single candidate in the 2008 and 2013 elections. Both the MDP and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives won power with the backing of broad coalitions that disintegrated within months.

Coalition agreements have no legal weight under the Maldivian constitution, which was designed for a US-style presidential system.