AA UKULHAS (MALDIVES): The opposition alliance in the Maldives has named a backup candidate for the presidential election later this year, in the event the exiled former president is unable to contest due to legal obstacles.
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a lawmaker from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, was named the backup candidate at the party congress.
The party congress approved a resolution that former President Mohamed Nasheed would be the party’s preferred candidate, but that if he fails to secure the candidacy, Solih will contest in his place.
Nasheed had earlier announced that he will not contest the September election because the election commission had refused to recognize his victory at a recent party primary.
Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, making him ineligible to contest the election. The verdict was widely criticized as politically motivated and the Supreme Court earlier this year ordered Nasheed’s release and retrial, which the government refused to implement.
President Yameen Abdul Gayoom was preparing to contest the election virtually unopposed, with all of his potential opponents either in jail or forced into exile. With the Supreme Court order to release and retry Nasheed, the government arrested the chief justice and another judge, after which the remaining three Supreme Court justices reversed their earlier order.
The four-party alliance has also decided that the presidential candidate’s running mate will be from another alliance partner.
Solih, a 25-year lawmaker, has worked closely with Nasheed in transforming the Maldives into a multiparty democracy.
The Maldives had its first multiparty election in 2008, with Nasheed defeating 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in 2012 amid public protests over his order to the military to detain a sitting judge. He lost the 2013 election to Gayoom’s half brother, Yameen, who has rolled up much of the democratic gains. Gayoom is now an ally of the pro-Nasheed coalition and was jailed by his half brother.
Yameen’s administration has also jailed his former vice president, two defense ministers, the chief justice and a Supreme Court judge, as well as many other politicians and officials.