With JP and the Nasheed group possibly stepping into the fray, the swing voters will play a deciding role in the upcoming elections
If the EC chief’s observation holds good, then it means that trial court verdicts could not impede Yameen’s right to contest the presidential election even during the pendency of his appeals.The Yameen camp is selectively jubilant over Fuad Thaufeeq’s ‘high probability’ observation. His political aides have been launching periodic protests for his release. They are now seeking to have his imprisonment converted into ‘house arrest’ as in the previous case before the Supreme Court acquitted him. For its part, Yameen’s high-profile legal defence has since filed a modified appeal as instructed by the High Court and is hoping for an early hearing. Incidentally, the politically-loaded Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has since advised the prosecutor-general to proceed against the Yameen era defence minister, Major-Gen Moosa Ali Jaleel (retd), in a money-laundering case. He promptly denied the charge. Despite denials to the contrary, the Solih camp were discouraged when the JP’s council endorsed the party congress’ decision to contest the presidential poll after behind-the-scene efforts to influence the council reportedly failed. While party-sponsored Vice-President Faisal Naseem stayed away from the JP congress, indicating solidarity with Solih, a junior minister in the President’s Office, Ahmed Sameer, has since quit the party, following failed efforts to convince the leadership otherwise. Indications are that the JP leader Gasim Ibrahim will be contesting the presidential election for a third time, after committing ‘transferrable’ first-round votes to swing the decision as desired in 2008 and 2013. The Solih camp’s claim is rational given that the government cannot function with two presidential candidates in the coalition. Pending a possible solution to the Solih team’s demand for JP ministers to quit and Gasim’s parliamentary retort that the President should quit instead as the coalition that elected him in 2018 did not exist anymore, the latter’s wife and Transport Minister Aishath Nahula praised the incumbent at an official function for his ‘development efforts’ across islands, sending out mixed signals to party cadres.
After losing the MDP’s presidential primaries to Solih, Nasheed recently told Parliament that he was ready to take to the streets, to protest against the government.The JP’s confusion may have been confounded after the EC chief’s announcement on Yameen’s candidacy, implying a division in the anti-Solih votes, which MDP president and Parliament Speaker Mohammed Nasheed was reportedly working to consolidate. After losing the MDP’s presidential primaries to Solih, Nasheed recently told Parliament that he was ready to take to the streets, to protest against the government. For his part, Solih met with his supporters in Parliament to discuss the JP’s decision, in which about 50 of 87 MPs were reportedly present. The MDP has a total of 65 MPs, and those present at Solih’s meeting may include alliance partners. Solih’s aides, starting with MDP parliamentary group leader Mohamed Aslam, are on record that the incumbent would win a second term even without the JP’s support.
EC president Fuad’s announcement that a high percentage of voters are non-affiliated adds to the inevitable campaign tensions.Independent of the poll chief’s qualified positivity to Yameen’s candidacy just now the EC’s final decision in the matter alone would dictate the PPM-PNC combine’s decision in the matter. If Yameen’s candidacy is still declined, he could, citing Fuad’s current statement, move the Supreme Court. As may be recalled, the EC, once earlier headed by Fuad Thaufeeq, nearly clashed with the Supreme Court, which prevailed. Yameen became the President at the end of a controversial election in 2013, defeating MDP’s Nasheed by the lowest of margins in the second round.
The MRM is now a poor self of Gayoom’s 46-percent support-base when he lost the presidency to MDP’s Nasheed in the 2008 presidential polls.As of now, President Solih and retired army colonel, Mohamed Nazim, whose infant Maldives National Party (MNP) has named him as candidate, are in the presidential fray even as Yameen’s candidacy hangs in the legal balance, one way or the other. The JP is expected to announce its candidate at the end of the presidential primaries. Nazim has dismissed suggestions that he was fronting for Solih and no intention of cutting a deal with the other. Former attorney-general and MDP’s maiden president, Dr Mohamed Munavvar, too, has declared his intention to contest as an independent. He has denied social media suggestions that he was fronting for Nasheed, who had caused his departure from the party post just after a year, in the run-up to the 2008 presidential polls. Munavvar had campaigned for Nasheed in the last leg of the MDP primaries in January. In between, political parties will also be taking stock of the outcome of the Guraidhoo parliamentary by-election, scheduled for 15 April, in the middle of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan (22 March-21 April). The MDP (Solih faction), PPM and MNP are in the fray, and the by-election will also be watched for the roles played by the JP and the Nasheed group in the MDP.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.
N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.Read More +