Maldives opposition gets leader, promises to restore democracy
Male, July 2: The Maldivian opposition have chosen a new candidate to run against strongman President Abdulla Yameen in elections this year and promised to allow dissidents to return from exile if they win, officials said today.
The Maldivian Democratic Party nominated its parliamentary leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to lead a coalition of opposition groups, party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told AFP.
Solih will replace veteran opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, who withdrew his candidacy last week after being told by the national electoral commission that he was disqualified from running in the September poll.
Nasheed, who was jailed for 13 years in what the UN called a politically motivated trial, has been living in exile since seeking medical treatment abroad in 2016.
Ghafoor said if victorious, the MDP would clear the way for all political dissidents to return within 18 months and participate in an inclusive electoral process to join government.
Currently, all Yameen's opponents and top dissidents are either in jail or in exile, and Solih is seen as a symbol representing the united opposition against the president.
A presidential term is five years in the Maldives but a sitting leader can call snap elections.
Ghafoor said they also promised to undertake democratic reforms in the troubled islands.
"An MDP government will restore powers of parliament, the Supreme Court and the elections commission so that exiled leaders can return and we can establish democracy in the Maldives," he said.
Yameen declared a state of emergency in February after the Maldives' top court ordered that MPs sacked by the president be restored to power and dissidents free from jail.
The Maldives' chief justice and Supreme Court judges were subsequently arrested, along with Yameen's half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a former strongman who ruled for 30 years until 2008.
The United States and the European Union have expressed deep concern over Yameen's actions. Rights activists have asked the EU to slap sanctions on Yameen and key aides.