Chief opposition MP backs Nasheed to quell candidacy 'rift'

Chief opposition lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday publicly backed self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed as the opposition alliance candidate for the upcoming presidential elections to quell a rumoured rift over the candidacy.

The main opposition leaders including former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Nasheed along with Gasim and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla inked pact to form what they called a 'reform alliance'.

With the candidacy of the four leaders - all convicted and serving sentences on questionable charges in serious doubt, the united opposition had announced plans to nominate a single candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

However, the coalition now seems to have fractured with Nasheed contesting and winning the highly disputed presidential primary held by his party. Nasheed is also pressing ahead with his campaign despite the country's electoral watchdog refusing to accept his candidacy.

Nasheed's refusal to back-down despite his chances to stand for the elections looking slim has reportedly caused a rift in his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Its parliament group leader Solih had emerged as a candidate to challenge Nasheed from within the party with several senior opposition officials backing him for the crunch elections. Solih had also been missing from recent MDP events further fueling the rumours.

The veteran lawmaker on Thursday however, finally broke silence to publicly back Nasheed for the upcoming elections.

Speaking during a rally held in capital Male on Thursday, Solih said Nasheed remains the best choice for a single candidate for all political parties to rally behind to put an end to the tyranny of incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's government.

He however said the public needs answers as to why the MDP was campaigning separately to the other opposition parties.

"Today we're starting our journey for that goal. To nominate Nasheed as the opposition coalition. But this journey will have a lot of obstacles. You will hear a lot of things. But we need to focus on the match and move forward. Now that we're on the pitch, we need to ignore what background noise and focus on the match at hand," the Hinnavaru MP said.

Solih also assured that the four opposition leaders would come up with a mutually agreeable "formula" on a single candidate that all opposition parties can get behind.