JP downplays coalition rift to rekindle single candidate hopes

Opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) on Wednesday downplayed a reported rift with coalition partner and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to rekindle hopes of nominating a single candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

The reassurance came less than a day after JP leader Gasim Ibrahim announced his own coalition government for the elections with MDP glaringly left out.

The business tycoon who now lives in self imposed exile in Germany after he was convicted of bribery and sentenced to over three years in prison in August last year via Facebook live announced his government with a shadow cabinet which included key members of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

The former lawmaker had named himself as president with former vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed who had recently joined JP as his deputy to lead a government of 20 ministries. Notable members of Gasim's shadow cabinet included Gayoom's two daughters, AP leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, jailed former defence minister Colonel Mohamed Nazim while Gayoom's now jailed lawmaker son Faris Maumoon had been named as the parliament Speaker.

Gasim had glaringly left out main MDP which he along with former presidents Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed and Imran Abdulla had been working together as part of a coalition.

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, even before Gasim's announcement, the coalition appeared to have fractured with Nasheed contesting and winning the highly disputed presidential primary held by his party recently.

JP deputy leader Dr Hussain Rasheed however, said recent developments would not hinder ongoing efforts to nominate a joint candidate with months remaining for the crunch elections. He expressed confidence that the united opposition would be able to agree on a "worthy" candidate "very soon".

Gasim meanwhile had said the names included his government were picked based on allies who appear most likely to work together with his party for the elections and beyond.

However, Adhaalath Party quickly took to Twitter to deny any agreement with Gasim insisting its commitment to working together with the other parties as part of the original coalition pact.

One of Gayoom's top aides also echoed similar sentiments but went further to insist that the 80 year old remains part of the ongoing talks with the other opposition parties to nominate a joint candidate for the upcoming elections.

Most members included in Gasim's shadow cabinet when contacted by AVAS expressed surprise to deny any knowledge or prior offer by the business tycoon.