New JP president vows 'bigger things' after Maldives return

Newly elected opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) Ali Waheed on Saturday vowed to make the party the biggest in the country after returning to the Maldives later this year.

Former main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed who only recently switched sides to join JP was elected as its new president during the party's national congress on Friday.

As the only candidate for the post, Ali Waheed was elected through a referendum vote after receiving 154 votes in favour while 102 voted against despite a major anti-campaign from within the party to prevent his election.

Speaking during the closing ceremony of the party's national congress, Ali Waheed who lives in self-imposed exile in UK said he would return to the Maldives with JP leader Gasim Ibrahim later this year.

Praising Gasim as a leader who can get the country back on track, Ali Waheed also vowed to help JP win the upcoming presidential elections slated for September.

However, Ali Waheed insisted that the opposition parties put aside their own political ambitions to come together for the country and its people.

Referring to the now stalled discussions of nominating a single coalition candidate for the elections, Ali Waheed urged the parties to come to a consensus for the sake of the people and the country.

"We shouldn't be thinking about which party would rule the country. Or which party would be vice president. Everybody needs to take a step back and put the interests of the country above all else. Its everyone's party. Its everyone's rule," he stressed.

JP meanwhile has been forced to downplay a reported rift with coalition partner and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to rekindle hopes of nominating a single candidate for the elections.

The reassurance came less than a day after Gasim 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.