In a stunning development, self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed has decided not to stand for the upcoming presidential elections despite having already secured main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ticket.
AVAS understand that Nasheed had announced his decision in a message to the joint opposition parliamentary group. In his message, Nasheed explained that if he doesn't give up the party ticket, then there was every chance that a MDP candidate might not be able to run in the elections.
Nasheed lives in self imposed exile most recently in Sri Lanka after he was allowed to leave to the UK on medical leave in an internationally brokered deal following his jailing on terrorism charges.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison over the arbitrary arrest and subsequent detention of a sitting judge while he was president.
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 appeared to have fractured with Nasheed contesting and winning the highly disputed presidential primary held by his party. Nasheed had also pressed ahead with his campaign despite the country's electoral watchdog refusing to accept his candidacy.
He is expected to publicly announce the decision during MDP's national congress which is set to begin tomorrow in Alif Alif Atoll Ukulhas island.
MDP's presidential ticket is now expected to be given to its parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Nasheed's sudden announcement came days after Solih flew to Sri Lanka to meet with the MDP leader.
Nasheed's refusal to back-down despite his chances to stand for the elections looking slim had reportedly caused a rift in his MDP. the veteran lawmaker Solih had emerged as a candidate to challenge Nasheed from within the party with several senior opposition officials already backing him for the crunch elections.