All eyes on MDP congress as opposition awaits new pres candidate

As the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) kicks-off its extraordinary congress all eyes are on Ukulhas island in Alif Alif Atoll as the tiny island nation await the outcome which would decide the opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

Over 1,000 MDP congressmen and women along with top MDP officials have already registered for the congress which is now officially underway but signifies a deeper purpose that remain key for the now united opposition as it eagerly awaits to learn the name of a candidate who would lead the opposition in the upcoming presidential elections.

The importance of the congress has been further underscored after the shock decision by self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed to withdraw from the presidential race the day before.

Though the hugely popular opposition leader's candidacy has been in serious doubt over his terrorism conviction, no one really expected him to relinquish his chance for a second term.

There had been hope that Nasheed would step aside and back a realistic coalition candidate to go up against incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in September. But Nasheed contested and won the recently concluded party primary to secure the MDP presidential ticket which has since been rejected by the archipelago's electoral watchdog.

Nasheed's refusal to back-down had threatened to destroy the once unimaginable alliance he had formed with former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the other two opposition party leaders - Gasim Ibrahim and Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Nasheed's insistence on running the presidential race had also threatened opposition hopes of nominating a mutually agreeable single candidate for the crunch elections. It had also reportedly caused a major rift inside his own party, especially after some senior opposition officials publicly backed an alternative to take Nasheed's place.

According to party sources, MDP is now expected to amend its charter on Saturday to give the authority to the party's council to pick a presidential candidate after skipping a primary.

Nasheed's sudden withdrawal, has now united the once divided opposition and have finally agreed on nominating a single candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

Hours after Nasheed's withdrawal, the four leaders in a joint statement said the opposition have now reached an agreement to join forces against incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

According to the long awaited agreement, the presidential candidate would be from MDP while the running mate would be nominated by Gasim's Jumhoory Party (JP).