Opposition alliance will 'save' Maldives, MDP vows as historic congress kicks off

The opposition alliance will unite behind a single candidate to defeat incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in the upcoming presidential elections to save Maldives from tyranny, main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Hassan Latheef said Saturday as the party kicked off its historic extraordinary congress in Alif Alif Atoll Ukulhas island.

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.

Speaking during the ceremony to inaugurate the one day congress, Latheef insisted that the decisions made during the congress would be key to wresting the country back from the hands of a dictator.

"MDP along with JP, Adhaalath Party and president Gayoom would defeat president Yameen by an overwhelming majority. He [president Yameen] cannot cheat his way out of it. Police and the military would not be able to save him," he said.

Latheef said the opposition amid an intense government crackdown had battled against all odds to hold the congress that would decide the fate of the country.

"We all need to unite to free the police, military, judiciary and state institutions from political influence. MDP will work with the other opposition parties as a single candidate. That single candidate will be from MDP," Latheef stressed.

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).