Maldives' chief opposition lawmaker replaces Nasheed as pres candidate

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on Saturday officially named its chief lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as its candidate for the upcoming presidential elections after self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed forfeited his candidacy.

MDP during its ongoing extraordinary congress attended by over a 1,000 congressmen and women in Alif Alif Atoll Ukulhas island amended its charter to award the party ticket to the veteran lawmaker Solih.

As the only candidate put forth to the congress, every member spoke in high praise of the Hinnavaru lawmaker who was hailed as having a pivotal role in keeping the opposition efforts against the government alive in the face of extreme adversity. The congress unanimously voted in favour of Solih as Nasheed's replacement for the crunch elections which was followed by raucous applause.

Though the hugely popular Nasheed'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 MDP primary to secure the party's presidential ticket which has since been rejected by the archipelago's electoral watchdog.

Nasheed's refusal to back-down had also 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.

But in a stunning development, the human rights activist turned politician, had forfeited his ticket saying 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's shock decision had forced MDP to amend its charter to give the party ticket to the soft spoken Solih with hardly any time to hold a second presidential primary ahead of the September elections.

The move came almost immediately after the party's congress voted to amend its charter that allows the party's congress or the council to award its presidential ticket without a second primary. The congress however, was forced to go for a re-vote to amend its charter after an administrative blunder voided the initial vote.

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.

Gasim's Jumhoory Party (JP) along with Imran's religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) have already come out in support of Solih as the opposition alliance candidate for the elections.

According to the long awaited opposition agreement, the presidential candidate would be Solih while the running mate would be nominated by JP which it said would be announced soon.

But if the coalition led by Solih were to win the elections in September, Nasheed might not have to wait for a half a decade as the MDP manifesto has revealed plans for early elections after just 18 months of an interim coalition government.

Under the manifesto, the coalition government would allow for the country's main opposition leaders who have now been denied the opportunity to contest by the incumbent government. In that regard, the opposition coalition government would hold office for 18 months before paving the way for the top opposition leaders to contest for the presidency.