From loyal party support to Nasheed's political future: What we learned from the MDP congress

On Saturday, Maldives' main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held an extraordinary congress. The mass gathering of loyal MDP supporters along with over a 1,000 congressmen and women held outside the capital Male was historic in more ways than one.

Here's what we learned from the extraordinary congress.

'Perfect hosts' Ukulhas island makes history

MDP may have been forced to hold the congress in Alif Alif Atoll Ukulhas island after the government refused a venue for the opposition party from the capital Male. But the island - just a shade under 72km east of the capital Male was certainly not overwhelmed by the occasion becoming the only island outside the capital to host a political party congress.

The excellent arrangements were clear to see as the island - famed for its unique environmental friendly waste management system accommodated MDP officials and supporters equal to its 1,000 population.

True meaning of loyal party support

At time when the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has been accused of forcing government and state employees to attend its rallies, MDP once again showcased what loyal party support truly means. Hosting an event of such magnitude outside the capital Male would pose unimaginable administrative and logistical nightmares. But the hundreds of proud volunteers and party supporters scurried around the island, following instructions to the letter to ensure the congress was a success.

Need for top MDP officials to 'read' the party charter

MDP supporters and the island of Ukulhas certainly cannot be blamed when top MDP officials failed to properly read the party's charter that provided the only blemish on an otherwise perfect political event. How a simple voting procedure eluded the cream of the party's administrative officials was baffling as congress members were forced to re-vote on the second most important agenda item put to a vote on Saturday.

Nasheed's political future

Self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed may have withdrawn from the presidential race for the time being. His sudden withdrawal with less than a day before the congress, though expected left the country in shock. Though he has been almost definitely ruled out of the elections in September due to his terrorism conviction, Nasheed was expected to fight until the last moment in an attempt to force the government's hand.

Many of his supporters were left wondering if his decision to forfeit the MDP presidential ticket which he had won in a primary, would mean the end of his political career. But his supporters were not left to fret for long as the MDP manifesto revealed plans for early elections. The opposition coalition government would hold office for 18 months before paving the way for Nasheed and co to contest for the presidency.

A 'worthy' opposition presidential candidate

Despite what else transpired on Saturday, the main headline belongs to chief MDP lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The veteran lawmaker who has served in parliament since 1995 has been truly backed to lead the opposition alliance into the crunch elections which would decide the future of the opposition leaders either in jail or in exile.

Soft spoken yet articulate, composed yet passionate, many believe Solih who also commands the support and respect of party supporters and peers alike has all the key attributes of uniting the opposition which seemed divided until Nasheed's withdrawal.