Opposition running mate debate intensifies

Maldives United Opposition; an alliance once deemed impossible was formed after shocking the entire nation when former presidents and bitter rivals Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed joined forces to work together.

The opposition coalition is also joined by Jumhooree Party and its leader, local business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim as well as the religiously conservative Adaalath Party.

No one was the wiser when four contrasting political ideologies had decided to band together and introduce a fresh impetus into political reform and a powerful opposition movement against incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom who is Gayoom's younger half-brother.

Though the alliance seemed like a desert traveler's mirage, the multiple parties had endured a lot of trials and tribulations together; most noticeably the floor-crossing of dozen lawmakers from majority holder Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) followed by their disqualification.

During the calamity struck February 1 and succeeding February 5 incident had also seemingly solidified the bonds between opposition parties as MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) members and elites joined hands with JP members and Gayoom's loyal aides.

However the single-candidate issue sparked unrest within the thin-bricked opposition with each party refusing to fully agree or respect the terms of the other. This also expanded into each opposition party entertaining the idea of nominating their own individual candidate for presidential election.

The situation became considerably tense when the now self-exiled Nasheed announced his decision to run for office and contested the MDP primary. After winning the primary uncontested, he was granted the party's ticket to run for the top-office despite the electoral watchdog refusing to accept him as an eligible candidate due to his terrorism conviction.

Nasheed who has been labelled as a fugitive over a 13 year jail sentence on the terrorism conviction is ineligible according to Maldives Constitution, and the country's electoral watchdog had pressed on the same statement.

It almost seemed the impossible alliance; formed through much effort was at the brink of collapse when Nasheed once again surprised the island nation by withdrawing from the elections.

His withdrawal from the presidential race meant the leading opposition party; MDP was able to select an 'eligible' candidate for the race. Thus the party's congress unanimously selected the party's parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as their beloved leader's replacement.

Since he had been an immediate favorite among the opposition as a presidential candidate, the alliance was quick to echo their approval.

Even the ruling party members had congratulated opposition on nominating Solih as their presidential contender.

While MDP nominated the presidential candidate, the responsibility of nominating a running mate was tasked to the second largest party in opposition; Gasim Ibrahim founded Jumhooree Party.

This is where the situation has once again started to intensify. With the clock ticking down the party seems to be battling an internal rift.

The running mate debate has created visible split in belief or ideology within the party. The party's vice president Dr. Abdulla Mausoom tweeted by saying any intention by the running mate to attain the presidential seat could pave way for nation-wide uprising.

Mausoom is one name emerging in the party's running mate race along with four other renowned members. These include deputy leaders Abdulla Ameen and Hussain Rasheed Hassan as well as newly introduced council member, Aishath Nahula; the business tycoon's wife.

Lawmakers affiliated to the party Ali Hussain and Faisal Naseem appear to have thrown their respective names in the hat.

While the debate on Jumhooree Party's running mate has sparked clear unrest within the party, many outsiders have chimed into the discussion expressing their respective concerns.

One such voice is of the opposition aligned independent lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof. The once government MP had stressed on the importance of the parties' mutual consent on both presidential and running mate candidates.

Meanwhile JP attached lawmaker Ali Hussain leads the running mate contender race on social media platforms. Many have coincided their approval to the lawmaker as running mate in the upcoming elections.

The other leading contender in the race is Gasim Ibrahim's wife, Aishath Nahula. While she has mustered considerable support from party members and opposition, it is highly expected the business tycoon would be backing his wife for the position. It would be close to home for the politician who has had a track-record of 'backing the winning force.'

Jumhooree Party has announced they will elect a running mate through a special council meeting. Although the meeting has not been conceived, the party claims they will go ahead with the council meeting soon.

Now what remains to be observed is whether the second leading opposition party emerges with a mutually agreed, fully consented running mate candidate to stand beside the MDP presidential candidate come September.