Ruling party running mate reveals opposition approach

Newly named ruling party running mate Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed on Wednesday claimed that the opposition alliance had approached him with an offer to be its running mate for the upcoming presidential elections.

Speaking during a ruling party campaign rally in the capital on Wednesday evening, the renowned Islamic scholar said he was first offered a ministerial portfolio in an opposition government which he said he declined.

Later a top opposition official had approached him with an offer to become the opposition running mate, Shaheem claimed.

"... I told them straight up no no no. I don't want to be a part of that," he said.

However, he said that when president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had offered him the chance to be his running mate he had accepted without hesitation because of this government's efforts to promote and strengthen Islam in the Maldives.

Shaheem who was named as president Yameen's running mate had said he would not be stepping down as the Chancellor of the Islamic University of Maldives (IUM).

He had explained that the Islamic University remained an important initiative of president Yameen who needs him to stay on and develop the university even after the elections.

President Yameen has been accusing the opposition of attempting to grant religious freedom in the 100 percent Muslim nation and Shaheem remains pivotal to his plans to convince leading Islamic scholars to back his re-election campaign.

Shaheem had been president Yameen's first Islamic minister but had stepped down after the jailing of his long-time friend and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Shaheem was appointed as the IUM chancellor in 2016 and had later quit from Adhaalath Party citing differences with current party ideologies.