Who is winning at presidential election campaign?

The much coveted crunch elections to determine who will be leading the island nation of Maldives as its president is tabled for September 23.

The 2018 presidential election will determine who out of the contesting candidates emerges victorious to lead the country for the next five years.

Five years back, in 2013 when the country went into its second multi-party election the political spectrum looked quite different from what it is now; in fact it has magnanimously changed ever since.

Rivals turned to allies and friends have turned to bitter enemies, but the strategies, schemes and ploys at the core of the island nation's power struggle remains pretty much the same; two opposing political ideologies smearing each other, pledging infrastructural development and prosperity, preservation of religion and so on go to great lengths in winning the public's heart.

By the time the crunch elections arrive in 2018, the impossible has already happened. Two polar opposites in political ideologies and strong rivals Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed shocked the entire nation by inking a pact to work together.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who is hopeful in getting re-elected to top-office faces a new challenge this time around. Back in 2013, his half-brother and former president Gayoom was backing him, supporting his cause along with several other influential figures at his flank.

President Yameen had since successfully managed to alienate pretty much every crucial ally he once had, turning them into sworn enemies (but nothing is permanent and nothing is certain in Maldivian political arena). Many accuse the current president of surgically removing every potential player from having any opportunity to claim the 'throne.'

The current administration had since moved towards imprisoning several influential political figures under varying degrees of convictions against them. Former defense minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim was jailed for illegal possession of firearms.

Religiously conservative Adhaalath Party's Sheikh Imran Abdullah found his way behind bars for a provocative speech delivered during the infamous May-Day protest back in 2015.

Former vice-president Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor is currently serving a 33 year jail term after being convicted of multiple counts of terrorism including a plot to assassinate president Abdulla Yameen.

Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim too was jailed for bribery conviction; he had been convicted of bribing parliamentarians during the no-confidence motion against parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh. Gayoom's lawmaker son Ahmed Faris Maumoon is currently locked behind bars for conviction of bribing parliamentarians during the same no-confidence motion as well.

Before all this, Yameen's administration managed to jail former president Mohamed Nasheed for terrorism conviction. He has since fled the nation and found sanctuary from UK.

Yameen's allies back in 2013, were meticulously removed from their respective positions of influence and to add insult to injury the two most contrasting political rivals decided it was the best time to work together.

The incumbent president looking for a second term faces the collective ideologies of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed and even the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party. Not to mention Jumhooree Party is currently sided with the opposition.

Looking at the strength, it can be easily said that opposition trumps with numbers; it has more political figures compared to the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives' (PPM) end. Looking at the country's parliament, the numbers favor the state.

With a dozen lawmakers apparently deposed according to the country's electoral watchdog, opposition fails to hold majority.

However, a presidential election under a democratic system is detached from the country's parliament and its decisions.

Meanwhile the year kicked off interestingly when the country's Supreme Court surprised everyone on February 1 by ordering the release of nine political prisoners including former president Mohamed Nasheed and former vice-president Ahmed Adheeb.

This led to president Yameen tossing and turning every play in the book, eventually leading him to take extreme measures by announcing the second state of emergency since he took office.

More than 20 constitutional rights and several judicature rights were suspended, including the Criminal Procedure Act granting the state to make arbitrary detentions of any dissenting voice.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was jailed almost immediately after the emergency proclamation while two top-court judges found their way behind cells as well.

There is no doubt that this had gravely angered the opposition and they will hit every nook and corner to change the tides of the Maldivian political spectrum.

While opposition had attempted to oust president Abdulla Yameen from power in various manners, it had all faced failure. The only option at hand was to contest in the presidential election and beat him.

Thus started a multi-party discussion to nominate a single candidate to contest against Abdulla Yameen; and after lots of trials and tribulations the opposition found their perfect presidential candidate in Maldivian Democratic Party's (MDP) parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Ruling party nominated famed religious scholar and Islamic University of Maldives' chancellor Dr. Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as their running-mate. This lead to the opposition hastening to find their counterpart as well and thus lawmaker Faisal Naseem was nominated from Jumhooree Party to lead as running-mate for the opposition.

Both running mates are well educated and respected individuals, where one is a well known religious cleric and the other is famous for his social contribution while both as political experience and caliber.

Interestingly both running-mates originate from the southern atolls of Maldives; Dr. Shaheem is from Gaaf Alif Maamendhoo while Faisal Naseem is from Gnaviyani Fuvahmulah.

Meanwhile several of the deposed lawmakers belong to Huvadhoo atoll (the collective atolls of both Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal) meaning the ruling party may stand to lose considerable number of votes from these constituencies. If that becomes the case then president Abdulla Yameen would lose a huge chunk of votes since the atoll is one of the most populated areas in the island nation.

Fuvahmulah, the only island of Gnaviyani atoll has a large population. In 2018 presidential polls at least 9,522 votes will be originating from the island. With a running-mate from Fuvahmulah, chances are the locals of the island would favor one close to home than an 'outsider.'

Though Faisal Naseem represents Kaafu atoll Kaashidhoo, he has been a prominent aid to his home island so it is highly believed he may find success in garnering support and in turn turn them into votes in the elections.

However, that does not mean Dr. Shaheem will be at a complete disadvantage. As a religious cleric, well regarded and far more visible in the local political arena Dr. Shaheem may find an upper-hand with his popularity among religiously conservative or conscious individuals.

At this point, it can be noted as any man's game. The winner is the one who successfully manages to win the hearts of the public and convince the Maldivian citizens.