MDP nominates Nasheed as speaker to prevent party split

In a stunning development, main ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) late Monday nominated former president Mohamed Nasheed as the country's new parliament speaker amid a row that had threatened to split the party in two.

Just a little over five months after returning to the Maldives from self-imposed exile, Nasheed completed his long awaited comeback to the political limelight with a seat in parliament last month.

Nasheed won the Machchangolhi-central seat from the capital Male with a resounding victory over his nearest rival making him the first former president in the country's history to win a seat in parliament. He also spearheaded his party's general election campaign which saw MDP secure a historic super majority with a staggering 65 seats out of the 87 member parliament.

Nasheed had returned to the country on November 1 from enforced exile abroad after the then president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom lost the presidential election to incumbent Ibrahim Ibrahim Solih.

Nasheed was jailed for 13 years on a controversial terrorism charge when Yameen was in power. However, the conviction was overturned last year after the presidency changed.

Party split over speaker row

However, a month after the stunning election victory, MDP was facing a major internal rift over the nomination for parliament speaker. Nasheed had publicly backed North-Hithadhoo MP Mohamed Aslam for the post while his longtime friend Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had supported Vilufushi MP Hassan Afeef as the speaker.

With the country's two most powerful leaders at loggerheads over the nomination, the entire party was headed towards chaos trading verbal blows on social networking sites.

MDP stuns the entire nation

As MDP's parliamentary group gathered to vote on the nomination, the entire country was left holding its breath over the vote which could have decided the fate of the party and the government.

However, the 65 member group including both Aslam and Afeef had pleaded Nasheed to change his mind on becoming the speaker to prevent the party being split into two factions.

After initially turning down the request, the 51 year old Nasheed yielded which resulted in raucous applause. Before accepting, Nasheed took a brief moment to phone a "close friend".

For the moment at least, a looming crisis within the main ruling party appears to have been averted and for the first time in the archipelago's history, Nasheed will become the first former president to serve as speaker when the new parliament is sworn in on Tuesday evening.