Tensions rise in Maldives as Speaker Nasheed forms new political party ahead of Presidential election

Twelve parliamentarians supporting Nasheed resign from the ruling political party

Surinder Singh Oberoi
New Update
mohamed nasheed maldives

Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed (File image)

New Delhi: Supporters of former President and current Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed have announced the formation of a new political party called "Fikurehge Dhirun."

Led by Nasheed, who is also the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the party is yet to see Nasheed resign from the MDP, possibly anticipating expulsion from the ruling party.

Nasheed's intention to contest the Presidential elections on September 9, 2023, adds to the challenges faced by the ruling party, which is already contending with opposition parties.

The split within the MDP will benefit the opposition, creating new coalitions against the ruling party for the upcoming Presidential elections. The new party, "Fikurehge Dhirun," takes its name from a separate political movement initiated by Nasheed within the MDP after his defeat in the party's presidential primary in January.

On Wednesday, twelve parliamentarians supporting Nasheed resigned from the MDP in pursuit of forming a new political party. Notable among the departures is Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla, while Nasheed himself has yet to resign and continues to serve as the Speaker of the Parliament. With its members in Parliament, Nasheed's new party would become the largest opposition party.

Despite the resignation of the twelve MPs, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih maintains complete control of the Parliament, with the support of 56 MPs.

Earlier Azim, a supporter of Nasheed accused the government of failing to safeguard the interests of the Maldivian people in a case filed with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) concerning the disputed maritime territory between the Maldives and Mauritius. On Tuesday, the party's disciplinary committee decided to expel Azim from the MDP.

Nasheed expressed frustration over Azim's expulsion from the party and the subsequent one-year ban on his re-entry into the political party.

Previously, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed criticized President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, holding him responsible for losing a portion of the Maldives' maritime territory in the border dispute with Mauritius.

Also, Opposition parties, including the Jumhoory Party (JP) and the Maldives National Party (MNP), accused the government of failing to protect Maldives' interests in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) regarding the disputed maritime area between the Maldives and Mauritius.

ITLOS concluded on April 28 that the conflicting Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Mauritius and the Maldives would be divided based on the equidistance formula. The Maldives gained 47,232 square kilometres of the disputed maritime territory, while Mauritius gained 45,331 square kilometres. The opposition alliance argues that the Maldives are entitled to 95,563 square kilometres of disputed maritime territory.

Recently, Attorney General of Maldives Ibrahim Riffath faced a parliamentary no-confidence motion accusing him of acting against the best interests of Maldivian citizens in the maritime border dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius, which ITLOS reviewed.

The motion was filed by an opposition alliance consisting of the PPM-PNC coalition, 'Fikuregge Dhurin' led by MDP's leader and Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, along with the Jumhoory Party and Maldives National Party.

Nasheed emphasized that the case was submitted to ITLOS based on a decision made by the president, resulting in the loss of a portion of the Maldives' maritime territory. He highlighted that the Parliament had not been informed when the ITLOS case was filed.

With the upcoming national elections in the Maldives scheduled for September 9, the opposition is increasing efforts to hinder the popular ruling government.

Internal divisions and conflicts between President Mohamed Solih and former President Nasheed pose a significant setback for the ruling party. Despite President Solih's clear mandate from party workers a few months ago, tensions persist. Nasheed previously lost the presidential candidacy within the party.

The internal discord benefits the opposition party led by the China-backed former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Yameen, who has been convicted and sentenced for money laundering and bribery related to resort development, is expected to be the opposition coalition's presidential candidate if his appeal is successful and he qualifies for the election.

These recent developments set the stage for a highly contested and politically charged presidential election in the Maldives. The growing conflict between Parliament Speaker and President Solih presents a significant challenge for the ruling party and provides an advantage to the opposition.

The outcome of the upcoming presidential election will have significant implications for the strategic interests of India and China. A victory for President Solih and his Maldivian Democratic Party would likely continue the country's recent trend of strengthening ties with India. Conversely, a return to power by Yameen's party or any other opposition party would represent a setback for India and a significant opportunity for China to expand its influence in the Maldives.