Nasheed exits presidential race after EC barred him

Former Maldivian President and exiled Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on Friday said that he was exiting the presidential race, after the Election Commission barred his candidacy.

“In light of the fact that @ElectionsMv have written to [Maldivian Democratic Party] MDP saying that I can’t contest in the upcoming Presidential Elections, I have decided to relinquish my Presidential ticket. I hope to do this at MDP’s 3rd Congress. The EC’s decision is illegal and they must be sanctioned,” he said in a tweet.

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Earlier this month, authorities said Maldivian presidential elections would be held on September 23. Incumbent leader President Abdulla Yameen is eyeing another term, while his political opponents and dissidents remain in jail or in exile.

With Mr. Nasheed pulling out of the election, the MDP is considering other candidates. Amidst speculation that the party’s parliamentary group leader and senior lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was a likely replacement, MDP sources said a final decision would be taken based on discussions at the MDP’s national congress scheduled to begin on Saturday.

Amidst what critics deem Mr. Yameen’s growing slant towards authoritarianism, last year, opposition forces announced an unlikely coming together to jointly challenge him. Former Presidents Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two other opposition leaders, Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP) and Sheik Imran of the Adalath Party, decided to work together. However, with the MDP holding its party primaries in May — in which Mr. Nasheed secured a decisive 80% vote — and the JP’s exiled leader Gasim Ibrahim announcing a 20-member proposed Cabinet via Facebook, there were suggestions that the united opposition was in disarray.

Friday’s development revives the chances of a stronger opposition coalition with a common candidate, political sources in Male said.

The Indian Ocean archipelago nation has experienced considerable turbulence since February, following a shock Supreme Court ruling that overturned criminal convictions of nine dissident leaders, including Mr. Nasheed.

President Yameen soon imposed a 45-day Emergency, jailed the Chief Justice and another judge, as well as former President Mr. Gayoom. The remaining judges overturned the Supreme Court order, amidst growing calls from the international community for the return of democracy and rule of law.

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