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Maldives: Prospects of President Solih’s Re-election

Photo Courtesy Maldives Presidential Website

The prospects for re-election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in Madives remain bright even as there are fissures within his party and some opposition candidates are vying to upstage the votes.

The presidential election 2023 will be held on September 9 and if required a second round will be held on September 30. A budget of MVR 90 million has been allocated for the election.

Here is a review and the scope for President Solih’s re-election-

Solih Nomination

Sunonline reported that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has officially nominated the party’s presidential candidate, incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih by presenting him the ticket on February 17. MDP’s Chairperson Fayyaz Ismail handed over the ticket to President Solih during a special ceremony held for the purpose at Carnival area.

Solih won the primary against Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed with 61 percent (24,566 votes), while Nasheed won 38 percent (15,641 votes) as majority of the Party supported Solih’s re-election to a second term in office.

Nasheed however is yet to announce support to the MDP official candidate now Ibu Solih and boycotted the ceremony. Nasheed has formed a new wing of the party called ‘Fikuregge Dhirun’. While Nasheed is a popular leader of late his policies of disruption such as asking for a referendum for transiting to a parliamentary system has invited some rebuke.

As several MDP members who had aligned with Nasheed have now signed up with the President Nasheed’s camp is considerably weakened.

North Henveiru MP Ibrahim Muizzu, who had sided with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s leader Mohamed Nasheed in the contentious MDP presidential primary, has switched over to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s faction reports Sunonline. Other MPs who had once been among Nasheed’s closest allies who now back President Solih include Thulhaadhoo MP Hisaan Hussain, Fonadhoo MP Moosa Siraj, South Galolhu MP Meekail Ahmed Naseem, and Inguraidhoo MP Hassan Ahmed.

Earlier on February 15, MDP National Council granted the authority to form coalitions to the Presidential nominee Ibrahim Solih. 81 of the 85 members who attended the meeting voted in favor of forming coalitions as per Sun Online.

President Solih’s campaign manager, Kinbidhoo MP Ahmed Nashiz reading the nomination said, “MDP’s National Council resolves to grant the authority to the party’s presidential candidate, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, to form and execute coalition agreements with a political party, a political leader, or a leader of a political movement, under circumstances deemed favorable.” Nasheed’s supporters boycotted this meeting.

Other Candidates

Jumhoory Party (JP) which is presently a member of the ruling coalition is scheduled to hold its congress on February 24, during which it will make its decision regarding the upcoming presidential election.

JP’s leader Qasim Ibrahim had contested the 2008 and the 2013 presidential elections and may opt to stand for the polls this time around but will not get past the first round. The aim maybe to gain sufficient votes to be able to gain leverage over the possible Presidential candidate thereby gaining ministerial posts in a new government.

The main opposition party has already nominated Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) is in coalition with the People’s National Congress (PNC).

MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed may even go to the extent of joining hands with Gayoom with a view to defeat Solih. The ‘Fikuregge Dhirun,’ declared as a movement at present could be converted into a political party with loyalists of Nasheed forming the main block.

As Yameen is in jail on corruption charges he may be banned from the Presidential polls in which case maybe Nasheed is even hoping that he can be the PPM Presidential candidate.

Another likely candidate is Ahmed Faris Maumoon, former parliamentarian and elder son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom as a social media campaign has been launched on his behalf.

Scope for Solih

While President Solih has a fair chance of winning the Presidential elections possibly in the first round, some challenges need to be outlined.

PPM is attempting the release of Gayyoom by the judiciary, which has not been completely partial. If Gayyoom emerges as a legitimate Presidential candidate the elections may go to the second round else Solih may win in the first round.

Nasheed will remain a dark horse even though without the support of the MDP his chances are limited and if he is nominated as a candidate of another party including PPM this may even split the main opposition party. JPs Qasim Ibrahim and Ahmed Faris Maoumoon if they opt for the polls may eat into the vote for President Solih but are unlikely to be contenders for the second round.

The India China Signal

Maldives occupies a significant strategic location in the southern Indian Ocean and thus has been wooed by regional competitors India and China. India and China have provided substantial development aid assistance to Maldives. Presently the preference is for India given the inkling of the Ibu Solih administration. It is anticipated that India and China will attempt to shape the presidential elections with the view to get their favorites in the top post.

India will be supporting re-election of President Solih given expanded relations during his Presidency. India could influence Nasheed to stay out of the polls but the impetuous former President may not concur if such a request is made.

China’s preference will be Gayyoom who is unlikely to be qualified to participate in the Presidential polls.

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