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Maldives President downplays rifts in coalition


President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday downplayed rifts in the ruling coalition after Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim kept up attacks against former president Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Taking questions on a range of issues at his second press conference since assuming office in November, President Solih expressed confidence that the JP would remain in the coalition and dismissed speculation that Gasim could form an opposition alliance with former president Abdulla Yameen.

“We made this coalition knowing that there would be disagreements and with the understanding that we would move forward despite these disagreements,” he said.

“I don’t believe there are any big problems. The problems between Nasheed and Gasim are just difference of opinions. we knew it would happen.”

Cracks appeared in the four-party coalition after the MDP decided to field candidates in all 87 parliamentary constituencies in the upcoming election, drawing accusations from the JP of reneging on an agreement to divide seats among the parties.

But Solih, who contested as an MDP candidate with a JP running mate, backed his party’s stance on the absence of a binding coalition agreement to jointly contest the parliamentary elections.

“There is an agreement signed by myself, [MDP chairman] Hassan Latheef and JP. There is another agreement with Adhaalath Party. But there is no agreement signed by all four parties,” he said, referring to former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom not signing the agreement reached between the other coalition partners.

“We tried to get everyone to sign onto the separate agreements, but that was unsuccessful.”

As the leaders have been unable to reach an agreement, “all parties are trying to win as many seats as possible, that is how it will be,” he said.

While it would be best “if we go it together,” Solih repeatedly said he wanted “a majority that supports the government.”

“I want to see members from all four coalition parties in Majlis, and I want a Majlis majority for the government. I want a Majlis that will support and back the government to fulfil the pledges we made,” he said.

Solih also declared that he would veto an amendment proposed by a coalition lawmaker to bar former presidents from running for parliament.

“I will not ratify it. I will not support any amendment that restricts the political rights of anyone. I will not sign it,” he said.

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