COLOMBO: Opposition parties in the Maldives agreed on Saturday to field a joint candidate in September’s presidential elections to challenge incumbent Abdulla Yameen, whose crackdown on dissent has alarmed the international community.
Yameen declared a state of emergency in February in the Indian Ocean honeymoon paradise, a move critics say was aimed at averting his impeachment. All his main rivals have meanwhile been jailed.
Saturday’s announcement came after ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, who is in self-imposed exile in London, said on Friday that he would not return to run in the September 23 vote.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said Saturday it has agreed to join several other parties, including a breakaway faction of Yameen’s ruling party, to form an alliance.
“My heartfelt congratulations to the joint opposition parties who have today agreed to field a common presidential ticket,” Nasheed said on Twitter.
Opposition sources in the Maldives said the MDP’s parliamentary leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is tipped to be named as the common candidate.
Yameen declared the state of emergency — which lasted 45 days — after the top court ordered dissidents to be freed from jail and seats of ruling party MPs sacked by Yameen to be restored.
The chief justice and the supreme court justice were subsequently arrested along with Yameen’s half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a former strongman who ruled for 30 years until 2008.
The United States and the European Union have expressed deep concern over Yameen’s actions. Rights activists have asked the EU to slap sanctions on Yameen and key aides.
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