Amid ruling party infighting, a former Maldivian president waits in the wings

If Yameen returns to power in the Maldives, it would have repercussions on the present close strategic ties with India

Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar Jun 16, 2022
Mohammed Nasheed, Ibrahim Solih, Abdullah Yameen

For over a year now, the Maldives government led by the ruling Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) has been on the backfoot, struggling politically to contain the “India Out” campaign championed by former president Abdullah Yameen. With the presidential election scheduled for next year, the MDP seems to have yet another challenge: a growing tussle between President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih and party leader Mohammed Nasheed.

The MDP came into power in 2018, defeating the China-leaning and autocratic government of Yameen in the presidential elections. However, despite enjoying a comfortable majority in the parliament, the ruling party has hardly been at ease.

The constant power struggle in the party between the once famous childhood friends, President Solih and party Chairman and former president Nasheed, has been on public display on more than one occasion. Solih, leading a coalition government with the MDP being the main party, often faces pushback against his government from the Nasheed camp.

Nasheed vs Solih 

In April this year, Nasheed, who is also the Speaker of the Maldivian parliament, even asked his MPs not to side with what he called the “drowning” government. In the past also, he had made similar remarks about the Solih government. 

Two flashpoints are the latest in the power tussle: Solih’s announcement to seek re-election as president and the party’s attempt to sack Prosecutor-General Hussain Shameen through a no-confidence motion in the parliament.

The latter seems to have brought the two camps into an open confrontation as 18 MPs on the side of Nasheed are planning to go against the party’s whip, prompting the party to warn its lawmakers of disciplinary action. Eva Abdullah, the deputy speaker of the parliament, who belongs to the Nasheed camp, said that she wouldn’t obey the whip line without a proper debate within the party.

Stronger Solih 

Furthermore, over the past few months, the Solih camp has strengthened its grip on the party after winning its internal congress elections last year. Earlier this week, supporters of Nasheed also failed to defeat a motion calling for the removal of Prosector-General Shameen at the party’s Parliamentary Group meeting.

Of the 65 MDP MPs, 46 are siding with President Solih while the remaining are on the side of Nasheed.

At the heart of the rivalry lies the ambition to run for the presidency next year. With Solih solidifying his grip on the party and winning supporters among allies in the coalition government, the chances of Nasheed securing nomination from the MDP looks bleak.

Advantage Yameen? 

This tussle is likely to grow in the coming months as neither side appears in a mood to give the other a walk over. The man likely to gain most from it is former president Yameen, who is eying a return to power next year.  

And if Yameen returns, it would have repercussions on the Maldives’ present close strategic ties with India.  

(The author is Research Associate, Society for Policy Studies. Views are personal)

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