Former president Mohamed Nasheed on Wednesday met with the prime minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Nasheed revealed in a cryptic tweet that he had “discussed the need for inclusive, free and fair elections” in the Maldives with Wickremesinghe, who is also the leader of Sri Lanka’s United National Party.
The former president had previously met with the Sri Lankan prime minister on various occasions to discuss the political landscape of the Maldives.
Nasheed had in October called to elect an interim president in the Presidential Elections 2018, claiming that he did not believe a free and fair election would be held next year. He suggested that the recently formed joint opposition should nominate a candidate that will safeguard democratic values, restore the functionality of independent institutions and ensure that a fair election is held.
Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has declared its support for Nasheed’s suggestion while religiously conservative Adhaalath Party has also announced that it would back a coalition government that supports its beliefs. However, Jumhoory Party of the coalition has not made an official decision yet, while former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is now affiliated with the joint opposition, has refrained from commenting on the matter.
Nasheed is currently sentenced to thirteen years in jail under terrorism charges for the arbitrary detention of the High Court’s former chief judge Abdulla Mohamed during his presidency. He has since fled to the United Kingdom where he has been living under political asylum for over a year.
The conviction disqualifies Nasheed from running for president under the Maldivian Constitution. However, Nasheed and the opposition insist that he was convicted on “politically motivated” trumped up charges and that he should be allowed to run.
The government has so far remained unflappable in the face of the opposition’s stand, and ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has repeatedly declared that Nasheed has “no legal chance” of running for president in 2018.
In the meantime, Nasheed has been visiting Sri Lanka often to meet up with members of the opposition coalition, hold political activities, and meet with foreign diplomats to discuss the political situation of the Maldives. The inclining opposition activities in Sri Lanka has led the ruling party to dub the country as an MDP “stronghold”, though the Maldivian ambassador in Sri Lanka, Mohamed Hussain Shareef, has refuted the reputation and insisted that PPM support is also strong in Sri Lanka.
However, PPM’s deputy leader and Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed had recently made serious allegations against Sri Lanka, accusing the country’s government of aiding the Maldives’ opposition in its attempts to overthrow the ruling government.