Exiled Maldives opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has said he has forgiven his arch nemesis Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who repeatedly threw him in jail, and is in talks with his predecessor to “legally topple” the current leader of the troubled archipelago.
Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives in 2008, but now lives in exile in London after he was jailed on terrorism charges that he says were politically motivated.
In the past he has accused Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years and is still regarded as the power behind the throne, of being behind his downfall.
But on Tuesday he indicated he wanted to bury the hatchet with Gayoom, after a public rift between the former strongman and his half-brother, incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom leaving the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) split in half.
“How can you build a future if you always want to go back to live in the past,” Nasheed told reporters in Colombo via a video link from London.
“Yameen’s days are numbered. He has lost the support of the people and the international community. We can restore democracy in the Maldives.”
Nasheed said he had forgiven Gayoom and was in talks with his faction of PPM “for a new political alignment”.
He did not disclose details, but said he had visited Colombo late last month to meet fellow dissidents and map out a strategy to “legally topple” Yameen.
He served repeated jail terms under Gayoom’s autocratic leadership before winning the country’s first democratic election in 2008.
There was no immediate comment from Gayoom, however, and diplomats in Colombo were cautious about the prospect of such an alliance.
“The opposition was expecting Gayoom to get a section of his party to withdraw support for Yameen late last month, but for some reason that did not happen,” one western diplomatic source in Colombo told international newswire AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It is not easy for the opposition to organise any agitation inside the country because all their leaders are either in jail or in exile.”
An alliance between the elder Gayoom and Nasheed was unthinkable even a few months ago.
Gayoom who ruled the country for 30 straight years till 2008, was accused of engineering Nasheed’s downfall in 2012.
Nasheed said he was forced to step down following a mutiny by police and security forces after weeks of anti-government protests in the capital island Male.
Nasheed after his recent to visit to Colombo for the first time publicly admitted that Gayoom has joined the opposition led push to oust president Yameen.
Gayoom had not denied his successor’s comments but PPM in a statement had said its leader would not “do anything to violate the constitution.”
According to Nasheed such an arrangement would comprise his Maldivian Democratic Party and other opposition parties, now banded together as the Maldivian United Opposition, along with ruling party dissidents led by Gayoom.
Nasheed was jailed for 13 years in 2015 but granted prison leave earlier this year for medical treatment in London, where he secured political asylum.
A UN panel has ruled that his imprisonment was illegal and ordered the regime to pay him compensation.
The United States has said democracy is under threat in the strategically located archipelago, which sits on key international shipping lanes.
International spokesman for the President’s Office Ibrahim Hussain Shihab has said there are differences within the ruling party, but that these are not serious.
Asked on Tuesday whether Gayoom would help bring down his own half brother, Nasheed replied: “Half brothers hitting at each other is Maldives politics.”
Nasheed’s comments came in the wake of a documentary by Al Jazeera which claims Nasheed had USD50,000 to Gayoom in a bid to buy his support for the opposition alliance.
Both the former presidents have however denied the allegations.
According to the Doha based broadcaster, Gayoom who is the half brother of incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom demanded USD100,000 from Nasheed earlier this year, as part of negotiations over an alliance to oust Yameen from office.
The report also quoted sources who claimed that the elder Gayoom had demanded the money as a show of goodwill.
“Sources say Nasheed paid at least one installment of USD50,000, although he denies the allegation,” Al Jazeera said.