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Nasheed meets Solih, helps clear clouds on India pact

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Back home after five months, Maldives Parliament Speaker Mohammed Nasheed met with President Ibrahim Solih on Sunday, 24 October, days after declaring that he was ‘ready to work’ with his long-time. They met at the President’s Office, and discussed national economy, environment, and governance-system—which Nasheed wants changed from the present presidential form to a parliamentary scheme.

Earlier, at his maiden in-person news conference in Malé, Nasheed had said that before taking a decision on the transition to a parliamentary scheme, he would ‘dialogue’ with Solih , who had received his old friend and party boss, when the former flew in from London via Dubai. Now that he has held at least one round of discussions with Solih, Nasheed’s next move will be keenly watched.

While overseas, where he underwent follow-up treatment for injuries sustained in a targeted bomb-blast in Malé on 6 May, Nasheed declared, ‘not to politically align’ with Solih, and demanded an early transition from presidential governance. Referring to the constitutionally-mandated ‘national referendum’ for such transition, Solih promised to act according to people’s wishes, which a decade ago had favoured the presidential form.

Factionalism in the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had demoralised party supporters and cadres alike, and was reflected in the low turn-outs in the nation-wide local government elections (LGE) and the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) organisational polls, held in April and September, respectively. If the more recent reconciliation mood prevails, the fear of a vertical-split following the mutually-contested results of the organisational polls may have evaporated, at least for now.

Staying in touch

Independent of Nasheed’s position on continuing with or rescheduling his transition demand, a clearer picture on mainstay MDP politics will emerge (only) when he clarifies his position on party primaries for choosing the 2023 presidential candidate. The Solih camp feels that the incumbent should have automatic nomination, and cite a contested provision in the party’s amended bye-laws. Solih too has not announced his decision in the matter, leading to speculative arguments, all round.

Both President Solih and Speaker Nasheed are attending the UN Climate Change Conference (31 Oct-12 Nov) at Glasgow in the UK. En route, Solih visited the Dubai Expo, which Nasheed attended during his homeward trip. Within the country, Solih has been undertaking extensive tours of the islands, to review developmental projects and attend other public events in his capacity as President—and stay in touch with constituents and cadres alike.

Avoidable embarrassment

The seeming reproachment within the MDP leader of the ruling coalition has the potential to upset the party’s three allies in what still is a coalition government. They had contributed to Solih’s unprecedented first-round victory in the elections of2018, and have since reiterated their independent support for the presidential system.

In context, the timing of the leak of a fortnight-old President’s Office missive, removing the Maldives Police Service (MPS) from the care of the Home Ministry, headed by Imran Abdulla, leader of the Adhalaath Party (AP) ally, had led to avoidable multiple embarrassments to the Solih leadership as none else earlier. In the Parliament, Speaker Nasheed had clarified that under the new Act, the Home Ministry would now be in charge of policymaking.

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