There is something the former President Mohamed Nasheed had always said. That he intended to return back to the country in time for the 2018 elections. He is merely a sea away from the Maldives at the moment. Senior figures of Maldivian Democratic Party is in Sri Lanka. Nasheed held meetings with Maldivians living in Sri Lanka.
The question that’s on everyone’s mind is, what next?
Nasheed’s visit comes at a time when the whole membership is dismayed by the Party. They say the Party lacks direction. That the Party is covering under the weight of draconian moves by the state and ruling PPM to silence the opposition. That the current leadership of the Party is unable to whip up fervor of the heydays.
The whole nation questions whether it would be possible to hold the upcoming Local Council Elections in such an environment. A smidge of the heydays came back when campaigning for the Local Council Elections and when lawyer Hassan Latheef began his campaign for MDP Chairperson seat. Still it was a poor imitation of what the Party used to be.
Many members of the Party point to a direct correlation between an invigorated Party and the presence of Nasheed for the success of the Party. This view comes in spite of the 13-year jail term the Government slapped on the former President on terror charges. Even Nasheed himself had said this recently.
“Hopefully I will return back. Even if it means coming back to jail. I do not intend to live outside of the Maldives for the rest of my life. I do intend to go back to the Maldives before the next Presidential Elections,” he said to RaajjeTV’s Fala Suruhee program while in the UK.
Even in the face of the 13-year jail term on Nasheed, his supporters expected that he will be released after a while. This decision was arrived with the former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, during the All-Party Talks. The Government feigned ignorance on the deal. In spite of this, supporters all agreed that the best course of action for Nasheed was to leave the country. The Government had limited options and in the end agreed to send Nasheed to the UK, while knowing that he did not intend to come back.
According to Nasheed, he was dispatched to the UK as there was enormous pressure, both internal and international, to release him and was arrived at after discussions with international partners. Creating a physical and geographical barrier between Nasheed and MDP, and the resultant calm, proved to be a victory for the Government. Nasheed also claimed this as a victory, having been granted clear path to push ahead with a reform agenda, albeit in the UK.
Given these claims on victory, it is doubtful that Nasheed returning back would be a peaceful endeavor to the Government. Nevertheless, it is a critical step given the current situation. The opposition must match the campaign efforts spearheaded by the Government for both Local Council and Presidential Elections. Nasheed is a driving force on this; his strategy and vision is critical for the Party. Being able to go to Sri Lanka itself is a salve on the wounds of the Party.
What his agenda is, remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that he will not remain thousands of miles apart from the situation. The direction the Party and he, himself will take will become clear after Sri Lanka.