The greatest debate in Maldives politics at the moment would hands-down be who would emerge as the opposition presidential candidate to challenge incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s re-election hopes.
With all eyes on the talk of a single candidate from the now united opposition, who president Yameen would trust to be his deputy has largely slipped under the radar. The vice president has remained irrefutably the most contentious political post in the archipelago. So AVAS looks at the possible candidates who could be vying for the second hottest seat in the country come November.
Vice president Abdulla Jihad
Though the former finance minister Abdulla Jihad is the current vice president, few would argue that he has a rather outside shot at retaining his post. Jihad is president Yameen’s third vice president and was picked more due to lack of his own political ambitions after his second deputy plotted to have him assassinated. The soft spoken Jihad remains an unlikely choice for president Yameen especially with a grueling presidential campaign ahead. However, president Yameen could still opt for Jihad if trust becomes the ultimate deciding factor.
Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed
Current Islamic university chancellor Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed was president Yameen’s first Islamic minister. Shaheem had resigned announcing his intentions to a more focused role as an educator. He had said that there were far too few Islamic scholars actively working in the education and human rights sectors before his appointment as the chancellor of the recently founded Islamic university. However, the respected scholar who had served in top posts in the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) before resigning from the party, had recently hinted an imminent return to politics fueling speculation that he could be picked as president Yameen’s deputy.
Dr Mohamed Shainee
Fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee is president Yameen’s go to man. Despite a major ministerial portfolio, Shainee remains president Yameen most loyal and trusted aides. Few would argue that Shainee has ardently defended president Yameen and his government on several instances and has been a reliable voice in times of crisis for president Yameen. He had been entrusted with the task of heading the government contingent of the failed all party talks. Shainee has also been used as central figure to negotiating key deals with other governments and foreign investors.
Economic minister Mohamed Saeed could be accused of being an opportunist which on the other hand accentuates his political ambition. His ministerial appointment came on a now opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) slot. Despite the bitter divorce between the coalition, Saeed had escaped the ax and his gradual rise to become one of the most influential figures in the government gives further testament to his resolute character. According to ruling party sources, he is trusted by both president Yameen and the first lady Fathimath Ibrahim which further boosts his chances of a promotion next term.
Similar to Jihad, Ghassan Maumoon remains an outside shot at best. The media shy Ghassan’s young age and political inexperience puts him at a disadvantage over the other contenders. But president Yameen could overlook all the deficiencies in his nephew’s resume to deliver a blow to the opposition — especially to his elder half brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The bitter power struggle between the two Gayooms has split the ruling party in two. The former president is now siding with the enemy and Ghassan could be the key for president Yameen in convincing some of his half brother’s supporters to vote for him. Ghassan has repeatedly pledged allegiance to his uncle and president Yameen could potentially exploit his nephew’s stand by picking him as his running mate to possibly bridge the divide in the ruling party.