Maldives First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim launched President Abdulla Yameen’s 2018 re-election campaign on Friday night with a gathering in Hulhumalé dubbed Feshun (Beginning).
Ibrahim Muaz Ali, spokesman for the first lady’s campaign office, told the press last week that the event will mark the start of a series of nationwide campaign activities, stressing that it will be organised and carried out by the first lady’s office and not the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Yameen did not attend the event held at the state-owned Maldives Ports Limited area in the capital’s suburb, which featured speeches by ministers and ruling party lawmakers as well as song and dance items and a barbeque for supporters.
Gayoom, who was controversially stripped of his powers as the PPM’s elected leader, has since withdrawn support for his half-brother’s administration. The PPM split was triggered by Gayoom’s refusal to grant the party’s presidential ticket to Yameen without a primary.
The activities of the first lady’s charity organisation have also stirred controversy. She previously came under criticism for distributing cash during visits with the chronically ill at the hospital and visits to households in Malé. Last week, the anti-graft watchdog ruled out corruption in the distribution of dates gifted by Saudi Arabia under the name of the first lady’s charity.
Majority Leader Nihan meanwhile went on to express confidence that Yameen will easily win the 2018 election in one round, claiming that many opposition party members have assured him that they would also vote for the president.
Yameen has been accused of jailing opposition leaders and rival contenders ahead of the 2018 polls, including former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, both of whom are ineligible to contest after the supreme court upheld their controversial terrorism convictions.
With Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim disqualified after the constitution was revised to set an upper age limit for the presidency, former Home Minister Umar Naseer is the only high-profile politician who has announced his intention to challenge Yameen in 2018.
The next presidential election is likely to take place in September 2018.