The presidential elections in The Maldives are more than six months away, but some political parties have already started campaigning while others are busy finalising candidates.

The first round of elections will be held on September 7. If no clear winner emerges, a run-off would be held later the same month. First off the block was Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which announced former President Mohamed Nasheed as its candidate in an uncontested primary last year.

He had begun his campaign last year itself, visiting the far-off atolls and islands. His emergence from the Indian High Commission a few days ago, where he had sought refuge fearing arrest, has rejuvenated the campaign.

The Progressive Party of Maldives, run by former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is in the process of finalising its candidate at the end of a ‘primary’.

PPM has two candidates set to contest in the primaries: Parliamentary group leader Abdulla Yameen, and the party’s interim vice-president, Umar Naseer. Meanwhile, in an announcement on Monday, Mr. Gayoom made it clear that he will not contest in the primaries, clearing the air over his contesting the presidential elections. Mr. Yameen seems to be emerging as the winner in the inner-party race in PPM with 18 of the 19 Members of Parliament supporting him. He now has to win over the party’s council too.

Nasheed’s challenge

The PPM could pose the biggest challenge to Mr. Nasheed, whose party has the maximum number of registered cadre in Maldives. PPM had won as many as 16 of the 18 by-elections held in the recent past, while the MDP’s showing has not warmed the hearts of its bosses in Male. President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has expressed his desire to contest the elections in parleys with like-minded parties, though he is yet to make an announcement.

His party, the Gaumee Itthihaad Party, has no member in Parliament.Soon after the transition of power in Maldives following Mr. Nasheed stepping down in February last year, the PPM had considered Dr. Waheed as a possible consensus opposition candidate in the presidential elections. A year later, PPM and the others in the coalition do not want to concede the position to Dr. Waheed. “It was a possibility [making Dr. Waheed a consensus candidate].

But once coalition partners began putting their individual needs ahead of the requirements of the coalition, all parties had to rethink,” one senior politician said.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, founded by Mr. Gayoom soon after multiparty democracy took roots in the Maldives, is a shadow of its former self.

The Adhaalath Party has appropriated the role of preserving and protecting Islam and is waiting and watching in the wings. Though it has only one MP, the party is taken seriously by the polity and government in Maldives.