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Maldives' First Democratic President Allies With Ex-strongman

  • Associated Press

FILE - Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed speaks during a press conference in London, Jan. 25, 2016.

FILE - Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed speaks during a press conference in London, Jan. 25, 2016.

The first democratically elected president of the Maldives said from exile in Britain that he has an agreement with the country's former strongman to counter the current president, who is increasing his stranglehold on power.

Speaking to reporters via Skype on Tuesday night, Mohamed Nasheed answered "Yes'' when asked if he has an understanding with his predecessor to be part of his grand opposition coalition formed to unseat President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. He said he doesn't want to reveal details of the discussions.

The opposition coalition says it will unseat Yameen through legal means, through an impeachment in Parliament or by having him arrested for corruption, to ensure a free election in 2018.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled Maldives for 30 years with tight controls and repeatedly jailed Nasheed, who was then a pro-democracy activist. Facing protests in the last years of his presidency, Maumoon allowed multiparty democracy and oversaw the enactment of a democratic constitution that paved the way for Nasheed's election in 2008.

Nasheed said he has decided to forget the past.

"How can you win the future if you go behind the past?'' he said. "So many bad things happened... we go through a lot of experiences and come to an understanding that we can't always run behind the past.''

Nasheed's government lasted only three years before he resigned after losing support from sections of the military and police and the public for detaining a top judge. Nasheed maintained that officials who remained loyal to Maumoon had orchestrated a coup.

Maumoon backed his half-brother Yameen in the 2013 presidential election against Nasheed. Maumoon and Yameen have fallen out with each other in recent months.

Since his election, Yameen has tightened his grip on power and erased many of the country's democratic gains under Nasheed. Parliament has passed a criminal defamation law with fines and prison terms for journalists and social media users. Gatherings and protests are tightly controlled. Yameen is also accused of using the judiciary, police and bureaucracy to crack down on opponents.

At least four top politicians, including Nasheed, have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms on terrorism charges after trials widely criticized for a lack of due process.

Nasheed, however, received political asylum in Britain when he traveled there earlier this year for surgery.