COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The exiled former president of the Maldives said Friday he has abandoned plans to contest an upcoming presidential election because of legal obstacles.
Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, said in a Twitter message that he decided to withdraw from the race after the election commission refused to recognize his victory in a recent party primary. He said he will officially announce the decision on Saturday at a party congress where a new candidate is expected to be announced.
Senior MDP member Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is tipped to be the new candidate.
Current President Yameen Abdul Gayoom had expected to contest the September election virtually unopposed, with all of his challengers either in jail or exile.
Nasheed remains popular for having led a pro-democracy campaign against a 30-year autocracy and for battling climate change, but faced disqualification because of a 13-year prison sentence.
Nasheed's conviction on terrorism charges was widely criticized for alleged violations of due process. Britain granted him asylum when he traveled there on medical leave.
Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 and Nasheed became the first president elected in a free election.
He resigned four years into his presidency amid public protests over his order to arrest a top judge. He lost the 2013 presidential election to Yameen, who has since rolled back much of the country's democratic gains.
Yameen has jailed key political figures and officials including his half brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the 30-year autocrat. He has also imprisoned his former vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, two of his former defense ministers, a chief justice and another Supreme Court judge, a prosecutor general, party leaders and other lawmakers.