President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has retracted his earlier endorsements of candidates outside his party in response to increasing disapproval from both party members and political adversaries.

Amid the contentious atmosphere surrounding the upcoming parliamentary elections, the president has called for unity within the People’s National Congress (PNC), urging members to support the officially nominated party candidates.

This shift in stance was prominently highlighted during a campaign rally in the Vilimalé constituency, where President Muizzu emphasised the importance of setting aside differences for the national and societal benefit.

His previous support for “government candidates” in Vilimalé had fuelled speculation and unrest within the PNC, exacerbating fears of internal divisions. However, Muizzu’s latest declaration firmly backs the PNC’s ticketed candidate, marking a significant realignment with party statutes and principles that mandate member support for party-designated contenders.

“Everyone needs to become one now and let go of the past,” Muizzu stated, focusing on the collective effort required to secure victory in Vilimalé and counteract the potential advantage this discord could offer to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The President’s rhetoric suggests a keen awareness of the stakes involved, particularly the risk of conceding vital constituencies like Naifaru, a stronghold previously secured by the PNC’s coalition partner, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

President Muizzu’s remarks underline a strategic pivot designed to consolidate support within the ruling coalition amidst a broader political landscape marked by factionalism and the shadow of former President Abdulla Yameen’s criticisms.

Earlier, President Dr Muizzu’s public support for independent candidates had stirred controversy within the ruling PNC/PNC coalition, despite official denials of any statutory breach. 

Heena Waleed, spokesperson for both PNC and PPM, refuted claims that President Muizzu’s actions contravened party statutes. These statutes expressly require members to support, vote for, and seek votes for party ticket candidates. Yet, Muizzu had opted to endorse independents over PNC’s own, sparking a debate on adherence to party principles and potential disciplinary measures.

Former President Yameen criticised the apparent sidelining of PPM’s visibility and influence in the electoral campaign, a point that Waleed dismissed by asserting that only current party members are privy to its operational strategies. This defence highlights a strategic alliance between PNC and PPM but fails to address concerns over party unity and candidate endorsement procedures.

The discord underscores a broader issue of party cohesion and electoral strategy within the ruling coalition, raising questions about the potential impact on their electoral success. The sudden change of stance by President Muizzu is seen as a last-minute resolve to save face in a campaign that is perceived to be largely fragmented.