Two cabinet ministers have been involved in the campaign activities of Ahmed Riyaz, an independent candidate for the Thimarafushi constituency, openly snubbing the official candidacy of Ahmed Sanah from the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC). This move has sparked considerable discontent among PNC members and highlighted the ongoing internal discord within the ruling coalition.

Ahmed Sanah, who secured the PNC’s nomination for Thimarafushi as the sole contender from the party, finds his campaign overshadowed by the involvement of high-profile government figures in Riyaz’s campaign. Riyaz, notably the elder sibling of Abdulla Riyaz, the current Thimarafushi MP and Vice President of the Maldives National Party (MNP), a coalition partner of PNC, claims to have the full support of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu. This claim is seemingly substantiated by Riyaz’s campaign materials featuring the president, adding to the controversy.

The situation escalated when Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam, along with Minister of Housing and Minister of Health Abdulla Khaleel, were seen officiating an event at Riyaz’s campaign hub. This overt support from key government figures for an independent candidate over the party’s nominee has not only led to public expressions of displeasure from party members but also raised questions about the unity and integrity of the PNC.

The incident in Thimarafushi reflects broader issues of inconsistency and confusion within the PNC regarding candidate endorsements for the parliamentary elections. Despite President Muizzu’s subsequent call for unity and support for officially nominated candidates—underscored during a campaign rally in the Vilimalé constituency—the party remains plagued by internal divisions and a lack of clear leadership direction.

President Muizzu’s previous endorsements of “government candidates,” including those outside the PNC, have significantly fuelled speculation and unrest within the party. This is a stark deviation from the party’s statutes, which mandate support for party-designated contenders, leading to a debate on adherence to party principles and potential disciplinary measures.

Heena Waleed, spokesperson for both PNC and PPM, has attempted to quell the controversy by denying any breach of party statutes by President Muizzu’s actions. However, the visible support of government officials for Riyaz, coupled with the president’s prior controversial endorsements, contradicts these assertions, exacerbating the perception of a fragmented party leadership unable to enforce its own rules.

The endorsement saga in Thimarafushi is emblematic of a larger crisis within the PNC, challenging the party’s ability to present a united front in the upcoming parliamentary elections.