Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who recently had his bribery and money laundering conviction overturned by the High Court, faced a resounding defeat in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. 

Despite the challenges faced by his newly formed People’s National Front (PNF) in fielding candidates for the election, President Yameen endorsed a number of independent candidates. However, the election results were not in their favour, signalling a major shift in the political landscape.

The High Court’s decision to overturn President Yameen’s conviction came just 48 hours before the parliamentary vote, posing a significant challenge to his campaign efforts. The court ordered a retrial, leading to his release after he had served nearly one year and four months of his 11-year prison sentence. The timing of the court’s decision raised eyebrows as it highlighted the intricate relationship between the judiciary and politics, a dynamic that observers believe warrants further scrutiny.

Despite his endorsement, none of the 35 independent candidates could secure a win in the election, leaving the PNF without representation in the 20th parliament. This outcome, coupled with the restrictions imposed by the newly enacted Anti-Defection Law, paints a bleak picture for the PNF’s political future.

Upon his release on Thursday, President Yameen endorsed three candidates from the main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). However, all three candidates were defeated by candidates of President Mohamed Muizzu’s ruling People’s National Congress (PNC).

The relationship between President Yameen and the current President Muizzu has been strained since the inauguration of the new PNC and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)-led government, which reflects the deep-seated political rivalries that continue to shape the political landscape.

President Yameen was convicted of bribery and money laundering in December 2022, resulting in an 11-year prison sentence and a US$5 million fine. Despite the sentence, he was transferred to house arrest following President Muizzu’s election victory in September 2023. President Yameen appealed the judgement at the High Court, which initiated a review of the Criminal Court’s verdict and concluded hearings in November 2023.

Following his release on Thursday, President Yameen claimed that the 11-year jail sentence had deprived him of numerous rights and alleged that the Mohamed Muizzu administration had unlawfully attempted to delay his appeal.

President Yameen’s son, Zeine Abdulla Yameen, the interim leader of the PNF, alleged that the Muizzu administration had obstructed the formation of the PNF at every turn, including sending riot police to block the party’s inaugural congress. The PNF leadership alleged President Muizzu was behind the order to disrupt and obstruct the party’s inaugural meeting.