Abdulla Shahid

He won the Presidency of the Maldivian Democratic Party unopposed

Male, February 22: Abdulla Shahid, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, has taken over the Presidency of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the main opposition party in the country. Shahid sailed into the top position in the party unopposed.

Though the fact that he was the sole candidate reflected the leadership vacuum in the party, his assuming the position should do the party and Maldives a lot of good. Shahid comes with a fund of experience as a diplomat, politician and foreign minister with both domestic and international experience.

Not a pushy politician like former MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed or a high profile personality like Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Shahid has been working steadily in various capacities gathering valuable experience. In Maldivian politics as well in the international arena, he has been a moderate. On matters concerning China and India, which play a big part in the Maldives, Shahid has treaded warily though he is said to be more inclined towards India than China.

Those who have been tracking him in the Maldives say that he has been working steadily towards the country’s Presidency and that he will take a shot at it in the next election.

Since the resignation of Mohamed Nasheed on 21 June 2023, the MDP has been under the interim leadership of former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih appointed by the MDP National Council.

Shahid was a close aide of President Solih. His tenure as the Maldives’ Foreign Minister under Solih was marked by a significant foreign policy achievement: the Maldives secured the Presidency of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Shahid’s extensive political career includes being Foreign Minister in the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom administration from 23 August 2007 to 10 November 2008. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Vaavu Atoll, Keyodhoo, and North Henveyru constituencies. As the Keyodhoo MP, Shahid also served as the Speaker of parliament.

Shahid was involved in the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.   Weeks of street protests and a police mutiny forced out the MDP’s first government led by Mohamed Nasheed. Shahid, who was parliament Speaker at that time, presided over the ceremony to swear-in Nasheed’s Vice President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, as the new President. By doing so, Shahid incurred the displeasure of most MDP members. The MDP has consistently maintained that President Nasheed was ousted in a coup d’etat. Be that as it may, Nasheed and Shahid buried the hatchet and cooperated in subsequent years.

Since his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2018 (for the second time) Shahid has worked incessantly to reposition Maldives as a responsible and respected member of the international community, by repairing strained relationships and building new ones, both in the bilateral and the multilateral domains.

He has reinvigorated the country’s efforts in the multilateral arena and led national efforts to rejoin the Commonwealth after a four-year hiatus.

As a strong advocate for gender equality, Shahid  credited with achieving gender parity among the country’s Heads of Missions for the first time, as well as in the country’s foreign service as a whole.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Shahid was one of the leading voices in the international arena highlighting the devastation caused by the global health crisis on the economies and societies of small island States. He has continuously drawn attention to the inherent economic vulnerabilities of small island States to external shocks and their limited ability to bounce back from disasters.

Shahid began his professional career as a foreign service officer in 1983 and rose through the ranks rapidly. He attended all UN General Assembly sessions from 1987 to 1994, working tirelessly to bring the issue of small State security to the forefront of the UN.  

He was a negotiator at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and actively participated in the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993.

As the Head of the International Organizations Department of the Maldivian Foreign Ministry, Shahid also represented Maldives at several meetings of the Commonwealth, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, among others.

He led the Maldives delegation at the twentieth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda and the sixth Session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Senegal.

In 1995, he was appointed Executive Secretary (Chief of Staff) to the President in the President’s Office. He held that post for over 10 years, serving with a high degree of distinction and diligence and displaying strong administrative and organizational capabilities.

In 2005, Shahid was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and, in 2007, Minister for Foreign Affairs for the first time. During his first stint as Minister, Shahid advocated for a rights-based approach to climate change by making a submission to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, under Human Rights Council resolution 7/23, on human rights and climate change. He drew attention to the direct and indirect effects of climate change on the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, which reinvigorated the discourse on climate change and brought to light the multidimensional impact of climate change.

Shahid’s illustrious parliamentary career spanned 25 years, during which time he participated in, and oversaw, major legislative progress and reform. He was a Member of Parliament for five consecutive terms, from 1994 to 2018.

Following the adoption of the newly promulgated democratic Constitution in 2008 and the first multiparty parliamentary elections in 2009, Shahid became the first democratically elected Speaker of the People’s Majlis in history, in his fourth term as Member of Parliament.

As Speaker, he energetically steered the work of the People’s Majlis and managed to build consensus at a time when Maldives was undergoing a tumultuous period of democratic transition, in an exceedingly polarized political environment.

As a leading voice of the Maldivian Democratic Party, Shahid strongly advocated political and judicial reform and was incarcerated for a short period for his relentless activism. As the Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the MDP, as well as of the Joint Opposition coalition, he played a pivotal role in mobilizing international action against injustice, corruption and human rights violations in the Maldives.

Shahid holds a master’s degree in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and completed his undergraduate degree in Political Science and Government at the University of Canberra.