Maldives Election: Pro-China Abdulla Yameen Ousted, Nasheed-Backed Solih is New President
Maldives' Incumbent President Yameen was in the race, seeking a second term as the candidate from the Progressive Party Of Madives.
New Delhi: Maldives opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who fought a bitter election campaign against President Abdulla Yameen, has won Sunday’s presidential vote.
The Election Commission has officially confirmed the results. Solih got 134616 votes against Yameen's 96132 votes. The total votes cast were 230748.
Local media outlets and civil action groups have handed the victory to Solih in the two-horse race. Transparency Maldives, an anti-corruption NGO, said that Solih, as per their quick count results, has won by a “decisive margin.” Media outlets like Avas, Rajje TV, Miharu have given Solih a vote share of around 58 per cent, a significant lead over Yameen’s 41 per cent.
Voting on Sunday saw long lines outside several polling stations. The Election Commission’s spokesperson called it an “extraordinary high turnout” because of which they had to extend voting time by three hours.
Notably, while the EC is yet to make an official statement, Solih has declared victory. Celebrations were in full swing on Sunday night itself as supporters shouted his name on the streets.
Late in the night on Sunday, he held a press conference from his campaign office (which was raided by police officials on Saturday). Calling incumbent President Abdulla Yameen to respect the mandate and start the smooth process of transfer of power, Solih said, “This is a moment of happiness, moment of hope, a moment of history. For many of us, this has been a difficult journey, a journey that has led to a prison cell or years in exile.”
Assuring the people that he would be the “President of all Maldivians”. Solih said in the next five years, his government would consolidate democracy by guaranteeing human rights and ensuring accountability. There has been no word from the Yameen camp. Senior leader Ahmed Nihan, however, took to Twitter and said that the party had the courage to accept the decision of the Maldivian people, irrespective of the result.
Congratulating Solih on his victory, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said India is looking forward to stronger ties with its neighbouring country. "This election marks not only triumph of democratic forces in Maldives, but also reflects firm commitment to democracy and rule of law. In keeping with our 'Neighbourhood First' Policy, India looks forward to working closely with Maldives in further deepening our partnership," read a statement by the MEA.
“We welcome the successful completion of the third presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won. We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest,” the statement said.
Incumbent President Yameen was in the race, seeking a second term as the candidate from the Progressive Party Of Madives. With an agenda of development, which Yameen highlighted over the last couple of months with speeches and inaugurations of several projects, including the China Maldives Friendship Bridge.
Senior lawmaker Solih is looking to become the President for the first time. He is the common candidate backed by all opposition parties and backed by former President Mohamed Nasheed. An internal poll conducted by the parties had given Solih a handsome lead over Yameen.
Congratulations to President Elect @ibusolih. You have done an extremely good service to not only to the people of Maldives, but also to freedom loving people everywhere. Democracy is a historical inevitability.— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) September 23, 2018
The election has however been marred by several controversies. Amid fears of poll rigging and violence, the Asian Network For Free Elections said that the denial of international observers and media organisations was a reflection of polling misconduct in the country.
Countries like India and the United States of America, too, have been critical of the system and asked for authorities to conduct polls in a democratic way. Investments made in Maldives by other countries, especially China, have come under the radar over the last few months. Exiled leader of the opposition in the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has said that China's actions in the Indian Ocean archipelago amounted to a "land grab" and "colonialism", with 80 per cent of its debt held by Beijing.
The massive infrastructure growth is, however, a plank that Yameen has built his campaign on. That said, the alleged curbs on democratic rights, including those of freedom of speech and expression, have been held against his government too.
Solih, during his campaign, repeatedly said that this was the last chance of the island nation to save democracy and promised to release all jailed leaders, including Yameen’s half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
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