Maldives election begins amid opposition cry of unfairness

Pauline Gross
September 24, 2018

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday in a presidential election.

A mild-mannered stalwart of the Maldivian democratic movement, Solih was among the MPs who tried - and were denied the right - to register the country's first independent political party in 2003.

President Abdulla Yameen won the 2013 election with backing from his half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Supporters draped in the Maldives' flag took to the streets, hugging one another, cheering and honking horns to celebrate Solih's unexpected win.

Police spokesman Ahmed Shifan told The Associated Press that police raided Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's campaign office late Saturday and that the raid was ongoing.

"He [Yameen] will not have people around him who will support him to fight on and stay", Nasheed said.

India and China, jostling for influence in the Indian Ocean, had been watching the election closely.

The opposition had feared the election would be rigged in favor of Maldives' strongman President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, whose first term in office was marked by a crackdown on political rivals, courts and the media.

During the election campaign, Yameen had presented himself as a Maldivian nationalist focused on economic development, pointing to infrastructure projects built during his term, including a 2km bridge linking Male to the global airport that opened earlier this month. He had all the power - the judiciary, the police, the security forces under him.

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The national electoral commission has not yet announced official results.

The chief of the Maldives election commission said the final result would be declared within seven days, as mandated by law. "We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest", said the statement.

The US State Department, which had warned of "appropriate measures" if the vote was not free and fair, had called on Yameen to "respect the will of the people". He also said that Yameen would have no option but to concede defeat.

Few foreign media organizations were allowed into the country to cover the election.

But both the European Union and United States declined to send teams to monitor the voting, wary of appearing to condone them.

In February Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency, alarming the global community, in what was seen as an attempt by his opponents in parliament to impeach him.

The European Union and U.S. had earlier voiced concerns about the election, with both threatening to impose targeted sanctions if the democratic situation did not improve.

Despite the turmoil, voters flocked to the polls on Sunday, standing in long lines in rain and high temperatures to cast ballots.

More than a quarter of a million people were eligible to vote out of the island-nation's population of around 400,000.

Other reports by GizPress

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