The strongman leader of the Maldives on
Monday conceded defeat in the presidential election, easing fears of a fresh
political crisis in the archipelago at the centre of a battle for influence
between India and China.
The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the
results from yesterday, President Abdulla Yameen said in a televised address
to the Indian Ocean nation a day after the joint opposition candidate
Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian
electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him,
He said he would hand over power when his term ends on November 17 and
ensure a smooth transition in the 1,200-island nation, popular with foreign
tourists for its white sands and blue lagoons.
Solih's victory was a major surprise, with Yameen's main political rivals
either in prison or in exile, media coverage of the opposition sparse and
monitors and the opposition predicting vote-rigging.
There had been concerns Yameen might not accept the result given what
happened after the last election in 2013.
The Supreme Court annulled that result after Yameen trailed former
president Mohamed Nasheed giving Yameen time to forge alliances and win a
second round of voting that was postponed twice.
Results released by the electoral commission showed Yameen on 41.7 percent
of the vote, well behind Solih on 58.3 percent the only other name on
The final official result will take up to a week to be published.
Yameen stayed quiet overnight after the outcome became clear. But signs
grew Monday that he would throw in the towel, with a foreign ministry
statement saying Solih had won and state media showing him claiming victory.
Nearly 90 percent of the 262,000 electorate turned out to vote, with some
waiting in line for more than five hours.
Celebrations broke out across the archipelago on Sunday night, with
opposition supporters waving yellow flags of Solih's Maldivian Democratic
Party (MDP) and dancing in the streets.
On Monday the situation was calm.
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. Regional superpower India said the result marked the triumph of
democratic forces. But China was yet to comment, with Monday being a public
Beijing loaned Yameen's government hundreds of millions of dollars for
infrastructure projects like the new China-Maldives Friendship Bridge from
the airport to the capital Male, which opened in August.
The loans stoked fears among Western countries and India about China's
growing influence under its Belt and Road Initiative stretching from Asia
into Africa and Europe.
Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen but
struggled for visibility. The local media was fearful of falling foul of
heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.
In February Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency, alarming the
international community, in what was seen as an attempt to block a push by
his opponents in parliament to impeach him.
A crackdown saw former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom Yameen's half-
brother jailed along with the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court
Independent international monitors were barred from Sunday's election and
only a handful of foreign media were allowed in to cover the poll.
The government had used vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and to
intimidate and imprison critics, some of whom had been assaulted and even
murdered, according to Human Rights Watch.
Solih pledged on Twitter before the election that he would open
investigations into the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, missing
since 2014, and the fatal stabbing of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017.
He promised also to repeal anti-defamation legislation and ensure press
Foreign monitors said Yameen's supporters failed to carry out any large-
scale fraud thanks to intense international and local scrutiny from civil
In the face of massive pressure, they had to abandon their plans, Rohana
Hettiarachchi of the Asian Network for Free Elections told AFP.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)