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Maldives' Solih confirmed as president-elect

Shamil Shams
September 29, 2018

Strongman Abdulla Yameen allegedly pressured election officials to delay the endorsement of Mohamed Solih's victory in last week's presidential election. The Maldives drifted closer to China during Yameen's rule.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, president-elect
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Sharuhaan

The Maldives' election commission on Saturday officially endorsed thevictory of the opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in last week's presidential polls amid concerns that Maldives outgoing President Abdulla Yameen is trying to hold on to power.

Salah Rasheed, the election commission's secretary general, said Solih's Maldivian Democratic Party won the polls with 58.4 percent of the ballot. Although election monitors had warned of rigging by the incumbent, Yameen could secure only 41.6 percent.

Read more: Maldives: Election officials hail strong turnout as polls close 

Solih was backed by four opposition parties, three of which supported Yameen in a controversial 2013 runoff that the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, lost narrowly.

Solih is expected to be sworn in on November 17 when Yameen's term comes to a close.

Threats to election officials

The election commission had released provisional results on September 24, but delayed official results of the September 23 polls due to legal complaints about irregularities during the election.

Ahmed Shareef, the election commission chief, said he had received 423 complaints by Thursday, of which 193 were outstanding.

"The Complaints Bureau and the Commission have decided that none of the complaints filed with the commission will affect the outcome of the election," Shareef told reporters in the capital, Male.

Yameen's supporters say they and other voters had not been allowed to cast their ballot.

Although Yameen conceded defeat on Monday morning, the opposition said he was trying to get the election results annulled on rigging complaints.

Shareef said all five election commissioners in the country received threatening phone calls after the Sunday's election.

"We … were threatened with physical harm. We did not respond to it because the state's security services were providing security arrangements for all the commissioners," he said.

Yameen's 'authoritarian rule'

The election on September 23 was the Maldives' third multiparty presidential election. It was held amid grave concerns over rights abuses in the country.

After winning the 2013 presidential election by a narrow margin of 6,000 votes, Yameen started consolidating his power. His government's crackdown on political opponents, independent state institutions and the press alarmed local rights groups.

Yameen jailed two former presidents, including his half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his former vice president, two Supreme Court judges, two former defense ministers and scores of other government critics.

Read more: Maldives declares state of emergency, former president arrested

Rights groups also criticize the trial of former President Nasheed, who in 2015 was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, was arrested in 2015 after what the government called a failed assassination attempt on Yameen. Adeeb is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence on terrorism and corruption charges.

In February of this year, Yameen ordered law enforcement agencies to disregard any move by the country's Supreme Court to arrest or impeach him for not obeying its ruling to release jailed opposition leaders.

Read more: Maldives political crisis: 'worst in its modern history'

Maldives political turmoil

Victory 'resets' India ties

Under Yameen's five-year rule, the Indian Ocean archipelago drifted closer to China.

Beijing considers the Maldives an important route in its "Belt and Road" initiative, which, along with other objectives, aims to connect the Indian Ocean to Central Asia.

But in an interview with DW after the September 23 election, former President Nasheed, who lives in exile in Sri Lanka, said Solih's victory "reset" Maldives ties with its traditional ally, India.

"It [close ties with New Delhi] will be beneficial for us," Nasheed said.

"It is difficult for command economies to understand democratic processes. The Maldivian people suffered a lot and they came out to make their voice heard. China can't understand this. The Maldives is not an authoritarian country. We would like to have friendly ties with countries who share our democratic ideals. We would like to have strong ties with the EU, the US and countries like India," he added.

Read more: India 'disturbed' by Maldives' political crisis

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