Maldives opposition candidate wins presidential vote | News | DW | 24.09.2018

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Maldives opposition candidate wins presidential vote

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih following Sunday's presidential election. The strongman president has promised a smooth transition of power.

Islamist surge threatens Maldives tourism industry

Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was announced the winner of the Maldives' presidential election on Monday, after claiming an unassailable lead over strongman President Abdulla Yameen.

The Maldives electoral commission released provisional results declaring Solih the winner with 58.3 percent of the vote. 

In his victory speech, Soli described the win as a "moment of happiness, hope and history."

"I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power," said Solih. "The message is loud and clear. People want justice and stability and we will ensure accountability."

Election watchdog Transparency Maldives also tweeted a statement on the vote, saying: "Based on our quick count, we are confident to announce that Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won the 2018 presidential election." 

President concedes defeat

Later on Monday, President Yameen conceded defeat to Solih during a live television address and promised to ensure a smooth transition for the president-elect.

 "I have accepted the results from yesterday," Yameen said. "I know I have to step down. I will enable a smooth transition."

Yameen oversaw a sweeping crackdown on political dissent during his five years in office, detaining several rivals including his own half brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had himself ruled the country for 30 years.

In keeping with the constitution, Yameen said he would complete his term on November 17 before handing over the presidency.

Contentious vote

Solih's victory marks a major upset after polls had largely predicted Yameen to win. The president's purge of the opposition also saw most of the opposition media muzzled.

Solih, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, also warned that the president's backers could try to rig the election. His party offices were raided the night before voting began.

Despite the looming threats of disturbances, the Foreign Ministry said that there was no reported violence and that voting went ahead "smoothly and peacefully."

More than a quarter of a million people were eligible to vote out of the island nation's population of around 400,000. According to the electoral commission, turnout was particularly high at 89.2 percent.

Some cast their vote because they wanted to see change.

"I am voting to revert a mistake I made in 2013," Nazima Hassan told Reuters news agency. "I am voting to free President Maumoon Gayoom."

As the first signs of an opposition upset became clear, Solih's supporters flooded the streets of the capital, Male, embracing one another and waving Maldivian flags.

Read more: 'Maldives government selling oil to North Korea'

International reaction

Regional superpower India, which is competing with China for influence in the region, was the first country to "heartily congratulate" Solih on his victory, followed by neighboring Sri Lanka, home to many Maldivian dissidents.

Indian daily The Hindu quoted the Maldives' ambassador to India as saying that Solih would assume the presidency on November 17 once Yameen's five-year term has ended.

China, however, which has loaned Yameen's government hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure investments, had yet to comment, with Monday being a public holiday.

dm, ls/rt (AP, AFP)

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