Maldives vote for presidential polls amid political turmoil, crackdown on dissent

Frederick Owens
September 24, 2018

On Monday the Maldivian government acknowledged that the main opposition candidate Solih had defeated President Yameen in the election.

This unexpected victory has crushed Yameen as he was aiming to be the President of Maldives for the second term.

After Solih claimed victory just after midnight on Monday, his supporters flooded the streets, hugging one another, waving the Maldivian flag, cheering and honking horns in celebration.

The preliminary results for the election revealed that atolls across the Maldives, with the exception of Meemu (Mulak Atoll) and Faafu (Northern Nilandhe Atoll) Atoll, voted in favour of Solih, and the opposition coalition. The commission said voter turnout in the country of 400,000 people was 89.2 percent.

The poll was watched closely by regional rivals India and China, who are jostling to influence Indian Ocean nations.

In this picture taken on September 23, 2018 presidential candidate Mohamed Solih addresses the media at the campaign headquarters in Male, the capital of the Maldives.

"This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law", the statement said.

In an election marred by controversy, Mr. Yameen - the half-brother of ex-President Abdulla Gayoom who ruled the country for almost 30 years - became the President.

As officials began tabulating votes after the polls closed at 7 pm, people in the Maldives and observers outside the tiny, tropical South Asian country waited for the results to see whether the Opposition's cries of a rigged vote would be validated.

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Following his victory, Mr Solih said: "This is a moment of happiness, a moment of hope".

Yameen has also shrugged off accusations of authoritarianism, saying during the campaign: "No-one will come to greet me and shake my hand, if there is tyranny".

The national electoral commission has not yet announced official results.

Just before the MEA released its statement, the U.S. state department spokesperson Heather Nauert extended her country's congratulation to the "people of Maldives, who peacefully raised their democratic voices to determine the future of their country".

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

In February, Yameen declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution and ordered troops to storm the Supreme Court and arrest judges after they had ordered the release and retrial of those jailed after politically-motivated trials.

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

Yameen has jailed two former presidents, including his half brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives' former strongman, his former vice president, two Supreme Court justices, two former defence ministers and many others after trials criticised for a lack of due process.

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