Maldives government acknowledges opposition victory


Maldives Opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the country's bitterly-fought presidential election with 58.3 per cent of the popular vote, official results claimed.

Solih defeated incumbent Abdulla Yameen in dramatic election, following reports over the previous week of attempts at voter intimidation and the absence of credible worldwide observers to monitor the poll process amid fears of rigging.

Results from the electoral commission showed Solih, the joint compromise candidate of the weakened opposition, as the clear victor with 58.33 percent of the vote ahead of 41.7 percent for Yameen.

India had criticised the government for the state of Emergency and urged it to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners.

On Saturday, police officers searched the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party office in Male without a warrant, the party said. There were no arrests.

Mohamed Nasheed, the head of Solih's MDP, said the vote would "bring the country back to the democratic path". "Ibu is a very mild person who listens to everyone", said Ahamed Fiasal, a 39-year-old IT business owner, using Solih's nickname.

Emphasising that the elections were held by the rule book, Ahmed Akram, Commissioner and spokesperson at the Maldives Elections Commission, said nobody can prove any malpractice or lapse.

The European Union and U.S. have voiced concerns about the election and have threatened to impose targeted sanctions if the democratic situation does not improve.

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The result puts Solih, 54, on track to be sworn in as the Maldives' fourth president since it transitioned to democracy in 2008 after decades of monarchical and authoritarian rule.

The election commission is expected to announce official preliminary results later on Monday, and full results by the end of the month. The voter turnout was over 88 per cent out of the 2,62,000-strong electorate.

Only a handful of foreign media were allowed in to cover the poll.

In that election, former president Mohamed Nasheed won the most votes in the first round but the supreme court annuled the result and a subsequent second vote was postponed twice. Since his election in 2013, Yameen has cracked down on political dissent, jailing rivals and judges.

This is a moment of happiness.

New Delhi described the outcome as a "triumph of democratic forces" in the country, which turned.

India, long influential in Maldives' affairs - it sent troops and warships in 1988 to stop a coup attempt - expressed hopes the election would represent a return to democratic norms.

Beijing loaned Yameen's government hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects like the new "China-Maldives Friendship Bridge", which opened in August.