Maldives' president concedes loss to opposition candidate

Hannah Rogers
September 24, 2018

According to unofficial results, Mr Solih won more than 58% of the votes, compared to Mr Yameen's 41%.

Solih was backed by a united opposition intent on ousting strongman Yameen and emerged victorious despite struggling to gain public visibility because local media faced draconian decrees and reporting restrictions.

Turnout was particularly high. Just $5 a month.

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

The Maldives has a long transition period ahead, with the new president only taking over from November 17.

In his first news conference since declaring victory Sunday, Solih said "this is a moment of happiness, this is a moment of hope, this is a moment of history".

"I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power", said Solih.

Already, the result is being interpreted through geopolitical lens. Meanwhile, the relationship between India and Maldives have been under strain.

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Mr Solih has been parliamentary leader of the MDP since 2011. Yameen, in the meantime, approached Beijing enthusiastically, taking on exorbitant debt to finance large infrastructure projects under the aegis of Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road Initiative.

Sri Lankan government has sent it's well wishes to Maldives' President Elect following Maldives' Presidential election held yesterday (24), stated Ministry of Foreign Affairs issuing a media release.

The elections in the Maldives were closely watched as an indicator of China's growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

A police raid on Solih's main campaign office the night before the election was seen as a worrying sign that Yameen would attempt to "muzzle his way" to re-election, according to Hamid Abdul Gafoor, an opposition spokesman and former Maldives lawmaker now based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The U.S. State Department released a statement, nearly contemporaneously with India.

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 country's Elections Commission said Solih won by a margin of 16.7 percent in Sunday's vote. More tourists from China now visit the Maldives than from any other country. The unusual decision to release this statement prior to the release of official results may suggest early concern in the US that Yameen may have looked to push back.

Solih, surrounded by thousands of his supporters in the capital city of Male, urged calm until the commission had announced the results.

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