Opposition candidate confirmed as next Maldives president

Election commission said it received death threats and delayed the vote to allow time for legal challenges

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 9:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 9:06pm

The shock winner of the Maldives’ leadership vote was declared president-elect on Saturday, with election authorities saying they received death threats to delay the final announcement of strongman Abdulla Yameen’s decisive loss.

Common opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won last week’s election with 58.4 per cent of the ballot, or 134,705 votes, election commission chief Ahmed Shareef confirmed.

The commission released what it called “interim results” on Monday, but the official outcome of the September 23 polls was pushed back to allow legal challenges over the vote’s conduct.

“There were accusations … against all five members of the commission, and we received death threats via phone calls, Shareef said. “But we didn’t consider the threats at all because the security forces are providing all five members with security.”

Constitutionally the commission had until Sunday to announce the final result. He said there were “minor disparities” involving just one ballot paper out of 233,889 votes cast.

Election looms in Maldives with President Abdulla Yameen, who is supported by China, determined to cling to power

Outgoing president Yameen, who jailed or exiled most of his rivals during his turbulent five-year term, took just 96,502 votes or 41.6 per cent, Shareef said.

Scores of Yameen’s supporters had lodged complaints saying they and other voters had not been allowed to cast their ballot. Some also accused the commission of taking bribes.

Shareef said the commission would file defamation suits against their accusers.

An investigation was underway into the hacking of the commission’s Twitter account two days before the vote, he added.

Nearly 90 per cent of the electorate of 262,135 turned out to vote, according to the official results.

Private election monitors had warned that the electoral process was heavily weighted in favour of the incumbent, but the final results showed huge support for the opposition.

Solih was backed by four opposition parties, three of which had supported Yameen in a controversial 2013 run-off that saw the country’s first democratically elected leader Mohamed Nasheed lose narrowly.

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Solih is set to be sworn in on November 17 when Yameen’s term comes to an end.

Yameen’s hardline rule dented the Maldives’ image as a honeymoon paradise and caused alarm to be raised abroad.

Suspecting a plot to impeach him, Yameen in February declared a state of emergency and arrested top judges as well as political opponents.

Soon after his surprise defeat last week, Yameen freed five political prisoners. But scores of others – including his estranged half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a former president – are still incarcerated.