The Maldivian joint opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeated incumbent President Abdulla Yameen in the Presidential Elections held on Sunday. The Election Commission of Maldives has not yet declared the official results; but as per interim results declared by the Commission, Mr. Solih got 58.3 per cent and Mr. Yameen has got 41.7 per cent of the total votes polled. The official results will be announced on September 30. Meanwhile, President Yameen has conceded defeat and said, he would serve out the rest of his term and would ensure smooth transition of power in November. Mr. Ibrahim Solih made his first public statement immediately after the interim results were declared and thanked the people for their support.
There were speculations of rigging and cancellation of the elections untill the last moment. On night just before the election day, sudden raids were conducted at the opposition campaign head office without warrants to verify information, which the police authorities claimed to have on “alleged cases of bribery by the opposition to buy the votes of the government supporters”. This made it almost certain that the elections would be cancelled. However, police did not find anything incriminating and came out of the opposition campaign office empty handed. As a result, elections were held as per schedule. Nevertheless, voting started late in several polling stations due to technical issues. The delay however, did not discourage the voters to exercise their democratic right. People waited for several hours in queues to cast their votes. The deadline for voting was extended from 4 to 7 pm in the evening.
There were 472 ballot boxes including five in four overseas locations, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the UK for the Maldivians living in those countries to cast their votes. 233,877 people voted in the third Presidential elections in the Maldives out of total 262,000 eligible voters.
The elections were largely incident free and peaceful. As per the Maldives Election Commission, it has received two complaints related to violation of election laws. The country’s Human Rights Commission too has said the voting was decidedly free and fair.
Even though results have not been declared officially; India, Sri Lanka, EU and the USA have congratulated Mr. Ibrahim Solih. In a press statement, India’s Ministry of External Affairs of said, “New Delhi welcomes the successful completion of the third Presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won. India heartily congratulated Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest”.
These elections were not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflect the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law. In keeping with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening the bilateral partnership.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Mr. Solih and congratulated him on his victory in the Presidential elections. Mr. Solih thanked the Indian Prime Minister for his greetings and good wishes. The two leaders agreed to work closely together to further strengthen the warm, close, friendly and good relations between the two countries.
It is expected that Maldives’ relations with EU, USA, UK, India, Sri Lanka and the Commonwealth will be restored and improved under the Solih administration once he takes over. The strong relations with China and Saudi Arabia would also be continued. In the meantime, the Maldives President-elect said his first official task would be to release all political prisoners. He also resolved that getting back stolen Maldivian public money would be a priority. He said cases of unresolved murder of journalists in the island country would be tackled vigorously.
The outcome of the third Maldivian Presidential elections has brought a glimmer of hope among the Maldivians as well as the international community on the future of democracy in the strategic Indian Ocean country.
Script: Gulbin Sultana, Researcher, Idsa