New Delhi: A day after a stunning upset, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen conceded defeat and congratulated opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for winning the presidential elections.
Earlier, India – and the US – had issued statements welcoming the stunning victory of the opposition candidate Solih in the presidential elections.
“We welcome the successful completion of the third Presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won,” said the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) early Monday morning.
On Sunday night, provisional results collected by media and civil society showed that ‘Ibu’ Solih had won by a margin of 16% against the incumbent President Yameen. There was a turnout of around 89.22%, with voting allowed for 11 hours due to long lines at polling stations.
India unusually issued the statement about three hours before the official results were declared by the Maldives’s Election Commission and congratulated Solih – a signal that any attempt to change the outcome would not be welcome.
On Monday evening at around 7.15 pm local time, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Solih to offer personal congratulations on his victory and invited him to India.
“The Prime Minister also conveyed his good wishes for the strengthening of democracy, peace and prosperity in Maldives under the leadership of Mr Solih,” said a MEA press release.
Solih said on Maldivian television that Indian PM had invited him to India and he had accepted it. The newly-elected leader also said India would be the closest friend of Maldives of all time.
Following the EC’s announcement, the Maldives foreign ministry posted the results on its social media accounts, which indicated that the government had recognised the outcome.
Maldivian Democratic Party candidate MP Hon Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, wins the #Maldives Presidential Elections, with 134,616 votes.
— MFA Maldives (@MDVForeign) September 24, 2018
Yameen met with Solih and then made a televised concession speech on state media.
“The Maldivian people made their decision yesterday. I have accepted that result,” he said in the speech in Dhivehi.
“Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president,” Yameen said. “I have congratulated him.”
Yameen said that he will stay on and hand over power to his successor on November 17.
He claimed that his five-year term had been the most difficult for any President, but had achieved several “transformational development milestones”.
“Every time I faced issues, which if I had given in to them, the rights of the people would be compromised. I worked to uphold the rule of law, and to prevent the effects of illegal acts from being felt by the people,” said Yameen, echoing his defence of the jailing of political opponents.
He acknowledged that his wife had had politically helped him “the most”.
“In front of the Maldivian people, my work was sincere. But yesterday the Maldivian people made their decision about me. So, I have decided to accept the results and stay in service to the people in any way I can,” Yameen said.
With the government accepting the results, there were congratulatory tweets posted by ruling party members.
Congratulations President Elect Hon @ibusolih and His Running-Mate Hon @faisalnaseem I wish all the success to MDP Government for the next 5 years and HOPE “MDP” will take care of this Benevolent Nation and safeguard Islam, as outlined in our Constitution ❤️?? pic.twitter.com/thEpL82aY3
— Ahmed Nihan (@ahmed_nihan) September 24, 2018
Congratulations to president elect Hon Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. I wish our beloved Country peace and prosperity.
— Abdulla Nazim (@ANazim2019) September 24, 2018
Congratulations President Elect Hon @ibusolih & VP Hon @FaisalNasym The majority of Maldives have decided by casting their vote. I wish the new gov the very best! #NationFirst
It was indeed an honor to have worked at the Office of the President under the leadership of HEP Yameen
— Imjad Jaleel ?? (@ImjadJ) September 24, 2018
Its a new day, beginning of a new chapter to me and this Nation. This is politics. May Allah s.w.t bless this country, forgive our wrong doings, give strength to our leaders to resist the temptation to disbelieve, keep this Nation independent forever.
— Mohamed Shainee (@mshainee) September 24, 2018
The Maldives has a long transition period ahead, with the new president only taking over from November 17.
Welcoming the victory of Solih, India also acknowledged that the electoral process was not complete. “We heartily congratulate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on his victory and hope that the Election Commission will officially confirm the result at the earliest,” said the statement.
The EC full provisional results, endorsed the victory margin of Solih calculated by the media and civil society.
India stated that the 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”.
“In keeping with our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening our partnership,” added the MEA statement.
India has had a testy relationship with President Yameen, who was seen as being too close to China and hostile to New Delhi.
Just before the MEA released its statement, the US 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”.
“Although the Election Commission has not yet announced the final tally, we note Maldives’ media and NGO reports that the Joint Opposition candidate has secured a victory following a peaceful day of polling. We urge calm and respect for the will of the people as the election process concludes,” she added.
Maldivian ambassador to India, Ahmed Mohamed said that the elections have disproved the concerns expressed by the international community. “The credibility of the polls should not be based on won, but the process,” he said.
He believed that while no questions have been raised about the conduct of presidential polls, there may not have been a similar consensus among the international community, if Yameen had won. “This shows the hypocrisy of the world,” said Mohamed. A political appointee, Mohamed is expected to submit his papers before the new president takes over.