Maldives vote for presidential polls amid political turmoil, crackdown on dissent

Maldivian election officers gather at the election commissioner's office center in Male Maldives Saturday Sept. 22 2018. The country will hold its third-ever multiparty presidential election on Sunday

Maldivian election officers gather at the election commissioner's office center in Male Maldives Saturday Sept. 22 2018. The country will hold its third-ever multiparty presidential election on Sunday

Solih, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, had also warned that the president's backers could try to rig the election, particularly after his offices were raided the night before voting began.

The strongman president of the Maldives on Monday conceded defeat in elections, easing fears of a fresh political crisis in the archipelago at the centre of a battle for influence between India and China. Yameen who was tipped to retain power had jailed or forced into exile nearly all of his main rivals.

Opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has declared victory in the Maldives' third-ever multiparty presidential elections.

Observers from Transparency Maldives said in a statement late Sunday morning that opening procedures "went well", with almost all of the polling stations opening within 30 minutes of the scheduled opening time.

However, events following the last election in 2013 suggest that the celebrations in the nation of 340,000 people may be premature.

During his five-year term, President Yameen had jailed all his political rivals and some ministers, as well as his family members, which includes 80-year-old President Maumoon.

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

India's foreign ministry issued a statement Monday saying it looked forward to working with Solih's new government "in further deepening our relationship".

There had been concerns that Yameen, who has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from China for an infrastructure blitz, might not accept the outcome.

There were also no other candidates at Sunday's election held with all key dissidents either in jail or exile. But Solih had 58.3 percent of the vote with almost 97.5 percent of ballots counted early Monday, according to independent newspaper website mihaaru.com.

Speaking of change and stability and urging the Yameen administration to ensure a smooth transition of power, Soli said in Male, the Maldivian capital: "For many of us it has been a hard journey". There were no arrests.

In an election marred by controversy, Mr. Yameen - the half-brother of ex-President Abdulla Gayoom who ruled the country for almost 30 years - became the President.

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

"Should the Maldives government fail to do so, they should impose targeted sanctions, such as those proposed by the European Union, against senior ruling party officials implicated in abuses", the New York-based group said in a statement.

The government had used "vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and to intimidate and imprison critics", some of whom had been assaulted and even murdered, according to Human Rights Watch.

The ministry cited provisional figures from the country's Elections Commission showing Solih winning by a margin of 16.7 percent over incumbent Abdulla Yameen in Sunday's election.

"India sees it all in a very securitised sense that here are all these Chinese-backed ports around it", said Gareth Price, a South Asia expert at the think-tank Chatham House, referring to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Yameen voted minutes after polling booths opened in the capital Male, where opposition campaign efforts had been frustrated by a media crackdown and police harassment.

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