Maldives: Abdulla Yameen new president, to focus on development
-DR. ABDUL RUFF COLACHAL
Abdulla Yameen, chief opponent of former president Mohamed Nasheed, has won the presidential election run-off vote in the Maldives on 16 November. A planned re-run on 19 October has now been halted and the newly elected president will be sworn in today, the 18th November.
The election of Yameen, the half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – who ruled the nation for 30 years has become a pleasant surprise. Yameen said: \”It’s now time to bring peace, the people have decided. It’s now time for development.\” He said his priority was the economy, notably stabilizing the rupiah and creating jobs.
Former Mohamed Nasheed was speculated to be back as new president but the people have decided otherwise in swift move. Nasheed’s main opponent was Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who was considered a dictator by opponents and rights groups.
Mohamed Nasheed, the Indian Ocean state’s first democratically elected leader was ousted from power last year. Nasheed edged ahead in the first round of the Maldives presidential race, but later he lost to his opponent Yameen. A lack of a clear majority would have meant a run-off with his nearest rival.
The Election Commission said that Yameen secured 51.3% of the vote, compared with 48.6% for ex-President Mohamed Nasheed. Former president Nasheed had won 47% in the first round this month, just short of the 50% needed for outright victory, in an election process mired in controversy. He had been seeking to regain power after he was forced to resign in 2012.
There have been months of legal and political wrangling over the election, causing concern among foreign diplomats. The Supreme Court annulled a first vote on 7 September amid allegations of electoral fraud. However, a first attempt to hold a run-off the following day was cancelled hours before voting was due to begin. Police prevented election officials from distributing voting materials, citing a court order requiring all candidates to approve the voter register.
It was unclear for too long who would run the Maldives in the absence of a new president. The incumbent Mohamed Waheed says he will not stay on after his term expires on November 11, despite a Supreme Court ruling asking him to do so until a replacement is elected. The presidential candidates were meant to sign a register to verify the details of an electorate of nearly 240,000, after allegations that voter lists contained dead people and children.
A September 7 vote was annulled based on a secret police report which found vote rigging while an October poll was halted by police after a Supreme Court ruling. There was a serious risk of indefinite delay as Waheed was asked to stay on by the Supreme Court. Many voters feared the result could be annulled again through meddling either from politicians or the police.
Nasheed, of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has accepted defeat, saying he supported the democratic process, he said: \”I graciously accept defeat. We lost by a very small margin. Democracy is a process. It is up to us to make it work.\” He added that the MDP has always asked for a government elected by the people. “Today is a happy day for the Maldives – we now have an elected government”, he said.
Nasheed had earlier said \”Our opponents know that they will lose in a fair fight.\”
A former street activist, Nasheed came to power in 2008 but was ousted in 2012 in what his partisans say amounted to a coup. A Commonwealth-backed commission of inquiry later concluded that his ouster did not constitute a coup.
Nasheed shot to globe fame when he held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the low-lying archipelago. His removal led to protests by his supporters and a police crackdown.
With a weakened economy, whoever wins would face a lack of investor confidence. The political crisis has hit tourism, a vital source of earnings, and the Maldives has faced fuel shortages because it is unable to pay suppliers on time as foreign exchange reserves dwindle.
The European Union had said it would take \”appropriate measures\” if the election was not run on Saturday.