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

Maldivian expatriates residing in Colombo were seen at the Maldivian Embassy located at Melbourne Avenue Bambalapitiya last morning to cast their vote to choose the next President of Maldives. The Maldives started to vote for the high stakes Presidential

Maldivian expatriates residing in Colombo were seen at the Maldivian Embassy located at Melbourne Avenue Bambalapitiya last morning to cast their vote to choose the next President of Maldives. The Maldives started to vote for the high stakes Presidential

"This is a moment of happiness, a moment of hope, a moment of history", Solih told an audience of journalists and members of his campaign team.

In this picture taken on September 23, 2018 presidential candidate Mohamed Solih addresses the media at the campaign headquarters in Male, the capital of the Maldives.

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

Solih's supporters flooded the streets, hugging one another, waving the Maldivian flag, cheering and honking horns in celebration.

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Beijing loaned Yameen's government hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects like the new "China-Maldives Friendship Bridge", which opened in August. "You have done an extremely good service to not only to the people of Maldives, but also to freedom loving people everywhere", Nasheed said.

Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling foul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

He also urged Yameen to immediately release dozens of political prisoners.

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". The elections are going to decide the fate of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen, who has faced excessive criticism for a recent wide-range crackdown on Opposition parties and dissent.

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India's ties with the Maldives came under strain after Yameen declared Emergency in the country on February 5, following an order by the country's Supreme Court to release a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials. "So I intend to accept the result and once again, to remain in the service of the public".

After the last elections in 2013, the Supreme Court had annulled the result after Yameen trailed Nasheed, giving him time to forge alliances and win a second round of voting that was postponed twice.

Under Mr Yameen, political rivals, judges and even his half brother, the former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, have been jailed or forced into exile.

Many voters across the Indian Ocean archipelago said they stood in line for over five hours to cast their ballots, while expatriate Maldivians voted in neighbouring Sri Lanka and India.

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"Warm congratulations to president elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. This was a team effort, I thank everyone who helped me on my journey to progress", said Yameen.

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