Relief as Maldives president concedes defeat

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COLOMBO: The strongman president of the Maldives yesterday conceded his surprise electoral defeat, easing fears of a fresh political crisis in the archipelago at the centre of a battle for influence between India and China.

“The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results from yesterday,” Abdulla Yameen said in a televised address to the Indian Ocean nation a day after the joint opposition candidate unexpectedly triumphed.

“Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him,” Yameen said.

He said he would hand over power when his term in office ends on November 17, and ensure a smooth transition in the 1,200-island nation popular with foreign tourists for its white sands and blue lagoons. There had been concerns at home and abroad that Yameen might not accept the outcome.

At the last election in 2013, the Supreme Court annulled the result after Yameen trailed former president Mohamed Nasheed, giving Yameen time to forge alliances and win a second round of voting that was postponed twice.

Results from Sunday´s election released by the electoral commission showed Yameen on 41.7 percent of the vote, well behind Solih on 58.3 percent — the only other name on ballot papers. The final official result will take up to a week to be published. The outcome was a major surprise, with Yameen´s main political rivals either in prison or in exile, media coverage of the opposition sparse, and monitors and the opposition predicting the vote would be rigged. —Agencies

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