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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

World

Yameen takes power in Maldives after vote turmoil
AFP
Male, November 16, 2013
First Published: 22:53 IST(16/11/2013)
Last Updated: 16:15 IST(17/11/2013)

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen was inaugurated on Sunday, a day after his shock election victory that ended nearly two years of turmoil that threatened to turn the honeymoon islands into an international pariah.

Yameen, the half-brother of the islands' long-time strongman ruler, was sworn in by the chief justice at a nationally televised ceremony attended by his defeated opponent Mohamed Nasheed.

The 54-year-old politician was accorded a 21-gun salute and in his first address to the nation pledged to work with neighbours and the international community which had put his nation of 350,000 Sunni Muslims on notice to elect a leader by Sunday or risk censure.

"We will maintain good neighbourly relations with regional countries and others," Yameen said. "I shall strive to make Maldives the safest and most developed nation in the region."

The United States and regional superpower India were among the first to congratulate him and said they looked forward to working closely with the new leader.

New Delhi had an uneasy relationship with Male after the toppling of former president Nasheed who once took refuge at the Indian High Commission in Male to avoid arrest while the US led international concern over political instability.

Just before his inauguration, Yameen told reporters that the country desperately needed stability.

"The country needs stability," Yameen, 54, told reporters in Male. "I hope we will receive the necessary cooperation from Nasheed through parliament."

"Instead of confronting political leaders, we will confront the big challenges facing our country," he said.

Nasheed conceded defeat after a bitterly fought battle and said he was pleased that the country finally had a democratically elected leader.

"Today is a happy day for the Maldives — we now have an elected government," Nasheed said.

India noted the reconciliatory tone of Nasheed.

"We welcome the acceptance of the verdict of the people of Maldives by all sides and commitment expressed to take the country forward on the path of stability, progress and development," India's external affairs ministry said in a statement.

Outgoing president Mohamed Waheed, in an exclusive interview with AFP, acknowledged the Indian Ocean archipelago was still trying to find its feet as a democracy but said it could now move on after the latest vote.

"We are going through an early stage of democratic transition. It's not easy for Maldives," said Waheed.

"Hopefully we are back on track. I believe now the Maldives is ready to move on," he said. "It's a happy ending."

The pro-Nasheed Minivan News noted that both men had pledged cooperation.

"Yameen's election brings to an end a chapter of controversy and uncertainty over the government's democratic legitimacy," Minivan News said.

Nasheed has claimed he was toppled in a February 2012 coup triggered by a police mutiny and months of public protests orchestrated by Yameen's Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and his then vice president Waheed.

Nasheed has also accused Yameen's half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the islands with an iron fist for 30 years, of being behind his downfall. But on Sunday, both Nasheed and Gayoom attended Yameen's swearing-in.

Their conciliatory approach after the election will be a relief to the country's lifeblood tourist industry which had feared an already lengthy political crisis could further damage the image of a peaceful paradise.

After an annulled election result and two cancelled polls, foreign diplomats had increasingly come to view the delays as politically inspired.

Western diplomats had threatened international isolation unless the Maldives allowed its people to freely elect a leader.

The European Union had warned of "appropriate measures" if Saturday's election did not go ahead while the Commonwealth had threatened to kick it out of the club.

Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner and climate change activist, saw his rivals unite to keep him out of power after his first round victory on November 9.

He became the first democratically-elected president in 2008 when he defeated Gayoom in a run-off.


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