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India hails ‘triumph of democracy’ in Maldives election result

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s victory could possibly bring to an end the months-long strain in ties between India and Yameen, whose handling of institutions and closeness to Beijing didn’t go down well with New Delhi.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2018 00:02 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Maldives election,Maldives election result,Ibrahim Mohamed Solih
Maldivian president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih arrives at an event with supporters in Male, Maldives on September 24, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

India on Monday said the elections in Maldives, where joint opposition candidate (JOC) Ibrahim Mohamed Solih trounced incumbent Abdulla Yameen, reflected the Indian Ocean nation’s “commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law”.

The outcome of the election results, after which Yameen conceded defeat, eased fears of another political crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago - an area of competitive influence among between India, China and the West.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Solih and congratulated him. “The Prime Minister also conveyed his good wishes for the strengthening of democracy, peace and prosperity in Maldives under the leadership of Mr Solih,” a government release said. Solih thanked Modi, and the leaders agreed to work closely “to further strengthen the close, friendly and good neighbourly relations.”

“We welcome the successful completion of the third presidential election process in the Maldives which, according to preliminary information, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has won,” the external affairs ministry (MEA) said in a separate statement.

“This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law,” the MEA said.

Solih’s victory could possibly bring to an end the months-long strain in ties between India and Yameen, whose handling of institutions and closeness to Beijing didn’t go down well with New Delhi. But the real tipping point was Yameen declaring Emergency in the country this February 5, unwilling to accept an order from the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders.

Though the Emergency was lifted after 45 days, the nationwide crackdown saw former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom -- Yameen’s half-brother -- jailed along with the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court justice amid accusations of an imminent coup.

Solih’s win was unexpected. The 56-year-old became the Maldives Democratic Party presidential candidate after its other top leaders were either jailed or exiled by Yameen’s government.

Party’s main leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed, in exile in Sri Lanka, had hoped to run again but was disqualified because of an outstanding prison sentence .

The European Union had said that it was not sending election observers because Maldives had failed to meet the basic conditions for monitoring.

“The rout of Yameen is a setback for China and it is a victory of India’s soft power founded in democratic value over China’s hard power”, strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellany said.

First Published: Sep 25, 2018 00:02 IST