Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen has conceded defeat after a surprise election win for the opposition in a poll that was billed as a test for democracy in the troubled island nation.
“The citizens of the Maldives had their say … and I accept that result,” Yameen said in a televised speech on Monday.
The 59-year-old, who presided over a five-year crackdown on dissent, said he met with president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the president’s office in Male shortly before his speech,
“I have congratulated him,” Yameen said.
The remarks came hours after the national elections commission confirmed a decisive victory for Solih, a long time member of parliament, who is representing a coalition of four parties, whose leaders are either in jail or exile.
Solih won with 58 percent of the vote, or 134, 616 ballots, while Yameen garnered 96,142 votes or 42 percent, the official count showed.
Turnout in the election, in which more than a quarter million people were eligible to vote, was more than 89 percent.
Yameen said he has “served the Maldivian public sincerely” to ensure economic prosperity for the country.
“The result of that service is clear, and I thank the thousands who accepted that and voted for me,” he said.
The president, who ran on a platform of defending Maldives’ Islamic faith and boosting the economy, said he will stay on in the presidency until the end of his term on November 17.
Yameen’s running mate, Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, a cleric with close ties to Saudi Arabia, also congratulated Solih in a post on Twitter, saying he hoped for “positive changes” in the country.
The contentious election on Sunday took place against a backdrop of uncertainty and fears of rigging, and was closely watched by India, US, European Union, China and Saudi Arabia.
Even before the elections commission announced its results, both India and the US issued statements congratulating the people of the Maldives.
New Delhi, which has criticised the roll back of democracy under Yameen, said the 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 US state department said the Maldivian people have “raised their democratic voices to determine the future of their country”, and urged “calm and respect for the will of the people”.