Maldives president Yameen concedes election defeat in statement

President

President

Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared victory in Maldives' presidential election after results reported by independent newspaper website mihaaru.com suggested he had an unassailable lead over strongman President Abdulla Yameen.

Solih, known popularly as Ibu, claimed victory and called on Yameen to concede.

In an election marred by controversy, Mr. Yameen - the half-brother of ex-President Abdulla Gayoom who ruled the country for almost 30 years - became the President.

Party officials say no arrests have been made Sunday after an elections-eve raid of the presidential opposition candidate's main campaign office in Male. Yameen did not concede, and his campaign couldn't be reached for comment.

The Elections Commission said balloting was extended by three hours until 7:00 pm (1400 GMT) because of technical glitches suffered by tablet computers containing electoral rolls, with officials using manual systems to verify voters' identities.

Voting has started in the Maldives in a presidential election that is widely seen as a referendum on the island nation's young democracy.

The Muslim-majority nation has become a theatre of rivalry between its traditional partner, India, and China, which has backed Yameen's infrastructure drive and prompted concern in the West about Beijing's increasing influence.

The country's Elections Commission said Solih won by a margin of 16.7 percent in Sunday's vote. "I have congratulated him", Yameen also said. Supporters cited his 25-year career as a parliamentarian as evidence of his commitment and self-restraint in contrast to some of the country's more power-hungry political leaders.

He is married to Fazna Ahmed - a cousin of former President Mohamed Nasheed - and the couple have a son and a daughter. "The will of the people has spoken", were Mr. Solih's words as his victory was imminent on Sunday night. "It is high time that we should rise to change the government". He has been representing Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldivian Parliament since then.

Parliamentarians have also congratulated president elect Solih.

Mr. Yameen's campaign manager, Adhlee Ismail, denied in a brief telephone interview that the elections had been rigged.

This gave Yameen, half-brother of the country's leader for 30 years until 2008, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, enough time to forge alliances that helped him narrowly win a contested run-off.

Many of these projects have been funded by an estimated US$1.3 billion in loans from China, a debt equal to more than one-quarter of the Maldivian GDP, and western diplomats fear it will leave the country vulnerable to Chinese influence.

"If President Yameen loses, China will be able to work with the next leader, as it has shown in the case of Sri Lanka after the 2015 election", said Nilanthi Samaranayake, a South Asia analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, a think tank based in Arlington, Va.

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