The Maldives opposition has claimed victory in the tense presidential election after its officials and an independent newspaper reported results from 90 percent of the ballot boxes.
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, candidate from the coalition of four parties, whose leaders are either in exile or imprisoned, claimed victory in a televised speech on Sunday.
“We have won this election with a comfortable majority,” said Solih. “I called on President Abdulla Yameen to respect the will of the people and to immediately begin the smooth transition of power.”
The opposition candidate had an unassailable lead of 34 000 votes over Yameen with just 27 000 votes to be declared late on Sunday, according to polling station results broadcast over local media.
Ahmed Nihan, a senior ruling party official, told reporters that while it was too early to declare a winner, the Progressive Party of the Maldives “has the courage to accept the citizen’s say, regardless of whether we win or lose”.
“We have proved we are capable of facilitating an orderly vote,” said Nihan, adding that the opposition’s claims of vote rigging prior to the election were “baseless”.
The Muslim-majority Indian Ocean nation has become a theater 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.
Yameen’s government has jailed many of his main rivals, including former president and his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on charges ranging from terrorism to corruption.