Yameen takes power in Maldives, pledges to bolster economy

Abdulla Yameen was sworn in as Maldives president on Sunday, a day after wining a closely contested runoff election, ending nearly two years of political uncertainty

Abdulla Yameen was sworn in as Maldives president on Sunday, a day after wining a closely contested runoff election, ending nearly two years of political uncertainty that posed a threat to the Indian Ocean atoll nation’s vital tourism sector.

Yameen defeated former president Mohamed Nasheed with 51.6 percent of vote, bringing an end to the protracted presidential elections, Xinhua reported.

Addressing the nation, the new president pledged to work for an all-inclusive economy and make Maldives a peaceful nation that achieves progress.

During his campaign, the 54-year-old economist had pledged to pursue oil exploration and encourage foreign investment in extraction.

He said he wants to establish a small but effective government and that he would take steps to reduce government expenditure.

He said the economy is suffering, and so his priority will be to improve the economy.

His running mate Mohamed Jameel Ahmed took oath as the vice president.

Yameen is the half brother of former president Maumoon Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years before being ousted in 2008 by Mohamed Nasheed in the country’s first multi-party elections.

Yameen was strongly backed by Gayoom loyalists and built his popularity with a nationalist and religious stance, political analysts believe. 

He was arrested and briefly detained during Nasheed’s administration in June 2010 on charges of bribery and attempting to topple the government.

During the 2013 election campaign, Yameen and his backers accused Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of being too secular and close to the West.

The presidential race was plagued with controversy after the results of the first round of voting Sep 7 were annulled on unsubstantiated vote rigging charges and two other polls were cancelled by the Supreme Court while another attempt to hold polls Oct 19 was stopped by the police at the last minute.

Nasheed, who remains the country’s first democratically-elected president, led the fresh first round of voting Nov 9 with nearly 47 percent of the votes while Yameen got only 29.73 percent.

However, third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who is also dubbed the richest man in the Maldives, threw his weight behind Yameen just ahead of Saturday’s crucial run-off.

Political unrest has prevailed in the Maldives since Nasheed was controversially ousted from power in February 2012 in what he alleged was a coup.

Nasheed accepted defeat Saturday, saying he would not challenge the results and his party would refrain from inciting violence but focus on becoming an opposition party loyal to the state and winning the parliamentary election.

The Maldives is a predominantly Muslim nation of 350,000 people with 91 percent of the 240,000 eligible voters casting ballot Saturday.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday congratulated Yameen and assured him of India’s full support in his efforts to provide a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of the archipelago nation.

In a message, the prime minister termed Yameen’s election victory “a triumph for the forces of democratic pluralism in the Maldives”.

The US also extended “sincere congratulations” to Yameen.

“The US and the Maldives have a long history of cordial relations, and we look forward to continuing this partnership with the new president and his administration,” said a statement from the US embassy in Colombo.


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