UN hails peaceful elections after opposition win

The United Nations (UN) on Monday commended “the commitment” to democracy in the Indian Ocean republic by voters in the Maldives, after opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeated incumbent Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in Sunday’s presidential elections.

“We congratulate the Maldivian people for turning out in large numbers to exercise their right to vote,” UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, briefing reporters in New York, noting “the peaceful and orderly conduct” of the elections.

“We commend the authorities and political leaders for a smooth polling day and for the commitment to a democratic Maldives.”

Just a little over a quarter million people in the tropical island nation voted on Sunday in an election amid mounting international concerns for a lack of transparency and suppression of government critics.

The election widely regarded more as a referendum than an election saw incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom seeking re-election go against the veteran lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Throughout Sunday, Solih maintained a healthy lead but pulled well clear as Yameen lost key electorates despite significant pledges of development in the next five years.

Solih had been backed by Yameen's main political rivals including the now jailed former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nasheed along with Jumhoory Party leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

Preliminary results from Sunday's election shows an overwhelming victory for the opposition alliance with Solih securing 58 percent of the votes.