26 September 2018

Abdulla Yameen has been decisively defeated in the 2018 presidential election despite the spells and incantations of his Sri Lankan witch-doctor Asela Wickramasinghe. A large scale vote rigging was expected but did not happen. The United States and European Union had both threatened sanctions against Mr. Abdulla Yameen and members of his government if they were seen to be interfering in the polls. They did not send observers to the election as they feared that their presence might give legitimacy to a rigged election. Election commission has not yet declared the results but Yameen conceded defeat. Maldives follows the fall of Najib Razak in Malaysia and Jacob Zuma in South Africa this year.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the president elect represents four opposition parties whose leaders are in detention or exile. He had a 58 percent lead in the polls. Police raided his office over “bribery” suspicions Saturday night, a day before the election, but came back empty-handed. He said he will seek to free all political prisoners, including Gayoom. He also wants to renegotiate, or scrap deals not made in the best interests of the Maldives, as well as restore ties with India, which could strain relations with China. The election results in Malaysia and Maldives is another unexpected blow to Beijing, putting a dent on the ambitious OBOR (One Belt and One Road) initiative.

Solih will be sworn in on 17 November 2018 for a five-year term.

India, the United Kingdom and the United States are relived that the government that gave China unprecedented access to the Indian Ocean islands has been voted out.

OCCRP, a consortium of investigative journalists, revealed just before the polls, how Ahmed Adeeb, the Maldives’s former tourism minister, handed out at least 50 of the country’s pristine tropical islands to tourism developers without bids, of which at least 24 of them were under Yameen’s authority.  Former tourism minister Adeeb was imprisoned for a blast that occurred in the presidential yacht. Two separate forensic analyses, including one from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States, suggest that the blast was accidental and that Adeeb was jailed on false pretenses.

OCCRP revelation might have helped Solih to get some of the marginal votes in the polls.

During his autocratic rule Yameen arrested former President and his half-brother Gayoom, the chief justice and another justice of the Supreme Court, and a court administrator. Two Maldivian journalists, Ahmed Rilwan and Yameen Rasheed were murdered. He has jailed or forced into exile nearly all of his political rivals.  He arrested hundreds for protesting against his rule. He suspended parliament for long periods of time, and shuttered critical media. Yameen passed a draconian law on defamation and imposed more than $250,000 in fines on opposition aligned Raajje TV for libel. He pulled the Maldives out of the Commonwealth after it threatened of sanctions for human rights abuse. He moved closer to China and Saudi Arabia discarding the traditional allies, India and the United Kingdom. Like the 1MDB saga in Malaysia, Yameen abused public funds for personal benefit and to bribe those who would keep him in power.

Now it is the responsibility of the newly elected president to bring Yameen to justice. Solih should not see it as tit for tat or seeking revenge. It is merely upholding the law of the land which had been ruthlessly tampered with by the outgoing president. It is justice for the murdered and exiled journalists and hundreds of jurist and dissidents who have been jailed without due process.