Opposition candidate takes 15 percentage lead in Maldives presidential election

Vastavam web: Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has taken a 15 percentage point lead over incumbent Abdulla Yameen in the Maldives’ presidential election, according to early provisional counts reported by local media. Yameen was expected to cement his grip on power, amid criticism over the fairness of the vote on the islands, best known as a luxury holiday destination.

The provisional results counted in 250 out of 472 vote boxes as of 1640 GMT, showed the opposition leading by a margin of 15.4 percent, according to local media, Mihaaru. The provisional results for the remaining 222 vote boxes, with an estimated 130,000 voters are yet to be released. Yameen’s party officials told that results from areas where he has strong support have still to be released.

The Muslim-majority Indian Ocean 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. More than a quarter of a million people were eligible to vote across the coral islands. Yameen, 59, is seeking a second five-year term.

Hundreds of people queued outside polling stations in the capital, Male, early on Sunday. On some islands, people started queuing on Saturday night. “I am voting to revert a mistake I made in 2013. I am voting to free President Maumoon (Gayoom),” Nazima Hassan, 44, told Reuters after voting in Male. In the polling booth at the Maldives embassy in Colombo, some voters had to wait for more than seven hours.

Ahamed Ihusan, a 24-year-old business management student, told that “if it is a free and fair election, the opposition will win.” “Yameen is trying to frustrate voters by having a shoddy process for the elections and a long waiting time of 6-8 hours in some stations. I appeal to all to be patient and not step back,” an opposition supporter told Reuters, asking not to be named. Police late on Saturday raided the main opposition campaign office saying they came to “stop illegal activities”, after arresting at least five opposition supporters for “influencing voters”, opposition officials said. British Ambassador James Dauris wrote on Twitter that it was “easy to understand why so many people are concerned about what might happen on Election Day”.