Voting ends in criticised Maldives election

Voting ends in criticised Maldives election

Voting ends in criticised Maldives election

The Maldives has voted in a heavily-criticised presidential election, closely watched by India and China.

President Abdulla Yameen, who favours closer ties to China, is seeking a second term. His rival, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, leans closer towards India.

Officials say they had to extend voting by three hours due to long queues.

The Indian Ocean archipelago is best-known overseas for its clear waters and high-end resorts but its government stands accused of crushing dissent.

The European Union and US have voiced concerns about the election, with both threatening to impose targeted sanctions if the democratic situation does not improve.

Police raided opposition headquarters on the eve of the vote.

The Maldives is made up of 26 coral atolls and 1,192 islands, and tourism is a vital part of its economy. More than 400,000 people live there but its future hangs in the balance due to climate change.

Polls opened at 08:00 (03:00 GMT) on Sunday, and closed three hours later than expected, at 19:00. Partial results are expected later on Sunday, but it could take up to a week for the full results to be announced.

 

The archipelago has been gripped by political upheaval in recent years. In February the Supreme Court quashed the convictions of nine opposition figures, among them exiled ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted from office in 2012.

But after President Yameen declared a state of emergency and ordered the arrest of two judges, the court reversed its decision.

The move was seen as a sign that Mr Yameen – who is seeking to win another five-year term – would not tolerate any challenge to his rule and sparked criticism from Washington, London and New Delhi.

Some in India, meanwhile, called for an intervention in a small, neighbouring country once seen as firmly within its sphere of influence. Mr Nasheed also appealed for Indian military intervention.

As part of Beijing’s push to gain strategic influence and carve out new trading routes in the Indian Ocean and beyond, it has lent billions for huge infrastructural projects in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and operates key ports in those countries, to the chagrin of India.

Under Mr Yameen, the Maldives has also welcomed Chinese money for major projects and signed a free trade agreement. More tourists from China now visit the Maldives than from any other country. -BBC

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