Abdulla Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential election

Maldivian joint opposition presidential candidate Mohamed Solih speaks to the media at the end of the presidential election day in Male

Supporters of Maldives opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih have taken to the streets in celebration after he claimed victory over President Abdulla Yameen in the general election.

The move is a sign of a government crackdown against the opposition that has raised fears that Sunday's election may be rigged to favour President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party.

Yameen's campaign did not concede the race, and no one from the campaign could immediately be reached for comment.

"People were not expecting this result".

He said he meant to stay on in the presidency until the end of his term on November 17.

Mr Solih has been parliamentary leader of the MDP since 2011.

A mild-mannered stalwart of the Maldivian democratic movement, Solih was among the MPs who tried - and were denied the right - to register the country's first independent political party in 2003.

While a bunch of MDP leaders in-exile worked for parliamentary democracy from Sri Lanka, Mr. Solih was among few to advocate the same from Male.

Famed for its sandy white beaches and luxury resorts, the Maldives under Yameen have seen economic growth and longer life expectancy, according to the World Bank. This is a vote for democracy and freedom.

"Ibu is totally different from Yameen, because Yameen is a dictator and a brutal person".

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Nasheed told AFP in Colombo the vote would "bring the country back to the democratic path" and Yameen had no option but to concede defeat.

As protests culminating in violent confrontations with police and mass arrests have grown, opposition parties many of them Yameen's own former political partners formed an alliance in exile with the aim of unseating him. "It seemed he might rig the election even at the last minute and would win somehow or the other".

But Solih had 58.3% of the vote with almost 97.5% of ballots counted early Monday, according to independent news website mihaaru.com. Rules were also tightened for Indian workers in the Maldives tourism sector after Yameen declared an Emergency in the island nation, which continued for 45 days.

The national electoral commission has not yet announced official results.

Following his victory, Mr Solih said: "This is a moment of happiness, a moment of hope".

Maldivian joint opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih speaks to the media at the end of the presidential election day in Male, Maldives September 23, 2018.

But both the European Union and United States declined to send teams to monitor the voting, wary of appearing to condone them.

"I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power", he said on television.

Only a handful of foreign media were allowed in to cover the poll.

Yameen has jailed two former presidents, including his half brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives' former strongman, his former vice president, two Supreme Court justices, two former defence ministers and many others after trials criticised for a lack of due process.

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