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October 14, 2018

US warns Maldives leader against underming vote result


October 14, 2018

COLOMBO: The United States warned Saturday that action could be taken against outgoing Maldives president Abdulla Yameen if he seeks to overturn his election defeat.

The warning by a US State Department spokesman came on the eve of a Maldives Supreme Court hearing on a petition by Yameen to annul the result of a September 23 presidential election which he spectacularly lost.

“The US is concerned by troubling actions” by Yameen “that threaten to undermine the will of the Maldivian people, and will consider appropriate measures against anyone who undermines a peaceful transfer of power in #Maldives,” deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said on Twitter.

The United States had previously warned of targeted sanctions if Yameen’s administration attempted to rig the September vote won by opposition figure Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Yameen is due to hand over power on November 17 when his five-year term ends. He initially conceded defeat, but has since petitioned the Supreme Court to annul the result. The court’s decision to accept Yameen’s petition has raised the prospect of fresh upheaval in the country’s turbulent politics.

The Supreme Court hearing is due to start at 1:00pm (0800 GMT) in the upmarket tourist destination which is also at the centre of a tussle for influence between India and China. Yameen has courted China’s backing.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), whose candidate won a landslide, said Yameen should respect the result.

Yameen — whose main political rivals were either in jail or in exile for the vote — was unexpectedly beaten by Solih with 58.4 percent of the vote.

In the run-up to the election, the opposition had feared it would be rigged as Solih was not allowed to campaign freely and was denied media coverage.

Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Colombo-based spokesman for the MDP, said that the legal challenge was “an attempt by Yameen to create unrest”.

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