Opposition victory in Maldives deals potential blow to China
By Mohamed Junayd MALE (Reuters) - The opposition was awarded victory in the Maldives presidential election on Monday, in a possible setback for China as the new leaders of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation aim to review major projects agreed with the outgoing administration.
By Mohamed Junayd
MALE (Reuters) - The opposition was awarded victory in the Maldives presidential election on Monday, in a possible setback for China as the new leaders of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation aim to review major projects agreed with the outgoing administration.
Incumbent Abdulla Yameen, who had cultivated ties with both Beijing and Saudi Arabia, conceded defeat after the Election Commission said opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had won Sunday's election by a margin of 16.7 percent.
Before the election, the opposition said it would review Chinese investment, partly out of concern over terms, as experts have warned that the Maldives risked falling into a debt trap.
Solih's ally Mohamed Nasheed, an exiled former president who led the country between 2008 and 2012, has repeatedly said he wants to renegotiate the deals.
"We have a joint manifesto. We have issues, we have ideas agreed upon. I think we have to review all the agreements we had with China. We have to review them and see what is due," Nasheed told Reuters on Monday in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.
The Maldives, a string of palm-fringed islands and atolls lying 325 miles (523 kilometres) southwest of the southern tip of India, is best known as a luxury holiday destination.
But the Muslim nation of less than half a million people has suffered a turbulent transition to democracy following the end of three decades of authoritarian rule in 2008.
"This is a moment of happiness, a moment of hope," Solih told reporters in the capital Male. "This is a journey that has ended at the ballot box because the people willed it."
India and The United States congratulated Solih, popularly known as "Ibu", on his victory even before Yameen conceded.
"This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law," India's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening our partnership."
Both New Delhi and Washington had been concerned by China's growing influence in the Maldives and its lurch toward more hardline attitudes on religious issues during Yameen's five years in power.
China, meantime, has helped build an extension to the international airport in the Maldives, and a bridge linking it to the capital, Male.
The Chinese investment in Maldives is seen as part of its "String of Pearls" strategy, developing a network of friendly ports in the region from Sri Lanka to Pakistan.
India and Western nations have worried that the strategy ultimately aims to help China's military extend its reach.
Since coming to power in a contested election in 2013, Yameen has been criticised for jailing opponents and restricting election observers and the media, and there had been fears that Sunday's election would be an unfair contest.
But Yameen, whose five-year term was set to end in November, soothed concerns over the risk of another messy transfer of power in a televised address to the nation.
"Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results from yesterday. Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him," he said.
Later on Monday, a court released a former police chief, three opposition legislators, and a son-in-law of former leader and Yameen's half brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who were in police custody facing trials.
Gayoom was not released as he was already convicted, the court said. Yameen jailed Gayoom, who led the country for 30 years. He is being held in a prison on a remote island along with the former head of the top court and ex-ministers.
The opposition has said it would make the release of all political prisoners, including Gayoom, a priority.
Voter turnout was 89.2 percent, the Elections Commission said, adding the official results would be released by Sept. 30.
The country has been in political turmoil since February, when Yameen imposed a state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader and former president.
(Reporting by Mohamed Junayd in MALE, Shihar Aneez in COLOMBO and Alasdair Pal in NEW DELHI; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.