October 10, 2018 / 12:55 PM / 2 months ago

Maldives' defeated Yameen challenges result of presidential poll

COLOMBO (Reuters) - The president of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, challenging his defeat in last’s month election in the island nation, which has been in political upheaval since the declaration of emergency this year.

FILE PHOTO: Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen speaks as he gives a statement at President office in Male, Maldives September 24, 2018. President Media//Handout via REUTERS

Yameen conceded defeat after an official count showed joint opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had polled 16.8 percent more votes in a surprise result. But opposition members have worried about a smooth transition of power, due on Nov. 17.

Yameen’s supporters had complained about rigging of votes and fraudulent ballot papers, his lawyer Mohamed Saleem told reporters after approaching the top court.

“There are a lot of complaints from supporters,” he said. “We decided to submit the case after going through those complaints. President Yameen did not want to let this go as the concern is about the rights of his supporters.”

Critics are wary of Yameen, who ran the islands with an iron hand, jailing political opponents and Supreme Court justices.

In February he declared a state of emergency to annul a court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Complaints about the election result came from voters as well as monitors, Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives said in a statement.

The Election Commission said the vote had been free and fair, with turnout of 89.2 percent.

The Maldives, located near key shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, has become important as China and India compete for influence in the region.

China is engaged in building up the islands’ infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road Initiative to boost trade and transport links across Asia.

Writing by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Clarence; Fernandez

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