Maldives opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has declared victory in Sunday's presidential election, urging strongman incumbent Abdulla Yameen to ensure a peaceful transition of power and immediately release scores of political prisoners.
"I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power," Solih said on national television shortly after official results showed he had an unassailable 58 percent of the popular vote.
"The message is loud and clear. People want justice and stability and we will ensure accountability," he added.
Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling foul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.
Preliminary results released by two private media outlets placed Solih in the lead with 58.1 percent of the vote in the two man race, with around half of all ballots counted.
The Mihaaru and Avas news websites said their tallies were based on official results published by ballot stations across the country.
Yameen, who was widely tipped to retain power, has imprisoned or forced into exile almost all of his main rivals.
The poll is being closely watched by regional rivals India and China, who are jostling to influence Indian Ocean nations. The European Union and United States, meanwhile, have threatened sanctions if the vote is not free and fair.
Many voters across the Indian Ocean archipelago said they stood in line for over five hours to cast their ballots, while expatriate Maldivians voted in neighbouring Sri Lanka and India.(The Telegraph)