Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen was inaugurated yesterday, a day after his shock election victory that ended nearly two years of turmoil that threatened to turn the honeymoon islands into an international pariah.
Yameen, the half-brother of the islands’ long-time strongman ruler, was sworn in by the chief justice at a nationally televised ceremony attended by his defeated opponent, Mohammed Nasheed.
The 54-year-old politician was accorded a 21-gun salute and in his first address to the nation pledged to work with neighbors and the international community, which had put his nation of 350,000 Sunni Muslims on notice to elect a leader by yesterday or risk censure.
“We will maintain good neighborly relations with regional countries and others,” Yameen said. “I shall strive to make Maldives the safest and most developed nation in the region.”
The US and regional superpower India were among the first to congratulate him and said they looked forward to working closely with the new leader.
New Delhi had an uneasy relationship with Male after the toppling of former Maldivian president Nasheed, who once took refuge at the Indian High Commission in Male to avoid arrest while the US led international concern over political instability.
Just before his inauguration, Yameen told reporters that the country desperately needed stability.
“The country needs stability,” Yameen told reporters in Male. “I hope we will receive the necessary cooperation from Nasheed through parliament.”
“Instead of confronting political leaders, we will confront the big challenges facing our country,” he said.
Nasheed conceded defeat after a bitterly fought battle and said he was pleased that the country finally had a democratically elected leader.
“Today is a happy day for the Maldives — we now have an elected government,” Nasheed said.
India noted the conciliatory tone of Nasheed.
“We welcome the acceptance of the verdict of the people of Maldives by all sides and commitment expressed to take the country forward on the path of stability, progress and development,” the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Outgoing Maldivian president Mohammed Waheed acknowledged the Indian Ocean archipelago was still trying to find its feet as a democracy, but said it could now move on after the latest vote.
“We are going through an early stage of democratic transition. It’s not easy for Maldives,” Waheed said.
“Hopefully, we are back on track. I believe now the Maldives is ready to move on,” he said. “It’s a happy ending.”
The pro-Nasheed online Minivan News noted that both men had pledged cooperation.
“Yameen’s election brings to an end a chapter of controversy and uncertainty over the government’s democratic legitimacy,” Minivan News said.