Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is the new president-elect of the Maldives. His victory over the incumbent president Abdullah Yameen in the presidential polls on Monday was welcomed by India that been disturbed over the growing influence of China in the island country on the Indian Ocean. Fifty-six-year-old Solih is a co-founder of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and was a leading figure in the Maldivian political reform movement between 2003 and 2008 that had resulted in the country adopting a modern constitution and a multi-party democratic system. Solih was also a member of the special majlis that drafted the constitution of the country and introduced the country to concepts like separation of powers and fundamental human rights. Political observers in the Maldives suggest that Solih was a quiet rallying force behind the country’s transition to democracy.
Solih became the MDP’s presidential candidate after a majority of its members were either jailed on exiled by Yameen’s government. Known for his calm demeanour and low-profile image, Solih’s campaign was marked the promise to restore democracy in the country.
Before beginning a career in politics, Solih was a journalist and worked with a state broadcaster and an opposition magazine. He was first elected to the Parliament in 1994 at the age of 30. He is a close friend of former president Mohamed Nasheed who is the first democratically elected president of the country. Nasheed is also the first cousin of Solih’s wife Fazna Ahmed.
Solih is set to take office in November 2018. According to the Maldives Foreign Ministry, Solih won with 1,34,616 votes against Yameen’s 96,132 votes. His victory came as a relief to India since the relationship between the two countries had come under a lot of strain ever since Yameen imposed Emergency over the country on February 5, following a Supreme Court order to release a group of Opposition who had been convicted in trials that were widely criticised. Further, under the Yameen administration, the country was unusually warming up to China and had taken few measures that were against Indian political and security interests, including placing curbs on hundreds of Indian work visas.
Solih’s victory is expected to help return normalcy in the relations between India and the Maldives. Prime minister Narendra Modi congratulated him on his victory and the two leaders agreed to work towards strengthening relations between the two countries. India also congratulated the Maldives on the election result calling it a mark of the triumph of democratic forces in the country.