Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed
Abdulla Yameen has been inaugurated the sixth President of the Maldives at a People’s Majlis Sitting today, bringing to a close months of political uncertainty over delayed, annulled and obstructed presidential polls.
Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz administered the presidential oath in the presence of People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid during a red carpet ceremony held at 1:00 pm at Dharubaaruge.
After Yameen took the oath of office, the army fired a 21-gun salute. The ceremony was attended by Former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed who sat side by side, Members of Parliament, judges, high ranking police and military officers, foreign ambassadors and state dignitaries.
Addressing the nation, Yameen said the Maldives was in an economically vulnerable position due to sky high debt, extremely high budget spending and pledged to reduce state expenditure.
“Today the Maldives is in a deep economic pit, in an economically vulnerable position. State debt is sky high. The state budget’s expenses are extremely high. Hence, we have to prioritize reducing state expenditure. I will start work very soon to reduce state budget expenditure,” he said.
He vowed to increase revenue for fishermen and farmers, expand job opportunities for youth, improve social protection mechanisms, eradicate drug abuse, provide the opportunity for women to work from home, increase the role of youth and women in the public sector, and strengthen the education system with a particular emphasis on good behavior and respect for Islam.
Claiming his government will be “one of results,” Yameen said he would protect the country’s assets including the airport – the “the main economic door of the country.”
Yameen’s administration will “uphold Maldives’ honor with international organizations,” strengthen relationships with neighboring countries and Arab Muslim countries, he said.
He appealed to the People’s Majlis, state institutions, NGOs and industrial workers to help him realize his vision for the Maldives.
“I take over the presidency of the Maldives today with a vision of tomorrow and new dreams, heralding new thoughts, giving new hopes to the people,” he added.
Yameen, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years, narrowly won yesterday’s run-off vote against President Mohamed Nasheed with 51.39 percent of the vote.
Yameen received 29.72 percent (61,278 votes) in the first round on November 9, compared to Nasheed’s 46.93 percent of votes (96,764).
However by refusing to sign the voter lists for the run-off scheduled for November 10 – a position backed by a Supreme Court ruling hours before polls opened – he gained time necessary to convince third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim to support him.
The resort tycoon initially remained neutral, briefly flirted with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but finally on Wednesday urged his 48,131 first round supporters to back the PPM, awarding Yameen a narrow coalition victory over the MDP.
Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round – suggesting the coalition was also successful in persuading many recalcitrant voters to head to the polls.
Following his win, Yameen said he would draw half the Presidential salary and would prefer to live in his own home in Male, security permitting.
“God willing, just the way I have promised, I will not say no to the pledges I made. So my salary will start, just as I’ve said, from half the salary,” Yameen declared.
He speculated that it would take two years to return the country to a surplus.
Regarding his pledge to reduce the number of political appointees, he noted that “we still plan to reduce political posts. But along with that, when we have so many parties with us, we will try to do whatever we can to make sure they participate. But even with that, our main plan has not changed,” he said.
The Indian government extended “hearty congratulations” to President Yameen “and the people of Maldives for the successful conclusion of the Presidential elections process in a peaceful manner.”
“The high voter turn-out in every round of Presidential elections is indicative of the strong desire and determination of the people of Maldives to participate wholeheartedly in the process of choosing their President,” read a statement.
“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.”