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Outrage at corruption, rights abuses tipped Maldives election


Voters in the Maldives delivered a stunning defeat for President Abdulla Yameen in a contentious presidential election on Sunday, an outcome regarded as a victory for democracy in the Indian Ocean island nation.
Officials and analysts say the president’s infrastructure achievements, which include the South Asian country’s first bridge, new airports and harbours, as well as dozens of resort openings, were not enough to quell public anger over allegations of graft and a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent.
Mr. Yameen now joins a growing list of global leaders ousted this year amid public outrage over human rights abuses and corruption, including those of Malaysia and South Africa.
“We thought people would vote for us, after they saw with their own eyes the development President Yameen brought to this country … But the relentless accusations of theft cost us the election.”
Yameen – who lost by a margin of 16.7 percent to his challenger and opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih – presided over the Maldives’ biggest-ever corruption scandal, in which at least $79m was stolen from tourism revenues.
The money, obtained from leasing islands for tourism, an industry which accounts for more than two-thirds of the country’s foreign earnings, was diverted to private accounts and embezzled, according to several audit reports, as well as a 2016 investigation by Al Jazeera.
The cash was then used to bribe legislators, judges and government officials, Al Jazeera’s investigation found. Associates of the president, in secretly filmed interviews, said they carried money to the president in black bags.
Yameen, however, denied any wrongdoing.

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