Who is Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, president-elect of the Maldives?

September 24, 2018 02:05 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 09:05 am IST

 Maldives' opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih casts his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Maldives, on Sunday.

Maldives' opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih casts his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Maldives, on Sunday.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, popularly known as Ibu, is all set to become the President of the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, the Maldives. With over 97% of votes counted till Sunday night, Mr. Solih has already polled 58.3%. Mr. Solih will be only the sixth President in the country’s five-decade electoral history.

Mr. Solih (56) became Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential candidate after its other top figures were jailed or exiled by Abdulla Yameen’s government. A democracy activist well known for his reform efforts, Mr. Solih, for most of his political career as a lawmaker since 1994, maintained a low-profile until he began campaigning in the run-up to Sunday’s polls.

Born in 1964 in Hinnavaru, Lhaviyani Atoll, Mr. Solih was one of 13 children. He is married to Fazna Ahmed — a cousin of former President Mohamed Nasheed — and the couple have a son and a daughter.

Mr. Solih entered the Parliament for the first time after defeating a ruling party candidate in 1994, at a time when the country had no opposition party. He has been representing Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldivian Parliament since then.

Mr. Solih is one of the founding members of the MDP, a party started by journalist-turned-leader Mr. Nasheed who went on to become the President of the Maldives after winning the 2008 election, the first-ever multi-party election in the country.

While a bunch of MDP leaders in-exile worked for parliamentary democracy from Sri Lanka, Mr. Solih was among few to advocate the same from Male. Mr. Solih is known for his calm and cool-headed approach during minivan bahus or freedom debates popular in the early 2000s. He was also part of the Special Majlis that drafted the new Constitution allowing multi-party democracy.

Mr. Solih became the leader of MDP’s parliamentary group in 2011, after the infamous coup that led the ouster of Mr. Nasheed.

In an election marred by controversy, Mr. Yameen — the half-brother of ex-President Abdulla Gayoom who ruled the country for nearly 30 years — became the President . Critics say Mr. Yameen’s rule was slanted towards authoritarianism . He jailed several opposition leaders, imposed a 45-day Emergency and jailed the Chief Justice when the Supreme Court ordered the release of nine dissident leaders. His octagenarian half-brother Mr. Gayoom is also in prison. Mr. Solih is among a few senior leaders who hadn’t faced arrest.

When the Election Commission announced in June that the Presidential Election would be held on September 23, the opposition parties — Jumhooree Party, Adalath Party and a faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives led by Mr. Gayoom — decided to join hands to dethrone Mr. Yameen. While it was expected that Mr. Nasheed would run for the presidency, he had to step aside since the Election Commission barred candidates convicted of criminal charges from contesting in elections. This also meant Mr. Gayoom and several other jailed leaders couldn’t run for the presidency.

The united opposition chose Mr. Solih to fight a political rival they all shared. But the run-up to the election was not an easy task for Mr. Solih. He was vocal about his fears that the election could be rigged. Arrests continued even 10 days ahead of the polls. On the eve of polling day, the Maldivian Police searched the MDP’s office premises.

But the people of the Maldives have favoured ‘Ibu’. “The will of the people has spoken,” were Mr. Solih’s words as his victory was imminent on Sunday night.


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