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Jailed Maldives’ ex-president transferred to house arrest after his party candidate wins presidency

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Jailed former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen was transferred from prison to house arrest on Sunday, fulfilling the campaign promise of his party candidate who won the presidential election runoff.

Yameen is serving a prison term for bribery and money laundering during his presidency from 2013 to 2018. His transfer has been ordered by outgoing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the request of President-Elect Mohamed Muiz.

Muiz will be taking oath on Nov. 17.

The elections commission on Sunday released the formal results of Saturday’s runoff, which showed 54.04% of the vote for Muiz with Solih receiving 45.96%. The first round took place earlier in September with none of the eight candidates securing more than 50%.

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Maldives' main opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz participates in a rally as he concludes his campaign for the second round of presidential election in capital Male, Maldives, Friday, Sept.29, 2023. Maldivians return to the polls Saturday, Sept.30 to vote in a runoff election between the top two candidates in the country's presidential race after neither secured more than 50% in the first round earlier this month. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sharuhaan )Maldives opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz wins the presidential runoff, local media sayPresident of the Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih Casts his vote at a polling station in Male, Maldives, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. Voting started in the Maldives presidential election Saturday, a virtual referendum over which regional power India or China will have the biggest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago state. (Mohamed Sharuhaan )Maldives presidential runoff is set for Sept. 30 with pro-China opposition in a surprise leadPresident of the Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih Casts his vote at a polling station in Male, Maldives, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. Voting started in the Maldives presidential election Saturday, a virtual referendum over which regional power India or China will have the biggest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago state. (Mohamed Sharuhaan )Maldives presidential election heading for 2nd round after no clear winner emerges

The election was perceived a virtual referendum on which regional power — China or India — would have the biggest influence on the Indian Ocean archipelago state located strategically along a key East-West shipping route.

Muiz, considered pro-China, promised he would remove Indian troops from the Maldives and balance the country’s trade relations, which he said were heavily in India’s favor.

India, which is hosting many Maldivians, considers the country to be located in its area of influence while China had included the Maldives as a part of its Belt and Road initiative when Yameen was president. The project is meant to built railroads, ports and highways to expand trade — and China’s influence — across Asia, Africa and Europe.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Muiz on his election victory.

“India remains committed to strengthening the time-tested India-Maldives bilateral relationship and enhancing our overall co-operation in the Indian Ocean region,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The United States also congratulated Muiz, saying the two countries have a strong relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests.