The Republic of Maldives held the second round of its first multi-party elections on October 28. Mohamed "Anni" Nasheed was elected president of the Indian Ocean nation, which is comprised of more than 1100 islands and has a population of about 370,000. Eighty-six percent of the country's more than 209,000 registered voters cast their ballots.
The elections bring to a close President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's 30-year rule. "In the life of a democracy this is a great example by Maldivians," said President Gayoom. "I accepted the will of the people," he said. President-elect Nasheed said Maldives "has courageously embarked on a momentous journey."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement expressing the U.S. government's congratulations to the Maldives people on the elections. The results, he said, "mark a historic milestone in the transition to political pluralism for Maldives." Mr. McCormack noted that the election "is the culmination of decades of effort, including four years of work to rewrite the Maldives' constitution, introduce a multi-party system, and conduct free and fair elections."
President Gayoom's commitment to introduce political reforms in June 2004 was widely welcomed. In June 2005, the nation's parliament, the People's Majlis, unanimously voted to legally recognize political parties. In March 2006, the government introduced a "Roadmap for Reform", and subsequently introduced several bills in parliament. In August 2007, voters decided via referendum that the Maldives' new constitution should provide for a presidential system of government. The final version of the new constitution was completed in June of this year and ratified by President Gayoom in August.
"The United States commends President Gayoom for bringing greater prosperity and democracy to the people of Maldives," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. He said the U.S. congratulates President-elect Nasheed on his victory, and looks forward "to working together to maintain the strong friendship and cooperation between Maldives and the United States."