Maldives applies to rejoin the Commonwealth after defeat of isolationist president Abdulla Yameen

South Asian country's new leader rebuilding links after surprise victory over autocratic predecessor

Chris Baynes
Monday 10 December 2018 10:57 GMT
Maldives election: president Yameen concedes shock defeat

The Maldives has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth, three months after the surprise election defeat of the country’s isolationist ex-leader.

The tropical atoll nation is seeking readmission to the organisation two years after it withdrew under autocratic president Abdulla Yameen.

Mr Yameen’s government had come under pressure from the Commonwealth over its human rights record and the rule of law.

The bloc, which comprises mostly of former British territories, had warned the nation of possible suspension over concerns about freedom of speech, the arrest of the president’s opponents, and judicial independence.

Mr Yameen’s successor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, wrote last week to Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland outlining his government’s commitment to rejoining the organisation.

In a statement, the new president’s office said he had “highlighted the administration’s belief in the values of democracy, good governance, human rights, gender equality and sustainable development in the Maldives”.

It added: “His administration does not believe in the success of such endeavours whilst maintaining a policy of isolation from the outside world.”

Mr Solih took office last month following a shock landslide victory in elections in September.

Since his win, political prisoners have been freed and exiled opposition figures - including the country's former president - have returned to the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Mr Yameen had cultivated close ties with China and drew criticism from India for his authoritarian tactics, including a crackdown on political dissent and jailing Supreme Court justices.

Mr Solih was a campaigner for democracy during decades of autocratic rule in the Maldives. He became the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party's presidential candidate after its other top figures were jailed or exiled by Mr Yameen's administration.

The Maldives, a former British colony, first joined the Commonwealth in 1982.

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