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Opposition candidate claims poll victory in Maldives

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is reported to have a sizeable lead with most votes counted.

Opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has declared victory in the Maldives’ third-ever multi-party presidential elections.

Independent newspaper website mihaaru.com reports that Mr Solih has 58.3% of the vote, with nearly 92% of ballots counted.

Independent election watchdog Transparency Maldives tweeted that Mr Solih has won “by a decisive margin”.

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Irahim Mohamed Solih, seen casting his vote, has declared victory (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

The opposition had feared the election would be rigged in favour of Maldives’ strongman President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, whose first term in office was marked by a crackdown on political rivals, courts and the media.

In a victory speech in Maldives’ capital Male, Mr Solih called it “a moment of happiness, hope and history”.

Polls were kept open longer than planned due to high voter turnout.

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Voters display indelible ink on their fingers after making their choice (Mohamud Sharuhaan/AP)

More than 260,000 of the 400,000 citizens of the Maldives were eligible to vote at about 400 polling stations across the islands that comprise the Indian Ocean archipelago.

An elections-eve raid of the opposition presidential candidate’s main campaign office cast a pall over Sunday’s election, widely seen as a referendum on the Maldives’ young democracy.

But it did not appear to deter voters, who waited in rain and high temperatures to cast ballots.

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