Maldives opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih says he has won the country’s controversial presidential election.
His supporters, chanting his nickname "Ibu, Ibu, Ibu," took to the streets early Monday to celebrate his surprise win against incumbent President Abdullah Yameen.
"This is a moment of happiness, a moment of hope," Solih said. "I would like to call on President Yameen to accept the will of the people and begin a smooth transition of power, as per the constitution."
Solih said he had a 16 percent lead with 92 percent of the votes counted.
The Election Commission has acknowledged Solih’s win, but says official results will not be released until the end of the month.
Sunday’s vote was widely seen as a referendum on whether democracy would survive in the country as Yameen has rolled back many of the democratic freedoms introduced to the nation.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, "We urge calm and respect for the will of the people as the election process concludes."
Police conducted a raid on the Solih’s campaign office Saturday, saying that they wanted to stop "illegal activities."
Hamid Abdul Gafoor, an opposition spokesman and a former Maldives lawmaker, said the raid was seen by many as a troubling omen that Yameen was was about to "muzzle his way" to re-election.
Yameen was seeking a second five-year term in office. His path to re-election seemed assured with his main rivals either in jail or in exile. He imposed a state of emergency earlier this year after refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to release detained political leaders.
Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean and is known for its sandy white beaches and luxury resorts.>