India welcomes ‘new era’ in Maldives

October 30th, 2008 - 2:06 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) As the Maldives elected Mohamed Nasheed as its new president, India Wednesday lauded “free and fair elections” in the Indian Ocean island nation and hoped that the new democratic regime will further strengthen ties between the two countries. “This is an important milestone in the history of Maldives and marks the ushering in of a new era in democracy and political reform,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement late Wednesday night.

Welcoming the election of Nasheed, the minister lauded “free and fair nature of the elections” in which the Maldivians voted in large numbers.

Alluding to “excellent bonds of friendship and cooperation”, between the two countries, Mukherjee said: “We are confident that the new democratically elected government will strengthen these links and build on the close and multi-faceted engagement between the two countries.”

Nasheed, a former political prisoner and pro-democracy activist, will succeed Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Asia’s longest-serving leader, as the president of the Maldives, the Indian Ocean atoll nation comprising 1,190 islands.

Nasheed won 54 percent of the votes cast in the first democratic elections in the Indian Ocean nation in decades. Gayoom, who had won six previous elections, managed to garner 46 percent of the vote.

Hours after the results were announced, Gayoom promised to ensure a smooth transition from his three-decade rule and jointly addressed the nation from the presidential palace with his political rival and President-elect Nasheed.

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